The importance of communication grows. Communication is the lifeline in any relationship. But in the process of communication there may be many language barriers. And overcoming these barriers makes this communication effective.
What creates barriers in communication?
There are many reasons interpersonal communications may fail. In many communications, the receiver not always can understand the message exactly the way the sender intended. It is, therefore, important that the communicator seeks feedback to check that their recipient understood the message properly.
A Categorisation of Barriers to Communication
Language and linguistic ability may act as a barrier to communication.
However, even when communicating in the same language, the terminology used in a message may act as a barrier if it is not clear for the receiver (s).
For example, a receiver who is not familiar with the terminology used a message that includes a lot of specialist jargon and abbreviations which will make it difficult to understand it. Regional colloquialisms and expressions are easy to misinterpret or even considered offensive.
The psychological state of the communicators will influence the message sending, receiving and perceiving.
For example: If someone feels stressed, they may be busy with personal concerns and not as receptive to the message as if they felt not stressed.
Stress management is an important personal skill that affects our interpersonal relationships.
Anger is another example of a psychological barrier to communication. When we are angry, it is easy to say things we may later regret, and also to misinterpret what others are saying.
People with low self-esteem may be less assertive and therefore may not feel comfortable communicating – they may feel shy or embarrassed about saying how they really feel, or read unintended negative sub-texts in messages they hear.
Physiological barriers to communication may result from the receiver’s physical state.
For example, a receiver with reduced hearing may not fully grasp the content of a spoken conversation especially if there is significant background noise.
An example of a physical barrier to communication is the geographic distance between the sender and receiver(s).
Communication is easier over shorter distances as more communication channels are available and people don’t need so much technology. The ideal communication is face-to-face.
Although modern technology often helps to reduce the impact of physical barriers. People should understand the advantages and disadvantages of each communication channel so they can choose an appropriate channel to overcome the physical barriers.
Systematic barriers to communication may exist in structures and organizations where there are inefficient or inappropriate information systems and communication channels, or where there is a lack of understanding of the roles and responsibilities for communication. In such organizations, people may be unclear of their role in the communication process and therefore not know what are their duties.
Attitudinal barriers are behaviours or perceptions that prevent people from communicating effectively.
Attitudinal barriers to communication may result from personality conflicts, poor management, resistance to change or a lack of motivation. To be an effective receiver of messages you should attempt to overcome your own attitudinal barriers to help ensure more effective communication.
Language barriers are a common challenge. So let’s learn how to overcome them in particular.
Overcoming Language Barriers
1. Use plain language.
Whether you’re working with someone who knows your primary language as a secondary, or you’re trying to communicate a deeply technical problem to your non-technical coworkers, everyone should get in the habit of using plain language. While many people try to use large words to make themselves sound intelligent or good at their jobs, they’re not doing anyone any favours. Using jargon or esoteric vocabulary only creates the opportunity for miscommunication and makes people feel bad they can’t understand what you’re saying. Creating a culture in your workplace of speaking and explaining all issues as straightforwardly as possible is key.
2. Find a reliable translation service.
If you’re working across international offices, enlist the help of a qualified translator or find a translation service that meets your needs. Every document deemed important to the entire company should have a translation into the primary language of your other offices. Be careful when finding service and be sure to vet their qualifications. You’ll see several free websites that claim to translate text from one language to another, but they may not account for different dialects. And sometimes, words have different usages in different cultures.
3. Enlist interpreters.
Whether you have existing bilingual employees or hire one, hire a trusted specialist to ensure that there isn’t any information or instruction missed because of a language barrier.
4. Provide classes for your employees.
If you’re working in a highly technical environment, include a crash course to your jargon during initial job training, and consider ongoing learning classes later on. Sales need to understand the ins and outs of any product they’re selling; marketing needs to understand why their products are important, and everyone needs to speak a common language to plan for the future of the company.
If you’re an international company, offer free classes for learning the language of another office.
5. Use visual methods of communication.
Words often fail us, and when they do, showing can be a lot more effective than telling. Use pictures or diagrams to explain complicated concepts. Visual queues are invaluable for getting everyone on the same page, not to mention, thinking more creatively about new solutions.
6. Use repetition.
People need to hear something a couple of times to understand and remember it. Don’t expect people to remember something you said once. If it’s important, make it a regular part of your communication.
7. Be respectful.
Language barriers, like all barriers to communication, can be frustrating. They require patience, understanding, and conscientiousness. Ensure that when you or your team are struggling to communicate that you never raise your voice or over-enunciate. Talk slower instead of louder, instead of forcefully. And remember, when someone is working through a language hurdle, it has nothing to do with their actual intelligence or ability to grasp the concept behind what you’re trying to say. Continue to speak proper English as you search for common ground, so they can learn how to understand correctly, too.
Language barriers can be a challenge, but working with people of different cultures and backgrounds drives innovation, creativity, and success.
Don’t let language barriers stand in the way of embracing everything a diverse workplace has to offer.
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