Break Down Interpersonal Communication Barriers!

Interpersonal communication barriers negatively impact how effectively we are able to communicate at work, with our friends, and in our family life. Perhaps the most frustrating part of the communication process, barriers are and will be present every day of our lives. "Why are people so difficult to communicate with?" It's simple really... we are all different. That is precisely what makes interpersonal experiences so much fun. All of these people with different personalities, emotions, priorities, and feelings. If you think about the fact that everything changes during the day as people are affected by daily situations, it makes you wonder why we even attempt to communicate. I enjoy this aspect of interpersonal communication. In our jobs or at our homes, it truly is the part we have the least control over. Fortunately, it usually presents the biggest opportunity for effective interpersonal communication.

Identifying interpersonal communication barriers can be difficult. One must drill down to the root cause of the barrier to effectively bring it down. I group them into 3 general types, and drill down to the root cause from there.

Type 1: Emotional

Emotional barriers are the strongest and most difficult to break through. Feelings and emotions are powerful influences on our decision making. Emotions will create all three types of barriers, but I like to group them by themselves as this is the starting point to drill down to the root cause. Easily identified by inflection, tone, and passion emotional barriers are quite easy to identify, but more difficult to drill down. Some people are more emotional than others, but everyone is quite effective at putting these barriers up. Bad days, very little sleep, fighting, job frustration, hurt feelings, anxiety, and the list goes on and on. Good interpersonal skills will allow you to see many of them before you hit them, but you experience them often in your daily interpersonal communication.

Type 2: Desire to Participate

The lack of desire to participate in the communication process is a significant barrier. There is nothing more frustrating than trying to communicate with an individual that clearly does not want to. This often leads to frustration and destroys the process. Often the result of the individual just not having the same priorities as you at that time, differences in interest and importance of another individual is frustrating when it is not the same as your own. Often times this leads to frustrating interpersonal experience that is clearly not forgotten and sometimes reciprocated during the next communication experience.

Type 3: Desire to Explore

Unwillingness to explore different ideas, opinions, and priorities create communication barriers every day of our lives. Sometimes referred to as "Pig Headed", it takes on many forms. A clear lack of desire to explore your views, opinions, or ideas can be extremely frustrating.

Identifying general types of barriers is just the beginning. To be successful breaking down interpersonal communication barriers, you must be patient, control your emotions, and find the root cause for the barrier. No one is going to be successful 100% of the time and everyone will find themselves creating their own barriers to communication. There is hope for us all. Developing strategies to break down these barriers will allow you to be a more effective communicator. Here are some simple strategies that I have found to be very effective (When I use them).

Don't Create Your Own Barriers:

Seems simple doesn't it? Next time you run into barriers while communicating, take a step back and see just how many you are throwing up. It can be quite entertaining to watch two people trying to communicate as each throw up barrier after barrier. Arguments ensue creating entertainment for all. Unfortunately, it's not entertaining at all when you are participating in the interpersonal experience.

Try to think about the process, and don't listen to the emotion. Understand there is a clear reason this person is creating a barrier to communication and it is simply not you personally. Remove yourself emotionally, and see the barriers to communication popping up in front of you. Make sure you are not creating barriers between you and the individual you are engaged with. If you're able to do this to a certain extent, you will see a whole new world.

Hit Them Head On:

Don't try to go around interpersonal communication barriers. Hit them head on one at a time. Unless they are removed, you will not be able to communicate effectively. Ask open ended questions to find the root cause. Identify exactly why the individual is creating barriers. If you don't ask you may not find out. Understand why these barriers are up, and try to get them down as quickly as possible.

Educate Them:

Many people don't even know they are putting up barriers. It can be quite effective to educate them. Let them know you are genuinely trying to communicate with them and they are preventing you from doing so. Talk to them with a genuine interest in what you believe is the root cause to the barriers. Most good people genuinely do not want to be responsible for breaking down the communication process. Simply educating those that barriers exist, and that you genuinely would like them to go away can be quite rewarding. It is strange, but people just don't discuss this in their daily interpersonal experiences. You may get some strange looks, but it will make sense and be effective for many people.

Send Your Message Effectively:

Effectively send your message as an individual with genuine interest in the individual you are engaged with. You must convey that you simply want to communicate effectively. Your messages, thoughts, feelings, and ideas must be genuine. Educating and addressing interpersonal communication barriers with blame, sarcasm, and anger are sure to multiply the number of barriers exponentially. Here is a simple process to send your message effectively when breaking down communication barriers.

1. - Acknowledge the Root Cause

2. - Explain How it Makes You Feel

3. - Describe the Impact on You

Work Example 1.

(You and a coworker (Jessica) are responsible for a presentation. You are discussing the outline and your counter part is running the meeting and basically telling you what material you will be covering. When you try to discuss it, she simply will not listen and moves on.)

"Jessica, I understand you have many great ideas for this presentation. When you are unreceptive to any of my ideas it frustrates me. Since I am also responsible for this presentation, I would like to discuss my ideas with you."

Personal Example 2.

(You come home and your child (Maggie) is clearly upset. When you ask her why, she simply gets angry and tell you "Nothing".)

"Maggie, I understand that you are upset. When you won't talk to me about it, it frustrates me because I feel helpless. I really want to help you, but I need to know why you are angry to help."

Breaking down interpersonal communication barriers requires patients, self control, and determination. Remember there are no rules to this game, and everyone is different. It is the most frustrating and rewarding work as you develop your interpersonal relations. Simply being conscious of barriers to communication will make you a more effective communicator at work, and in your personal life. Take the time to develop your awareness and control when you are communicating. You just might find less stress at work, and more enjoyable time with your family.

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