If you could remove the barriers to effective communication, more than half of workforce problem, politics, gossips, and conflicts would decrease. Every year, companies spend a large amount of time and resources in handling with these confusions and complaints. However, the most effective way is by communicating clearly.
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Clarity, consistency, and co-ordination
Proper communication does not mean fluency in English or a specific language. However, if you are not able to communicate in the language that your listener is familiar with, clarity is not possible. If you have a point to make, it is best to keep it as simple as possible. Please do not use complex words with different meanings. It is not important to look smart in front of your listeners at the cost of miscommunication.
There should be consistency in your tone, data, and method. You cannot share vital news through an informal channel and expect the employees to take it seriously.
A senior manager or leader cannot speak with every employee individually. Even if you use digital tools, the information always flows via the hierarchical chart. So, there should be enough co-ordination between your employees and their managers so that the news reaches down to the last worker.
Cultural barriers in effective communication
Stereotype, generalization and cultural barriers are quite common in an organization with a diverse workforce. The best example is the difference in information flow in American and Eastern companies. American companies prefer horizontal hierarchy. So, a floor worker can share his ideas about a process to the senior manager directly. However, in the case of a traditional Eastern organization, a strict order is standard. Thus, any detail that a floor worker has can only get shared with his immediate superior.
It is not about which culture is efficient or better. Every model of business communication has its list of advantage and limitations. However, it is essential to understand the culture of your workforce and use it to communicate clearly.
Technical barriers to effective communication
Today, the use of paper-based memo or a bulletin board is very minimal. Employees are using many communication tools. There are project software packages with messaging tools or, the workforce could use group Whatsapp, Google chat, and more.
It is not possible to expect all the employees to have the technical skill or prefer using those tools. Some might find phone apps more apt, and a few might believe email to be a standard and formal way of sharing. Moreover, it is hard to convince the older generation to share through modern tools.
Among the various barriers to effective communication that rises through technology, the lack of body language and tone is a major hurdle. It is hard for an employee to understand the tone and importance of a phone message.
Body language and non-verbal communication
A listener uses both verbal and non-verbal clues to understand a command. If the speaker looks quite casual while sharing vital data, the listener will believe that the shared detail is casual. Word play while sharing serious data, could become a downfall if you do not express it right.
One-way is another barrier to proper communication
Communication should be a two-way flow. A speaker should share his details in a way suitable for the audience, and the audience should listen and share their questions, doubts, or feedback. Based on the input, the speaker should offer answers. You cannot assume that the listener does not have any doubts related to what you shared.
Sometimes, listeners jump into some assumptions and ignore the rest of the conversation. Thus, it is vital to keep the conversation short and offer graphic representation or resource materials to help the listeners to understand better and have a longer attention span.
Among the various problems, the lack of credibility is the main factor. If the listeners do not believe that the detail you have is useful or trusty, they will not listen or act as per it. Thus, make sure to check every piece of data before sharing it. If there is a change, be honest about it and share the changes.
When a speaker lacks confidence or the ability to share a piece of news without adding too many jargon and confusing words, it is hard for the listener to understand. Every manager and leader must take up skill training if he needs it. It includes body language, verbal communication, listening, negotiation, conflict resolution, and other skills.
Examples of what barriers to effective communication can cause
In 2006, Abercrombie & Fitch CEO Jeffries shared about his business with the public via a media interview. During it, he said that his brand is for thin and attractive customers. While he meant to explain his products, his poor choice of words led to negative comments from the general public, including a majority of his board voting to replace him.
In 2013, AOL decided to reduce the number of its Patch Websites. The CEO took the wrong method to share this idea. He started a conference call with 1000 employees of Patch websites to share this news and even fired the creative director of Patch during the call. While the call was meant to explain what the future holds for them, it ended up lowering the morale of the workforce.
The case studies and examples of what bad conversation can do to a business are numerous. Yet, most of the managers do not think twice before choosing the right words, the methods of communication, or others. It is vital to change communication tactics to suit the audience. It is a beginner mistake to assume that the listener is aware of the situation or can understand everything based on your words. Communication is a learnable trait, and thus, it is vital to start training today.