Communication barriers - classification, methods and examples of overcoming

Features of communication

Communication during verbal interaction is addressed to the interlocutor, consists of an exchange of opinions and experiences, expression of desires, or is intended to cause changes in the dialogue partner’s ideas about any subject. In other words, communication always involves the process of exchanging information. At the same time, the voiced information is not only transmitted, but also formed, clarified, and developed.

Communications differ in some features:

  • Diversity. From a discussion of a new computer game by schoolchildren to a scientific conversation between specialists at a symposium.
  • Effectiveness of communication. Depends on the form of communication (oral, written).
  • Significance. The exchange of information occurs for specific purposes and serves to satisfy people's need to obtain the necessary information.
  • Influence. Successful communication influence can change the interlocutor's understanding of the subject of conversation.

Nevertheless, there are often situations in life when communication is difficult for people to understand each other. Communication barriers in psychology are barriers of various origins that can arise between dialogue partners during the exchange of adequate information.

They manifest themselves as psychological resistance on the part of the person who, as it were, defends himself from the active presentation of information and prevents this exchange of information between the interlocutors who have entered into a dialogue. When receiving information from the external environment, communication barriers (CBs) may appear associated with the multitude of information that every person receives every day.

In the process of external communication, information overload and a feeling of disorientation when choosing a source (press, television, Internet) may occur, which leads to the devaluation of the information received. On the other hand, the ability to correctly use information, for example, exclusive or known to a limited circle of people, allows you to influence other people and expand your influence.


Using words with multiple meanings sometimes leads to confusion and misunderstanding of the message. Examples of a semantic barrier due to the inability to determine meaning without context:

  1. “Have you prepared for tonight?” – the word “evening” can mean both a period of time at the end of the day and a meeting (dance/literary/party).
  2. “This is my team” - the word “team” can mean an order, a sports group or a group connected by a common interest.
  3. “Get a plate” - the word “plate” can mean dishes, a musical instrument, or even a flying object.

This also includes cases of lack of a single meaning regarding abstract concepts. They may be formally defined, but they still have a different meaning for each person. These are words such as kindness, happiness, justice, democracy, progress.

To eliminate ambiguity, it is enough to use words in the appropriate context for them. The meaning of abstract terms can be discussed with the interlocutor separately.


Lack of mutual understanding between interlocutors can arise for many reasons. These include:

  • level of intelligence;
  • unequal knowledge of the topic or subject of conversation;
  • differences in the lexicon and thesaurus (a set of concepts corresponding to any field of knowledge);
  • lack of understanding by partners of the communication situation;
  • different worldviews based on differences of social, cultural, political, religious, professional, national character.

Barriers between interlocutors often manifest themselves as individual characteristics of a psychological nature. Examples of communication barriers of this kind:

  • excessive frankness of one person and isolation of another;
  • resentment, mistrust, suspicion and other negative feelings directed at the partner;
  • intelligence versus assertiveness;
  • intuitive rejection of someone else's personality.

These filters can act in such a way that true information is perceived as erroneous, and false information becomes acceptable.


This phenomenon occurs due to the inability of the communicator to competently operate the language. Already at the stage of preparing the monologue, he loses the meaning of his message. The speech is so poorly worded that it is difficult or impossible to understand. This type of reason includes incorrect choice of words, inconsistency of sentences, frequent repetitions that overload the message.

Even ideal messages can be difficult for the recipient due to his lack of necessary experience to process a particular message. If the communicator does not take into account the level of his speech culture, the meaning of the message will not reach the listener. Maximum simplification and purification of the text from water (introductory words, meaningless clarifications, etc.) allows you to get rid of incoherence.

Forms and types

Communication barriers are established when the recipient (message recipient) wants to protect themselves from unimportant, unwanted or even dangerous information. Depending on the interpersonal level of communication, on the ability of the partners participating in the dialogue to express their thoughts in words, concentrate on the interlocutor and listen to him, three forms of CB transparency are distinguished. These include:

  • avoidance;
  • authority;
  • misunderstanding.

Avoidance is the most opaque form of CB. You can not perceive unwanted information by choosing the physical path and avoiding any contact with its carrier, or psychologically - not listening to the words of the participants in the conversation, delving into your own thoughts. The most transparent barrier is misunderstanding; when it occurs, information is distorted beyond recognition and reduced to a neutral meaning. The authoritative type barrier is aimed at devaluing information by subjectively reducing the significance and reliability of its source.

There is a classification of psychological barriers according to the formal characteristics of the content of the message itself, leading to misunderstanding. On this basis, KBs are divided into phonetic, stylistic, semantic and logical.

