Key strategies to overcome communication barriers and communicate effectively

Effective communication is an essential skill. In this article, learn how to break down barriers and master communication.

From the second we are born, we begin communicating. As we age, our communication skills grow from cries to a complex blend of verbal and nonverbal cues. Even though communication changes throughout our lives, most people struggle to perfect their communication skills. 

All the difficulties we seem to have with communicating can be easily overcome with the proper knowledge. Understanding what communication strategies to use and what communication barriers might be blocking us from good communication are the keys to better communication. Keep reading to learn more about what methods you can use to improve communication and how to overcome common communication barriers. 

Why is effective communication important?

The ability to communicate effectively is necessary for nearly every aspect of our lives. From the office to personal relationships and even ordering a sandwich, communication is unavoidable. Communicating effectively in various situations builds trust, solves problems, provides clarity, improves relationships, improves productivity, and much more. 

What are the six communication strategies? 

The benefits of strong communication skills are clear, but learning to communicate well isn’t quite so straightforward. To simplify the process, there are six strategies to focus on for more effective communication. 

Improve active listening to communicate more effecively
Photo by Jaee Kim on Unsplash

1. Active listening

Good communication skills aren’t only about talking. They also require good listening skills. The best way to improve your listening skills is to listen actively. This skill improves trust, broadens perspectives, and offers more learning opportunities. 

2. Interpersonal skills

Interpersonal communication is the exchange of information between two or more people. This type of communication can be verbal, non-verbal, written, or through listening. Strong interpersonal skills improve overall communication, leading to better teamwork, leadership, problem-solving, conflict management, and more. 

3. Look at internal communications

Teams with better communication skills are more effective, but improving an entire team’s communication requires many moving parts to work together. To help simplify that process, read our breakdown of the types of internal business communication and the four ways you can improve your team’s communication. 

Encourage feedback to improve communication

4. Encourage feedback 

Allow for two-way communication by offering channels for feedback. People like to feel heard, so be sure you are listening to feedback and showing that you care about their opinion.

5. Keep it real

Good communication requires trust in the speaker. When delivering your message, be honest and approachable. Remember that trust is rarely immediate, so it is important to continue building trust in every interaction. 

6. Be timely

Always keep your keep players up to date as soon as possible. Slow communication can quickly lead to anger, speculation, and delays. Instead of waiting until you have all the information, offer quick partial updates along the way to keep everyone informed. 

What are the seven barriers to communication?

Communication isn’t always straightforward. Even if you have mastered the six communication strategies,  Sometimes conversations can feel complicated and frustrating. If that is the case, you are likely encountering one of seven barriers to communication.

1. Physical

Even with the introduction of communication tools like Zoom and Slack, physical communication barriers can still stifle communication in the digital age. Physical barriers are things like offices and closed doors, and time zones. 

2. Emotional

It can be easy to let your emotions take control when feelings are strong, and those emotions can start to affect other aspects of your life, like communication. Sometimes negative emotions are associated with certain places or situations, or sometimes our anxiety or mistrust can get in the way of interactions. 

Differences in language can lead to a language communication barrier
Photo by Towfiqu barbhuiya on Unsplash

3. Language

Differences in language can make communication feel impossible. Even with translation technology, it can be difficult to communicate well when language barriers exist. These language barriers also apply to expressions, slang, and jargon, which can cause misunderstandings even when a common language is spoken.

4. Cultural

Our culture greatly influences the way we interact. From how we pronounce a particular word to how close we stand to each other, where we are from impacts how we interact with others.

5. Interpersonal 

An interpersonal barrier is often harder to identify. These barriers are behavior patterns that prevent effective communication. They could be related to workplace culture, self-esteem issues, “game-playing,” or other behaviors that may cause distance or difficult communication. 

6. Perception

We all have a unique view of the world around us; it’s what makes everyone unique. But sometimes, that difference in perception could create a barrier. For example, a difference in perception could lead to internal biases about other people, ideas, or events. 

7. Gender

There are distinct differences in the way people of different genders communicate. Gender can influence the number of personal connections within a group and how those connections are maintained. 

What are strategies to overcome communication barriers?

Every communication barrier presents its own problem and, therefore, requires a unique solution. Instead of focusing on a solution for each obstacle you may encounter, focus on building a strategy to handle any situation.

Keep emotions calm to handle communication barriers
Photo by Max van den Oetelaar on Unsplash

Stay Calm

The first thing to remember when you are facing communication barriers is to stay calm. Struggling through a bad conversation will only worsen with heightened anxiety and frustration. 

Do your research.

Often, you can avoid communication barriers by a few minutes of research. Look into cultural differences you may experience, learn another language, or find a translator app that works for you. Preparing yourself for some of the barriers you may encounter could help prevent any frustration that may occur when those barriers do appear. 

Find a new location.

Whether you are in-person or online, sometimes a change of venue is the best solution to a dying conversation. So much of our conversation is influenced by our environment, so if you are somewhere that isn’t conducive to conversation, consider relocating. This applies to remote communication too. If email conversations aren’t cutting it, try Slack, or jump on a video call.

Gain experience. 

The most important tool to become a better communicator is to know how to handle whatever gets thrown your way. Being prepared for any situation takes experience in a variety of situations. The best way to do this? Spend a few minutes every day talking to someone new. Chat with that person you always see on the bus, talk with your barista, or introduce yourself to someone new in your office. 

Did you find this article helpful? Let us know!

Main photo by Jason Goodman on Unsplash

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