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barriers to effective communicationYou’d think that after the years and years of associating with hundreds or thousands of people every day, it would be really easy to be able to talk to anyone you meet and communicate effectively. However, a large percentage of people have social anxieties and even those that do not have anxiety over social situations can still suffer nervousness or meet social barriers from other people. Communication is a vital skill for almost any profession, especially in any corporate job, be it sales or marketing. If you can’t connect with people in this day and age, your customers are quite happy to go elsewhere with their money. This means if you are no good at communicating, you’d better start learning fast.

This is a great course that can begin to teach you the things that you will need to know. Take this Communication and Consultation Skills course to get started.

Effective communication is really quite a difficult skill to learn, even if you think you’re already a good communicator. There are so many variables that can effect communication, which people often don’t really consider. These variables include both your skills at communication and also how receptive the other party is to communication at the time you try to talk to them. You could be the best communicator in the entire world but if the other party isn’t interested in communicating, you will hit a brick wall.

So, don’t worry if some people end up rejecting you, they may not be receptive to talking to you at this time.

However, there are many ways that you can improve your communication skill and reduce the barriers to effective communication! Let’s go over the most important tips for effective communication.

Word Choice

First of all, it is really important to make sure the words you are using to communicate with are communicating what you actually mean. Language is a funny beast, with certain words meaning different things to different people. Figuring out whether or not what you are saying aligns with what you mean is difficult and might require a little practice.  You can figure these kinds of things out if you ask for feedback from people that you trust to give you impartial and helpful advice about your communications. You might not even be aware of some of the things you do in your daily communication.

In general, you want to avoid using two dollar words when a simple, easily understood word will do in place. Overcomplicating your speech doesn’t make you sound intelligent, it just makes you sound pretentious and can really confuse people if they don’t have a broad vocabulary. Using technical terms to people that are not in the industry you are in or understand the same industry means you will alienate rather than ameliorate, making the barriers between effective communication get bigger and harder to knock down. Using words that are uncommon purely for the sake of ‘showing’ off, is never a great idea, you won’t make any friends or contacts acting like this. Using jargon and acronyms will also make you much more difficult to understand to people who haven’t experienced work or play in whatever industry you call home. If you insist on using acronyms in a day to day fashion, make sure those around you know what the acronyms mean as many people will pretend to know what you are on about to save face.

Keep in mind that word choice is especially tricky if you’re speaking to someone in a foreign language. These foreign language courses from Udemy can help!


In fact, let’s talk a bit more about language. Whilst this may seem obvious, it’s amusing how many people forget about the fact that not everyone uses the same language as you do natively. Whilst a large portion of the world speaks English, people you meet over the course of the day may be using English or whatever language that you speak as their secondary or even one of their tertiary languages.

There are certain idiosyncrasies to any language, especially within the English language. The English language contains many ways to say the same thing, with slight differences. This is true of the Chinese spoken language to, with an inflection completely changing the meaning of some words / sentences. For example, the word ‘ma’ in Chinese can mean both Mother and Horse, depending on how you say it. Obviously, these kind of mistakes can be unavoidable if you are ignorant of the customs of other languages.

If you are on a business appointment with someone who primarily speaks a different language to you, be aware they may not be as fluent as you are with your primary language. Offending a business partner by pointing out their mistakes is a very bad plan, so if you fail to understand what they mean, try to get them to rephrase and repeat their words to make sure you understand what they are saying. Really, this should apply to any type of communication.

Preparation and spending a little bit of time to understand other languages will also key you in to understanding the idiosyncrasies within your native language so you can help explain them to others who speak the language as a secondary or tertiary tool. There are many ways to learn these snippets of other cultures languages, with little web courses like this Chinese Survival Course and this Beginner’s French.

Some languages lend themselves naturally to a specific method of conversation, with English being the preferred language for conversation that are based in technology due to the vast quantity of technical words that are in the language.

