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Environmental barriers to effective communication

Effective communication occurs when the sender -- the person communicating a message -- successfully transmits his message to the receiver. The transition of a communicated message involves two factors: the method of communication, such as a phone call or instant message, and the environment of the communication. Environmental barriers can serve as communication obstacles to effective communication.

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Location serves as an environmental barrier to effective communication, in that your location can effect perception, as well as create other physical barriers. An example of a physical barrier caused by location includes inadequate technology. Say you prepare a PowerPoint presentation for a meeting you have to conduct. If the meeting location does not have the equipment needed to show your PowerPoint presentation, you will have a major communication obstacle to overcome.


Space between individuals is a possible obstacle to face-to-face communication, according to Communication Theory, a website dedicated to the communication process. The site explains that proximity has been classified into different categories. These categories include intimate (45 cm or closer), personal (1 metre apart), office (1.5 metres apart), and public (more than 3 metres apart). Communication Theory notes these space categories to be relevant for Western countries and warns other cultures may follow different standards.


Noise refers to other messages that may interfere with the message being communicated. Noise can be internal or external. Internal noise can be any thoughts you might have that distract you from the message being communicated. Examples of external noise include the sound of construction and background discussion. Communication Theory recommends trying to avoid the environmental barrier of noise, rather than compromising your message by raising your voice.


The temperature of your environment can prove to be an obstacle to effective communication, as hot and cold temperatures can divert concentration. Instead of focusing on the message being communicated, you will find yourself thinking "I'm too hot" or "I'm too cold" if the temperature of the environment does not meet your satisfaction.

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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.

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