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Barriers to Effective Communication


There are many barriers that impede effective communication. Some of them are significant while the others are less relevant. The presented paper aims to focus specifically on the non-traditional barriers to communication or the ones that just emerge or evolve. They include social class, technology, noise, culture and power distance. All of them are reflected on in the professional literature; yet, the scholars state that their influence is limited, so that little attention is truly paid to these factors. However, this approach is considered to be wrong, and this paper will specifically demonstrate the importance of tying together all the elements of the mosaic that would enable the attentive observer to see the true impact of the non-traditional barriers to communication.

The Influence of Culture on the Communication Patterns

There are indeed many factors that influence the way people communicate despite the obvious differences in languages and non-verbal communications. The main reason for that is the influence of culture on the communication patterns. The culture, in its turn, refers to the set of features that are inherent for certain nation, tribe or community. It includes customs, arts, language, dietary habits, arts, a certain form of religion etc. It seems that the communication and culture could not be separated. In fact, the communication process reflects all of the above-mentioned features of the cultural diversity of the certain group as the people communicate being influenced by their religious beliefs, artistic inclinations or habits. All of this means that the culture could be considered as the strong barrier to communication among the different nations. It mainly occurs because the citizens of one country or representatives of one civilization have certain stereotypes in regard to another one.

Samuel Huntington in his The Clash of Civilizations pays attention to language as well. He notes that languages themselves affect one another. Moreover, he points out seven civilizations and claims that all of them compete with one another. And at the points where the civilizations border, there are clashes where the key conflicts occur. Some of them might as well influence language and communication. Here, the speaking of certain language means the belonging to particular civilization. In this regard, it is important to note that the representatives of the civilizations that have been in certain decline over the past years (Muslim, Chinese, etc.) tend nowadays ignore and separate from the Westernization and from English language, in particular, which could be noted in the way these people communicate with the English-speaking people. They either ignore them or show a negative attitude towards them and their civilizations.

Therefore, communication is extremely influenced by the cultural patterns and the collective memory of certain nations. This factor should be considered and addressed during the negotiations or other forms of interactions.

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Power as the Factor Influencing the Communication

Power is another factor that is ranked among those that influence communication among individuals. The power itself is defined as the ability to exercise influence over others accompanied with the strong self-control under complex circumstances. All personal or official communications include the patterns of power. Yet, it might be obvious or hidden. For example, in case of the interactions between the employer and employee, the power relations are obvious and the outcome is more or less predictable. However, different things occur in regard to the communication of men and women in different countries and under various circumstances. While in the Western world the women can communicate with men on an equal basis, the same is not the case in the countries with the strong paternalistic patterns. Thus, the power here might be interpreted in the variety of ways and can be rooted in culture or social norms. It affects the communication. People who are in power might exert their authority on the individuals who are not quite competent and such an inequality might be seen as the barrier to effective communication.

The research that has been carried out by Madlock shows the influence of power distance on the communication with the Mexican workers. The study examined the influence of cultural congruency between the macro and micro cultures in regard to the power distances on the communication patterns of Mexican employees. The findings showed that the there is the support for the value of the cultural congruency between the organizational culture and social culture (power distance patterns). The research has also demonstrated that the power distance and the avoidance messages together with the communication satisfaction positively relate to the organizational commitment and the job satisfaction of Mexican workers.

Thus, it should be stressed once more that the power patterns are extremely important in the process of communication as they affect the perception of the interaction and its overall outcome.

Noise and Its Impact on the Communication

Noise is viewed as another barrier to effective communication. It is ranked among the external factor, which is definitely not influenced by the culture or by the people who take part in the interactions. The noise frequently interferes with the communication and usually disrupts it as there is no longer the opportunity to communicate properly In such cases the divergence occurs between the sender of the message and its receiver so that the ability to communicate decreases. The examples of the physical noise might include the running, construction activities, traffic noises, horns, children crying etc. Within the classrooms or courtrooms the noise prevents the parties from the fruitful cooperation.

