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Saturday, July 2, 2011

Communication Barriers

What are the barriers to communication and how effective communication can be made ?

The image and credibility of the sender, stereotyping, past experiences, overexposure to data, attitudes, mindsets, perceptual filters, trust and empathy all impact on what receivers receive and how they interpret its meaning. These communication barriers occur in everyday business communications.

Misinterpretation occurs when the receiver understands the message to his or her own satisfaction but not in the sense that the sender intended. Misinterpretation can be a consequence of sender or channel noise, poor listening habits, erroneous inferences on the part of the receiver, or differing frames of reference. An example of this occurs when unclear instructions lead employees to "hear" the wrong procedures for doing their work.

1.   Frames of Reference: A combination of past experience and current expectations often leads two people to perceive the same communication differently. Although each hears the actual words accurately, s/he may catalogue those words according to his or her individual perceptions, or frames of reference (also discussed earlier in this unit).
Within organizations, people with different functions often have different frames of reference. Marketing people may interpret things one-way and production people another. An engineer's interpretation is likely to differ from that of an accountant.

2.  Semantics: Just as individual frames of reference lend different meanings to identical words or expressions, so can variations in group semantics. Semantics pertains to the meaning and use of words. This is especially true when people from different cultures are trying to communicate.
3.   Value Judgements : Value judgements are a source of noise when a receiver evaluates the worth of a sender's message before the sender has finished transmitting it. Often such value judgements are based on the receiver's previous experience either with the sender or with similar types of communications.
4.   Selective Listening: Value judgements, needs, and expectations cause us to hear what we want to hear. When a message conflicts with what a receiver believes or expects, selective listening may cause the receiver to block out the information or distort it to match preconceived notions. For example feedback to an employee about poor performance, may not be "heard" because it doesn't fit the employee's self-concept or expectations.
At times people become so absorbed in their tasks that when someone initiates conversation, they are not able to disassociate and listen effectively. Not only as it difficult for": preoccupied person to receive the message the sender intends, but obvious body language may make it appear that the receiver doesn't care about the sender, or the message. This can create negative feelings and make future communications even more difficult.

5.    Filtering: Filtering is selective listening in reverse; in fact, we might call it "selective sending." When senders convey only certain parts of the relevant information to receivers, they are said to be filtering their message. Filtering often occurs in upward communication when subordinates suppress negative information and relay only the data that will be perceived by superiors as positive. Filtering is very common when people are being evaluated for promotions, salary increases, or performance appraisals.

6.   Distrust: A lack of trust on the part of either communicator is likely to evoke one or more of the barriers we've just examined. Senders may filter out important information if they distrust receivers, and receivers may form value judgements, make inferences, and listen only selectively to distrusted senders. Poorly developed communication leads to distrust one another. Distrust is sometimes caused by status difference.
Effective communication requires considerable skill in both sending and receiving information.
1.   Clarity of Messages: A sender can take the initiative in eliminating communication barriers by making sure a message is clear and credible and that feedback is obtained from the receiver to ensure that understanding is adequate.
2.   Develop Credibility: The credibility of a sender is probably the single most important element in effective interpersonal communications. Sender's credibility is reflected in the receiver's belief that the, sender is trustworthy.
3.   Feedback: Effectiveness of communication depends on feedback. Feedback can be used to clarify needs and reduce misunderstanding to improve relationships and keep both parties updated, to determine which issues need. further discussion, and to confirm all uncertain verbal, vocal, and visual cues. The proper and effective use of feedback skills can lead to mutual understanding, less interpersonal tension, increased trust and credibility, and higher productivity.
Giving and Receiving Feedback :
Giving Feedback
i)     Make sure your comments are intended to help the recipient;
ii)    Speak directly and with feeling based on trust;
iii)   Don't be threatening or judgemental;
iv)   Be specific, not general (use clear and recent examples);
v)    Give feedback when the recipient is open to accepting it;
vi)   Include only things the receiver can do something about;
vii)  Don't overwhelm; make sure your comments aren't more than the person can handle.

Receiving Feedback
i)     Don't be defensive;
ii)    Seek specific examples;
iii)   Be sure you understand (summarize);
iv)   Share your feelings about the comments;
v)    Check out underlying assumptions;
vi)   Be sensitive to sender's nonverbal messages;
vii)  Ask questions to clarify.

