Personal Barriers to Effective Communication

Effective communication begins with understanding the concepts behind interpersonal communication, or communication between two or more people. The communication process involves at least two parties, the sender and the receiver(s). The sender shares a message with the receiver, who listens and provides feedback. The sender and receiver act as partners and therefore share the responsibility for fostering effective communication. This responsibility includes recognising and neutralising personal communication barriers.

Competitive Listening

Competitive listening occurs when you map out what you will say next rather than listen to the other person. Consequently, you don't give the other person's comments the appropriate consideration. To overcome this communication obstacle, pay attention to your thoughts. If you find yourself listening competitively, stop. Focus on the other person's message and use reflective listening to ensure you understand the message correctly. Reflective listening involves rephrasing comments to avoid miscommunication. For example, if someone says to you "I can't wait until Friday because that's when I leave for Florida," you could respond, "So you're going to Florida this weekend?"


Culture heavily influences interpersonal communication. Communication elements related to culture include dialect and word choice. Dialect, how one pronounces words, can hinder your ability to comprehend a message clearly. You might end up asking the other person to repeat herself. Word choice can lead to misunderstandings. For instance, take the word "soda." In some regions "soda" refers to a soft drink, while in other regions "soda" means an ice cream treat with soda water and flavoured syrup. Studying cultural differences helps protect you from cultural communication barriers.


Showing disapproval as someone speaks demonstrates a closed mind and will likely impact communication poorly. After all, if you display a closed mind, why should the other person waste his time explaining his point to you? To encourage communication avoid interrupting others and negative nonverbal messages, like frowns and shaking your head no. Instead, listen attentively and ask probing questions. Reserving judgment will allow you to gain insight, which you could otherwise fail to obtain.


Stereotypes cause unfair biases, which can lead to misinterpreted messages. This occurs due to assumptions that you know what the other person will say. Such generalisation can also create tension. A person might become offended, triggering anger and creating a volatile atmosphere. Additionally, stereotypes can intimidate. Generalisation can make passive individuals feel uncomfortable, causing them to refrain from voicing their opinions and ideas.

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About the Author

Zachary Fenell is a 2009 graduate of Notre Dame College of Ohio. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in communication with minors in philosophy and writing. Fenell has been writing since 2002, when he joined his high school newspaper, "The Arc Light." In college Fenell won awards for excellence in English and communication.