One of the studies carried out by Brammer and Laroche has examined the influence of noise over the communication process. They have investigated many cases and identified the different types of noises together with the tools that have been implemented to overcome the impact of this barrier. They noted that there is the environmental noise that physically disrupts the communication between the individuals. The physiological-impairment noise refers to the situation when the physical conditions of the person such as deafness or blindness impede the effective communication. Semantic noise occurs in case the speaker and the listener interpret the words used in the different ways. It leads to the misunderstandings and confusions that also prevent the effective and fruitful interaction among the people. Syntactical noise disrupts the communication through the grammatical mistakes made by the parties to the conversation. The organizational noise refers to the poorly structured sentences that do not transmit the idea of the speaker. Finally, the cultural noise relates to the stereotypes that affect the communications and interactions of the representatives of two different classes.

As could be seen from the evidence presented above the noise is of the different origin and influence, and therefore, all the types of it should be considered and noted in the course of communication. Noise does not only refer to the environmental factors that prevent the effective communications, but also to a set of the internal factors, which are difficult to impact or alter.

The Influence of Technology on the Communication

In the terms of nowadays the technology serves as the means for communication for the millions of people on daily basis. The e-mails are becoming the most popular medium for communicating ideas to the outside world. In this regard, the technology also matters. The features of it might affect the way person types and lead to the grammatical mistakes that in its turn might be wrongly interpreted by the client. Additionally, in case of the communication by means of technology the people have no opportunity of viewing some one’s face or non-verbal communication and respond to it effectively. Due to the lack of this visionary image, the people start to imagine certain things about their counterparts on the other sides and these imaginations are frequently wrong or contradicting with the reality. This technological hindrance might hamper the interactions among the people and spoil the relations existing among them.

Morley asserts that the communication through the technological means might be extremely distracting. She states that it is a commonly accepted practice when the person speaks over the telephone and types mails while non-verbally responding to his colleague regarding the yesterday baseball game. The people are over concentrated with the communicational and informational streams coming out of everywhere, so that many mistakes occur. The instant communication can significantly deteriorate employees’ abilities to with one task at a time when their work is continuously interrupted by the incoming messages and comments. Some employees even tend to make effort and turn off their devices in order to meet the deadlines and spend time in solitude (Walker).

Based on that, people that communicate hard over the technologies should take into consideration the possible implications it might have on others and on the way people perceive the information.

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Social Class and Communication

The social class also affects the way people communicate. It should be stressed that the communication itself is divided into many types, so that the social class influences each of them in a different way. The social class division still depends more on the opportunity and chance than on the ability. It is hard to rebut the fact that some people and children included speaking the language of their neighborhood. They adopt the behavioral patterns of the certain community and only little part of people manages to alter these settings in the future life. It is stressed that the people coming from the poor neighborhoods usually speak in a wrong way and it, in its turn, significantly affects their academic and career prospects.

One of the surveys shows that the children that come from the lower-income families frequently use the restricted code that represents the form of the speech that is used in the informal situations (Elsworth). The children coming out of the middle or upper class families are aware of the so-called elaborated code that is a form of the language that is regarded as the formal or official language. Elaborated code provides for the use o the large vocabulary and high percentage of the complete sentences. On the contrary, the restricted code uses limited vocabulary, incomplete sentences and weak grammatical structures. As a result, this lack of language skills interferes with the learning capabilities of such children and facilitates the preservation of status quo in regard to the poor families.

Keeping this connection in mind, one should say that the communication and social class are interdependent categories, as both of them tend to influence each other.


The presented paper has examined the influence of the different factors on the communication patterns and concluded that all of them should be considered by the professionals of the intercultural communication since the presented factors have a crucial impact on the way people interact and the volume of this impact is different in the case of every barrier. The ignorance of these factors might put significant negotiations and the relations between the partners at risk, so the implications of these barriers should be considered by the experts in communication and if needed, their negative impact should be accordingly minimized.