4.   Ask Questions: Questions allow us to gain information about people and problems. They can help us uncover motives and gain insights about another person's frame of reference, goals, and motives. There are three main type of questions: closed-end, open-end, and clarifying.
Closed-end questions require narrow answers to a specific inquiry. Typical answers will be "yes," "no," or something nearly as brief. Open-end questions are often used to draw out a wide range of responses to increase understanding or solve a problem. These questions involve other people by asking or feelings or opinions about a topic. Clarifying questions are essentially restatements of another person's remarks to determine if you have understood exactly what the speaker meant. These questions are useful for clarifying ambiguities and inviting the speaker to expand on ideas and feelings.

5.   Listen: Listening is an intellectual and emotional process in which the receiver integrates physical, emotional, and intellectual inputs in search of meaning. Listening to others is our most important means of gaining the information we need to understand people and assess situations. Many communication problems develop because listening skills are ignored, forgotten, or just taken for granted.
Listening is not the same as hearing, and effective listening is not easy. People usually hear the entire message, but too often its meaning is lost or distorted.
Poor listeners miss important messages and emerging problems. Consequently, the ideas that they propose are often faulty and inappropriate; sometimes they even address the wrong problems. Failure to listen also creates tension and distrust and results in reciprocal nonlistening by others. The first step to overcome listening barriers is being aware of them.
Barriers to Effective Listening
Many people identify listening as a passive, compliant act and develop negative attitudes toward it. From early childhood onward, we are encouraged to put out emphasis on speaking as opposed to listening. We are taught that talk is power., When two people are vying for attention and control, however, they not only fail to listen to each other, but also generate increased tension along with decreased trust and productivity.
To listen well, one has to care about the speaker and the message. Disinterest makes listening effectively very difficult. Differences in prior learning and experience between senders and receivers can also detract from listening ability.
Our beliefs and values also influence how well we listen. If the actual message is in line with what we believe, we tend to listen much more attentively and regard the words in a more favourable light. However, if the message contradicts our current values and beliefs, we tend to criticize the speaker and distort the message.
Skilled listeners attempt to be objective by consciously trying to understand the speaker without letting their personal opinions influence the decoding of the speaker's words. They try to understand what the speaker wants to communicate, not what they want to understand.
Active listening: Active listeners search for the intent and feeling of the message and indicate their understanding both verbally and nonverbally. They practice sensing, attending, and responding. Sensing is the ability to recognize the silent messages that the speaker is sending through nonverbal clues such as vocal intonation, body language, and facial expression. Attending refers to the verbal, vocal, and visual messages that an active listener sends to the speaker to indicate full attention. These include eye contact, open posture, affirmative head nods, and appropriate facial and verbal expressions.
In responding, the active listener summarises and gives feedback on the content and feeling of the sender's message. S/he encourages the speaker to elaborate, makes the speaker feel understood, and attempts to improve the speaker's own understanding of the problems or concerns.
6.    Nonverbal Communication Cues: The amount of nonverbal feedback exchanged is not as important as how the parties interpret and react to it. Very often a person says one thing but communicates something totally different through vocal intonation and body language. These mixed signals force the receiver to choose between the verbal and nonverbal aspects of a message. Most often, the receiver chooses the nonverbal aspect.
Nonverbal communications actually are more reliable than verbal communications when they contradict each other. Consequently, they function as a lie detector to aid a watchful listener in interpreting another's words. Although many people can convincingly misrepresent their emotions in their speech, focused attention on facial and vocal expressions can often detect leakage of the concealed feelings.
7.   Transactional Analysis: Knowledge and use of the concept of Transactional Analysis (discussed earlier in the unit in determining interpersonal styles) may lead to effective communication.
Any message exchanged between two persons is called transactions. When A sends a message, B receives it; B responds and this is received by A. That is one transaction. A person can send a prescriptive or admonishing message (from what is called the Parent ego state); or an information message (from the Adult ego state); or a feeling message (from the Child ego state). .Any of these messages may be sent to (and received by) one of the three ego states of the other person (Parent, Adult, or Child). If the response is by the same ego state as through which the message was received, it is called a complimentary or parallel transaction. Such transactions are very satisfying.  The response however, may not originate from the ego state which has received the message. Then it is a crossed transaction.


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