Phonetic and semantic differences

An analysis of the reasons for the appearance of such barriers shows that they are due to differences in the acoustic means of transmitting information and a misunderstanding of the meanings of words. The phonetic barrier arises in connection with the physiological characteristics of spoken speech, which are inherent in different people . These include:

  • poor diction and articulation;
  • incorrect placement of accents;
  • parasite words.

At the same time, the range of misunderstandings is quite wide - minor refers to the pronunciation of individual words, complete reflects complete ignorance of the language (foreign or unfamiliar). A partial barrier occurs with rapid, slurred speech, a lisp, or an accent. But slow speech, interspersed with unnecessary sounds and filler words (uh, mmm, well, there), only causes irritation in the recipient.

Phonetic misunderstanding also occurs when the voice suddenly rises as a consequence of the fact that the raised tones block the perception of speech. In such cases, a person concentrates on the interlocutor’s attitude towards him instead of comprehending the message. A high or low timbre of voice causes the recipient to have a defensive reaction of turning off attention from the words of the speaker.

A semantic barrier is formed during communication between representatives of different subcultures and manifests itself in a lack of understanding of the linguistic composition of the language related to customs, norms and values, jargon used in the street or youth environment. In addition, the polysemy of selective words is also important, the meaning of which depends on the proposed context.

Stylistic obstacles

They arise in cases where the speaker’s speech style does not correspond to the situation or the recipient’s speech style, i.e., when the message is organized incorrectly. For example, a critical remark is not perceived as such if expressed in a friendly manner, since the chosen style is inappropriate and does not correspond to the purpose of communication and the intentions of the participant in the conversation.

Subconscious or obvious resistance in the recipient is caused by phrases containing words of coercion: must, must, necessary, etc. In the business sphere, the paradigm of the possible and desirable without specifics is not always appropriate. Psychologists advise using the following techniques for structuring information:

  • Frame rule. It consists of clearly delineating the beginning and end of the conversation so that goals and intentions are better anchored in the information expressed.
  • Chain rule. It is expressed in the structuring of the communication process, when the information necessary for analyzing a task forms a chain of sequential messages, combined into groups according to certain characteristics.

A stylistic barrier also appears in conditions when the form of communication does not correspond to its content. For example, a person who has invited an interlocutor to dialogue is conducting a one-sided monologue. This method of communication leads not only to the dissatisfaction of the interlocutor, but also causes misunderstanding and even rejection of the information itself, caused by negative emotions that do not allow the listener to concentrate and effectively perceive what is heard. Misunderstanding between partners also arises when using styles that are appropriate in written speech, but difficult to understand by ear.

Logical barriers

They manifest themselves in situations where partners cannot find a common language when communicating. People can see the essence of the problem being discussed from different points of view, which do not always coincide with the position of the other participant in the conversation. In addition, interlocutors can attach completely different meanings to the same words in different situations, depending on individual personal characteristics. Having originated in the mind of one person, it will not necessarily become understandable to the listener, especially since the thoughts themselves are a consequence of the various needs of the individual.

Each of them hides its own motive as a primary component in the formation of verbal constructions. This is expressed in the fact that the interlocutor first formulates his inner speech and only after that verbalizes it, while the listener first has to decipher the message in order to comprehend the meaning of the message addressed to him. If the recipient has other thinking characteristics, then the understanding of the information will be inadequate and will certainly cause difficulties in communication.

Often, such a barrier arises if one of the partners has an abstract-logical type of thinking, and the other has a visual-figurative one: in this case, the logical operations of analysis, synthesis, comparison, generalization and others will have different directions and depths. For example, while one person is trying to analyze a problem as deeply as possible, another stops at collecting superficial information and quickly formulates an answer. Logical barriers are most noticeable when partners with differences in mental activity do not strive to take into account each other's specific characteristics.

Coping Tools

Communication barriers are removed using psychological techniques aimed at identifying conditions that weaken their influence on the recipient. A set of means that help the process of unblocking communication channels is called fascination. The term comes from the English word fascination, which means “charm.”

Means of fascination accompany the presentation of information, increase the share of its perception by the listener and increase confidence in the acquired knowledge. Usually they act as an additional background, for example, for a constructive dialogue, a calm, trusting environment can be recommended; when communicating via electronic media, accentuated musical accompaniment can be recommended.

To overcome the phonetic barrier, technical techniques are used to improve the quality of speech and maintain a dialogue pace that is most suitable for understanding the meaning of the message. Equally important is the focus on correct pronunciation of words and correct stress. Phonetic misunderstandings are softened by pauses, which increase attention and give the interlocutor a break. You can protect yourself from your partner’s elevated tone only by being in emotional balance and asking him to remain calm during the conversation.

