Barriers in Communication
COM 200- Interpersonal Communication
Communication is a common but crucial part of everyone’s life. However, most people are unaware of how to communicate effectively. They unknowingly let barriers get in the way of their interpersonal communication. Communication is defined by Bevan and Sole (2014) as “a process where two or more individuals strive to create shared meaning using verbal and nonverbal messages in a variety of contexts” (sec. 1.1). To achieve shared meaning and effective communication, there are basic principles of competent communication to follow and strategies to utilize to eliminate the variety of barriers that can occur.
One basic principle of effective and competent communication is to respect others as well as yourself. It is important to work towards a resolution that everyone is happy with, not just one of the individuals (Bevan & Sole, 2014). Often, one of two situations occur during communication. Sometimes a person is too consumed with trying to get their point across and making sure their needs are met, that they forget to take the other person into consideration, which is disrespectful to that person. Other times, people are too worried about pleasing the other person and making sure that person is happy with the outcome that they do not take themselves into consideration, which is disrespectful to themselves. Both situations leave someone unhappy and unfulfilled and is a barrier to effective communication. Respecting yourself and others is vital to interpersonal communication.
Mutual respect leads into another principle for effective and competent communication: acknowledging that your view of a situation is only one of many views. Part of respecting others is understanding that they may see things differently than you do. It is important to be open and accepting of alternative views. According to Bevan and Sole (2014), trying to see things from another’s perspective allows us to better understand that person and their point of view, thus enhancing communication. If we are too stubborn to acknowledge that there are other ways of looking at things or doing things, then we miss out on learning valuable information. Being open-minded and accepting to other perspectives is key to effective communication.
Miscommunication can occur due to various barriers. One of these barriers is misperceptions. Bevan and Sole (2014) describe that misperceptions can happen when there is noise present during communication or the receiver does not interpret the message the way the sender intended, consequently causing conflict. An example of this can be depicted through an interaction that I had at work a few weeks ago. I work as a certified nursing assistant at a skilled nursing home. When our patients require oxygen, we hook them up to an oxygen concentrator in their room and when they want to leave the room, we get them a portable oxygen tank. A few weeks ago, a patient of mine said she needed an oxygen tank, so I asked her what for. The next day I received a complaint form about the situation. When I talked to the patient to understand why she was upset, she said it was because she felt that I needed to know where she wanted to go, and I would only get her a tank if I thought it was necessary for her to go there. I had apologized and explained that I knew she wanted to go to activities and when I asked what she needed the tank for, I just meant which activity so that I knew what time she needed the tank by.
As stated above, misperception was the leading cause of miscommunication in this instance. Specifically, semantic noise was responsible. As described by Bevan and Sole (2014), semantic noise “occurs when messages are misunderstood or misinterpreted or when interference arises because of the language used by one or more of the communication participants” (sec. 1.2). My patient misinterpreted my response because I lacked clarity and finesse in the way I phrased my question. If I had simply asked my patient directly what time she needed the tank by, the miscommunication could have been avoided.
Even though my tone was nice and happy, and during my time taking care of her I had never denied her a request or gotten nasty with her, my message was still not clear enough to overcome the semantic noise. My language was unclear, so my patient misinterpreted my message. Due to this barrier, successful communication was interrupted because my patient was confused and hurt from her misinterpretation of my message and I was unaware that my message was not received as intended. If I had taken responsibility for my communication and made sure to be clear and concise, our communication could have been more successful. Also, if my patient and I had shown more respect in our communication and tried to understand each other’s perspective, she may have realized that I didn’t mean my question the way it sounded, and I may have realized how she could have misunderstood what I meant and clarified myself. These are just some of the ways the basic principles of communication could have helped improve my example of miscommunication and overcoming barriers in communication.
In conclusion, communication is a key aspect of life. Barriers in communication frequently occur and can cause conflict in a variety of ways. It is important to apply the basic principles of communication to effectively communicate with others. The basic principles include taking responsibility for your communication, showing respect to yourself and others, acknowledging your view is one of many, remembering that communication involves shared meaning, listening and evaluating before responding, and practice being a competent communicator. If I had applied these basic principles in my communication, I could have avoided the conflict that occurred between me and my patient due to the barrier of misperception via semantic noise. Applying the basic principles of communication in all communication with others can help you overcome barriers and communicate effectively!
Bevan, J. L., & Sole, K. (2014). Making connections: Understanding interpersonal communication (2nd ed.). San Diego, CA: Bridgepoint Education, Inc