Dialect and Regional Differences

These are little things that make small, sub versions of a specific language. If you take a city banker from London and get them to meet a farmer from a Scottish island, you’ll find that neither one of them will be able to understand each other, due to dialects, accents and other regional differences. The jargon that a city banker or programmer might casually sling around in a conversation will turn a lot of people away from a conversation.

The key to getting around dialects and such is asking your conversational counterpoint to rephrase themselves or explain what their jargon means. Jargon from different regions can be especially confusing. Ask anyone what a bread roll is called in England and you will get at least five or six different words for the same thing, even words that are used for other things in the process. In Scotland for example, bacon and ham are interchangeable, whereas they are specific things in the rest of England.

Another point of contention in this area is that people will rarely understand your idioms. An idiom is a turn of phrase or a heuristic for a certain type of thing. For example, “Don’t put all your eggs in the same basket” is a common idiom in England, meaning you shouldn’t put all of your resources in a single place. It’s a useful phrase for investors and business owners alike, yet it isn’t a global idiom. Chinese proverbs may be a commonplace part of speech in some countries but most countries don’t have proverbs.

Here’s a great free article with even more idioms and their meanings.

Emotional Barriers

Shame and eagerness to fit in with people in social situations is another form of barrier. When someone thinks that they might be caught out or look stupid when talking, people often do strange thing to make sure they ‘fit in’. It’s difficult for most people to recognize these things in conversation until the end of the conversation or even days in the future.

These emotional barriers are real and exist, so don’t try to force a conversation where it doesn’t go and it is obvious that people are uncomfortable. Some of the most basic tenants of communication and the first thing you should learn is to make sure you don’t alienate or make people feel out of place and awkward in your presence. You can’t get any business deals or meet and make new friends easily when you put everyone in the room on edge. Being overly provocative or incendiary will only ever hurt your chances of relating to others in the room.

On another level, it is really worth learning to make great small talk. Whilst nobody really wants to have small talk with everyone they meet, the act of small talking and related chat is what shows to other people that you are not a social threat and that they are not going to be confused or threatened in the course of the conversation with you. Small talk is really useful and if you are good at it, it can help you leave a good impression on people, which will serve you well for the next time you meet the person. In addition to this, when you have a great first impression on someone, they will remember this and refer other people your way and so on. This is a stupidly useful thing to think about as it can lead to so many leads when you are a marketer or salesmen. There’s a reason these people are genuinely very friendly.

Active Listening

Often, communication is difficult because no party in the conversation is actually listening.  Actively listening in a conversation is key to effective communication and reflecting and showing that you understand what they are saying will help make people relax around you so they can absorb your message and vice versa.

Pay attention to the person talking, instead of simply thinking about what you’re going to say next. People are often dismissive and give off the appearance of not caring about what someone else is saying in a conversation and people are receptive to this. If you are just waiting to see when you can talk next in a conversation, it’s obvious to those around you that you have no interest in relating to them. Relating strongly on a personal level is a rare skill in this day and age where everything is done over the Internet. Lacking the ability to listen and to care about others is selfish and very unattractive. If you are deemed to not be listening to something someone is telling you about, the conversation may well continue but any chance you had of making a real, true connection has been completely lost.

Actively listening, responding when there is pause and a reason to reply in the conversation, whilst thinking through what your conversational counterpoint is suggesting to you is key. Listening isn’t even a difficult thing to do, yet so many are too full of ego to simply listen to their customers, as if their opinions and feelings don’t matter to their business. This is bad when coming from a businessman and even worse when it comes to dealing with friends and family.

Try to actively listen to what people are saying and have mindfulness about the conversation. Even if you are having a conversation that you have had before, make sure you experience it as if you hadn’t. Most people’s memory isn’t infallible and the chances are very high you are not eidetic, so you will have forgotten something in the conversation.


This one is simple. Just don’t argue with people in the business world or in social situations. If you think you are correct and that everyone must know this, you are not going to be making any useful connections. If someone is keen to argue with you on a point of contention, try to avoid the topic or just agree to disagree.

