Common Barriers to Communication

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Common barriers to communication disrupt the sender's ability to get a message through to the receiver. Sometimes neither the sender nor the receiver can interpret messages. Linguistic differences, lack of non-verbal cues, emotional trauma and external noise are a few common barriers to communication.


Differences in language are a barrier in communication. If you are not a native speaker of the language, you are likely to have trouble understanding and translating a language that is foreign to you. Idioms or slang used in the foreign language may not translate into your native language. Linguistic barriers are experienced by people who speak the same language when there are cultural or generational differences.

Lack of Non-verbal Cues

Communication through the Internet or in print is often misinterpreted due to lack of non-verbal cues like hand gestures and facial expressions. A. Barbour, author of the book "Louder than Words," found that 55 per cent of communication is non-verbal. In his definition, non-verbal communication consists of body movements, facial expressions and gestures. We watch these non-verbal cues and use them to interpret the person's language as they speak.

Emotional Trauma

Emotional trauma can block communications. People who are experiencing emotional disturbances may not be able to hear or interpret messages communicated to them. They may be too focused on the issue causing the emotional trauma to interpret communication. It's difficult to receive messages if you are angry, sad, frustrated or frightened. Consequently, a person who is attempting communication will find it difficult to find the right words to communicate with you while you are upset. A communication barrier during emotional distress often exists as an external cue to the distress. Therefore, the person is not communicating due to the distress.

External Noise

Noise, including loud music, wind, dogs barking or other external forces can block communication. One person may verbally communicate, but the receiver cannot hear the message. Noise is often a temporary barrier to communication. When the noise is removed the sender can freely send the message, and the receiver can interpret it.

Cultural Differences

Cultural differences can influence the way you interpret messages. Proximity to the speaker, lack of eye contact, and hand gestures can be associated with messages that differ from the sender's intentions. For example, some cultures believe that lack of eye contact is a sign of respect. Other cultures believe that lack of eye contact is a symbol of insincerity.