Optimal tonality and correctly placed accents in the message also contribute to effective communication. To overcome the semantic barrier, knowledge about the cultural and religious customs of different peoples is necessary, which helps to understand the characteristics of other people and choose vocabulary that they understand for conversation. Language variability, when the specifics of a message changes depending on who it is intended for, justifies the expectation.

Stylistic barriers can be overcome by properly constructing a conversation. In order for a message to be perceived better, it begins with attracting attention and arousing interest in the recipient, then moves on to the main points and enters into a discussion with objections and questions. Communication ends with conclusions and summing up the dialogue. You can avoid a logical barrier if you try to understand how the interlocutor builds conclusions, identify and try to compensate for differences.

Slang or unknown language

Using jargon makes it difficult for a non-professional to understand the message, rendering the speech meaningless. The same is true for slang. A person who does not belong to the group to which the slang belongs will not be able to make out the meaning of the message.

The only cure for this cause of semantic barrier is to expand your vocabulary and learn about your audience. To successfully interact with listeners, a communicator must have a good understanding of their vocabulary and select analogies for terms unknown to him.

Character traits that create problems

Pride can be put in first place, because other qualities are derived from it. This trait manifests itself in elevating oneself and having a condescending attitude towards others. When dealing with a proud person, a person has to restrain himself in order to avoid conflicts.

Boasting is a way of self-affirmation. This trait may hide uncertainty and a need for praise. Boastful individuals are often vain. This is the next negative feature. A vain person depends on flattery and other people's opinions. He believes in his importance only if he sees the approval of others. It is important to learn to praise yourself, because flatterers are rarely sincere. Their goal is to manipulate a vain person.

Lust for power is expressed in rejection of other people's opinions and desires. This is a painful need to control others. To communicate fruitfully with a power-hungry person, you need to be able to clearly argue your position. First of all, the power-hungry suppresses insecure individuals.

Hot temper is the inability to recognize one’s emotions and control them. A hot-tempered person notices the consequences of an emotional “explosion” after it ends. The interlocutors of such a person have to show special calm and not “mirror” the rude words of the opposite side.

Express summary

Thus, communication barriers are psychological obstacles that prevent people from understanding each other correctly. Depending on what and how the interlocutor does not understand, there are several types of communication barriers and their characteristics. Scientists give different ways of classifying barriers, so it is difficult to say for sure how many there are. But to better cover the topic, it is worth citing the most common types of communication barriers with examples and methods that will help achieve mutual understanding. As practice shows, there is no barrier to communication that cannot be overcome, there is only the reluctance of the communicator and the recipient to find a common language.

People are often mistaken, thinking that it is enough to express their opinion and it will be understood. This is only possible if the message reaches its recipient unchanged. And, unfortunately, this happens very rarely, almost never. Communicators say one thing, but recipients understand something completely different. And not because they do this on purpose, it’s just that all messages are susceptible to the influence of many factors and interference that reduce the effectiveness of information transfer. It is impossible to take into account all the factors that distort messages, so a variety of attempts have been made to classify the types of communication barriers.

The characteristics of the emergence and manifestation of misunderstanding directly depend on what caused the distortion of information. For example, if you talk to a person who has been irritated since the morning, he will clearly not understand even 10% of the transmitted data, and otherwise he will also be indignant because he was allegedly insulted, although no one even thought about it.


Communication barriers are causal factors that prevent successful communication in which both parties absorb and exchange information.

Communication achieves success as a result of the reduction or absence of barriers when the sender's data is adequately perceived by the recipient.

The general classification of communication barriers divides them based on scale:

  1. Macrobarriers are global - they interfere with communication as a whole. For example, a geographical barrier is when one of the communication participants, being in a different time zone, cannot continue the conversation and goes to bed.
  2. Microbarriers are point-specific and relate to a specific area of ​​interest.
    For example, in everyday life a person is sociable, but he is taciturn with colleagues because he does not find communication with them interesting. In this case, there are personal and psychological barriers.

Ways to calculate barrier type

You need to analyze your experiences and your partner’s reactions. Communication barriers are associated not with the content of the dialogue, but with the features of speech: the logic of the narrative, vocabulary, clarity of pronunciation of words.

Interaction barriers arise during communication. In this case, one of the parties is not satisfied with the moral character, level of knowledge and character of the partner. Barriers to perception – stereotypes, expectations. If a psychological barrier arose too quickly or even before communication, it is a barrier of perception.

Visually, the tension between the companions is manifested through body language. Pay attention to:

  • facial expressions (tense face, smile does not match the expression of the eyes);
  • posture (closed posture - the companion turns away, crosses his limbs; excessive relaxation and absent-mindedness are also considered signs of psychological closedness);
  • gesticulation (sudden movements; involuntarily clenched fists);
  • expression of the eyes (absent, “running” or long gaze).

READ How to learn to communicate with people: expert advice

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