Communication is not as simple as one person talking and another person listening or one person writing and another person reading. Communication is a complicated process, and there are various barriers that can affect clear communication within your team. In this blog we will take a look at some of the most common barriers and how to minimize their impact on communication within your team. Barriers to communication can be divided into three main categories namely language, culture and location.
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Language as a Communication Barrier
Language is one of the most common communication barriers that can exist within a team. This may occur because team members speak different languages, the language being used is not everyone’s first language or the team members all speak the same language but have different dialects. To reduce the impact of language barriers, it is essential to recognize that the barrier exists and identify ways to minimize the impact of it. Pictures are a universal language, and can be used to communicate across language barriers. If you are required to communicate with a person over a long period you will have to find a common language or consider hiring a translator.
Culture as a Communication Barrier
Words or gestures can mean different things to different cultures. The members of your team may be from a different culture, class or lifestyle which can hinder communication. One way to overcome this barrier is to find out as much as possible about the culture of your team members and how it differs to your culture. Identify potential areas of misunderstanding in order to prevent or resolve communication problems that may occur. If you do not have time to prepare, ask about cultural differences as you notice them and encourage questions about your own culture. Ask questions that are curious but never judgmental or resentful.
Location as a Communication Barrier
Location defined by time or place can also be a barrier to effective communication within your team. These barriers arise when team members are located in different places and time zones. To control or overcome potential barriers when phoning a team member in a different place, it is useful to make small talk about the weather to get a idea of his/her physical environment. You can also ensure that telephone calls and meetings are set up at a time that is suitable for you both. Emails can be an effective time and location bridge as the recipient can read and respond to the message at a convenient time. However if it is something urgent or needs further explanation, email is not the best option.
Being aware of time differences can place pressure on time and can result in rushed communication. Either party could easily make assumptions or leaps of faith. It is essential always to ask the person you are communicating with to give you a playback no matter the time constraints involved. You will need to make the most of the communication time that you do have.