Whilst this might be seen as a weak move on your point, effective communication is all about diplomacy. Diplomacy and tact are cornerstones of effective communication and nobody will be open with you if you commonly rebut or argue every word they say. Arguing shows you care not for the opinion of who you are talking to and is a very poor way to get along with someone you have just met.

Avoiding contentious topics like religion and politics is always a good idea, but sometimes these things will come up naturally in conversation and you will have to deal with them. If you have to talk about your opinions, don’t worry. Assuming the other person you are talking to isn’t completely close minded, they will respect your opinions even if they disagree with them. Boasting and making it seem like your opinion is “better” will really ruin any rapport you have with the person you are trying to communicate with and this will lead to more severe communication barriers.  Perception and viewpoint are important, they make the world interesting and show people in different lights, don’t be bigoted and realize that there are many other ways to see things and your view is just that.

Have respectful debates when necessary, but don’t let your emotions get the best of you. This is a great course to ensure that your opinion is logical.

Physical Barriers

It’s difficult to talk over the phone or over digital means like messaging and email because you lose a large amount of the context, since the other person can’t see your body language or hear tone of voice and inflections. When you lose the sub-verbal communication and have to rely exactly on the precise meanings of words, many people mistake the overarching message.

If you send a lot of email or digital messages, make sure you are surgical in your word choice. Choosing the correct words and stamping out ambiguity is the only step to making communication without the person with you more effective. Physical communication barriers can be some of the worst, as many people rely on the body language and context of the words to put meaning to them, without realizing it.

Emails and phone calls can be seen as an impersonal method of communication, which is undeserved. The problem is that most people are unsure of how to make the message they wish to come across to the other party effectively. This gets better as time goes on and you get more practice in talking without being in the same room as your conversational partner.

Obviously,  face-to-face communication is far superior for most people, especially once the connection has already been made. Of course, there are many people who you may want to meet and connect with who are simply unavailable to contact in real life and you must resort to digital means. In addition, there are many people who enjoy digital communication more than real life. These people will need to be reached using digital means, so there is no escape practicing being precise.


A skilled communicator tries to meet and talk with everyone without forming incorrect opinions or relying on prejudice  to guess what the person is really like. In the real world, there is no such thing as an archetypical programmer, scientist, or sales rep. These prejudices will only get in the way of effective communication, creating bigger barriers and don’t really help you in any way. Remember that everyone is an individual and you don’t truly know anyone before you know them.  Relying on models and prejudices means you will make superficial bonds with people and never truly connect with them. When it comes to a time of crisis and you need to find someone to help you, someone who has stereotyped his c0ntacts will overlook the people that may help them.

Perception is a very malleable thing and when your brain sees things, it tries to push anything new in to a pattern. This means when you meet someone that reminds you a little of someone else you know, your brain will project the other person’s attributes on to this new person. Obviously, you can’t stop your brain from doing this, so you simply have to remain mindful and open minded when you meet people for the first time.

Remember, when you meet new people, these people may be very nervous, tired, jet lagged or any other type of ailment. First impressions really shouldn’t be as important as they are, yet there is a huge amount of interest in the first impression. Your brain isn’t quick enough to truly figure someone out in a single meeting, so it applies a pattern it already knows to them until evidence proves it wrong. You will often hear what you think you hear, rather than what people actually say, making poor decisions based on incorrect information to support them. Being open minded and rejecting your models of archetypes means you can meet and greet everyone with an open mind, avoiding implementing any models of consciousness upon your possible new best friend.


Whilst this is a fair chunk of things to consider, your work is never really done. Social interaction are changing on a global scale every day and there is always another way to approach the problem. If you can’t figure out where exactly you should start learning how to communicate better, you could attend a seminar. If that’s not possible, why not try this course that will boost your Confidence and Clarity in Speech? One of the key points to networking and communication is confidence and this is a great foundation for the large amount of knowledge and wisdom there is out there to include in your communications.

Page Last Updated: February 2020

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