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Communication: Overcoming Barriers

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Communication: Overcoming Barriers
Christopher J Subbiondo
Interpersonal Communication 122
Dr Ticey Hosley PhD
November 30, 2009

Communication: Overcoming Barriers

Communication is a wonderful and beautiful art. Learning to communicate with others is not an easy task, but once you have mastered it, it becomes much like breathing; it is simply second nature. But like most works of art there are many obstacles to overcome to achieve its full potential. One of those obstacles is what I call communication barriers. There are many examples of communication barriers, most of which we do not even know are there. In the following pages, I will be sharing with you the barriers that block effective communication and how to overcome them to communicate effectively.
One of the first things people think of when they think of communication barriers is language. This is generally agreed upon that someone who does not speak the language you speak has a harder time understanding. This is a difficult one to overcome. Time Magazine wrote on November, 26 1956, Nikita Khruschev, The Communist leader of the Soviet Union, addressed the United Nations. His words were misinterpreted and translated as “We will bury you!” This was a time when the Cold War was at large and was believed to be a threat of nuclear annihilation, when in reality he was talking about economic superiority. The easiest answer to this is to arm yourself with knowledge of who you are talking to. By immersing yourself in the culture of the people who you are trying to understand, their language becomes simpler as time goes on. But is often not just a difference of language. Many times people share a common language such as English, but have differing accents. For example a person from New York City and a person from Mobile, Alabama have drastically different accents simply because of where they were raised. People from New York tend to speak very quickly as if time was a commodity and draw across certain letters of the alphabet such as T and R; people from Mobile, on the other hand, speak at a slower pace and have what they call a Southern Drawl. A Southern Drawl tends to put words together that otherwise would not go together, such as saying y’all instead of you all. Neither of these two accents is more superior to the other, it is simply a difference of how these two people were raised. When they come together, it makes understanding each other a little more difficult than it should be. Again though, with time and asking the other to repeat if they were not understood is all it takes to overcome the barrier of accents.
Another barrier is in another form of language, known as lingo. Lingo is what people educated in a specific field use as their base vocabulary. For example, a scientist who is educated in the nuclear engineering field can and will use words that people who are not nuclear engineer typically would not understand. More examples are computer languages such as HTML, BBcode, or C++. These languages are generally not understood to the untrained mind. But with a little research, such as reading a book on the language this can be overcome as well. In the meantime it is not practical to learn every language in the world, so asking the person who is using this lingo with you to clarify themselves, is a perfectly acceptable alternative. If you know however that in the future you will need to know this type of communication, for whatever the purpose may be, it would be beneficial to learn the language ahead of time, as efficiency of communication in these fields are often easier when everyone is on the same page.
Noise is another type of barrier. It is difficult to have a business meeting in a sidewalk café in the middle of a major metropolitan city. The noises heard can often distract the listener or otherwise make them feel uncomfortable. Music that does not agree with the message can often distort the message as well, especially if it is being played too loud and you cannot hear the speaker. Even more intriguing, is the sounds heard in a quiet room. If a room is too quiet people can easily be distracted by the sound of a creaking chair, or someone clearing their throat or coughing. Noise can be very distracting, and many times it will distort the message making you feel like you heard something completely different than was actually said. However, not all noise is bad though. Music playing that coincides with the message, is an excellent way to amplify what is being said and usually helps to convey the message in a stronger more concise way. The way to overcome external noise is to choose your atmosphere properly. If you are in a large open room, in most cases playing music is not a good idea simply because the sound is amplified by the size of the large open space through echoes, making the message scrambled. Choosing a location for a business meeting should be confined to a quiet office, where the message can be construed properly and with effective precision. If you are the recipient, practicing with a colleague or friend on how to communicate with noise around you is something that would be a good idea to practice. Have lunch in that corner café I mentioned earlier; talk about everything that comes to mind in the comfort of your living room with the stereo playing. The brain, like any muscle must be exercised, else we will be more subject to these external noises.
Knowing what external noises are able to distract us, we can look inward and see what internal noises we produce. Most of these noises are completely controllable. One such distraction is lack of sleep. When the body is sleep deprived, it is much more subject to losing focus. Walter Mcdaniel of The Johnsonian Newspaper states, by sleeping the recommended eight to nine hours each night, the body is much more alert(2005) . When we are more alert we can then focus on the conversation at hand or the speaker talking to you. According to a website known as Mind Tools, poor-quality sleep can quickly lead to reduced performance, poor memory and diminished motivation (Date Unknown).
Another internal distraction is one that changes from person to person. In an interview I held with the District Manager of Corporate Operations Hampton Roads(DCO) Nicholas Cox, he stated some people can focus their attention span more than others, but the average person can only stay on a subject with no interaction for about twenty minutes (2009). For every interaction we have with a speaker we reset that attention span back to the beginning, allowing us to stay focused longer. Counteracting the loss of attention is as simple as involving yourself. If we involve ourselves in the conversation it gives us the ability to stay on subject for longer periods of time before becoming bored or overloaded by a subject. An old Chinese proverb states “Tell me and I will forget; show me and I will remember; involve me and I will understand.” These words could not be truer when considering them in communications.
One of the worst kinds of internal noise is being distracted by things going on in our lives or others that affect us emotionally. Even the simplest things like being rushed out the door because of waking up late can be detrimental to our attentiveness. Even losing keys can throw off our attention. It causes us to think about where we may have left them, what could have happened to them, or even if what will happen if we don’t find them. In a time when you have communications to keep up with, this can be distracting and cause us to day dream, drifting off in our minds to a place other than where we should be.
But I am talking about bigger issues. Issues such as breaking up with a loved one, losing a family member, or even being financially bound so terribly, we can’t come up with a way to make ends meet. These types of events can be so traumatic that the distraction caused by them can often have devastating repercussions. This can all be very distracting, and if not addressed before it happens will probably get in the way of other aspects of life.
While these are very tragic events, on the other side of the spectrum is positive events that can also distract our ability to listen. Meeting someone new and figuring out they may be the for you, or even possibly having a great weekend with some friends and thinking about these events, while positive in nature, again allows us to daydream and get distracted at the time when good listening is crucial. You cannot avoid having great social memories such as this example, but what you can do is train your mind to put these memories aside, at least for the time being, so that you ensure you get the information you are looking for. Once it is no longer necessary to have your receptors on, your new loved one or your friends will be there afterwards to continue reminiscing.
Another barrier is not just in the message portrayed, but in the follow-up that in most cases must be utilized. By following up on the message given, we can find out if the message was received in the way that the message is portraying. For example, If I was to say “We need to do anything we can to increase the amount of donations we are receiving for St. Jude’s” Then I need to follow up and ensure that “any means” is still within the bounds of our ability, on top of, being in the best interest of St. Jude’s. If I were to go to one of my domino’s stores and find out that they have been adding a dollar onto every transaction without even asking the customer if that is ok, well technically that is stealing, and not in the best interests of Domino’s or St. Jude’s. On the other hand, if I go to this same store and find out they have increased donations because the managers are ensuring that every worker is asking every customer they are talking to.
This is a good example of how a message was properly portrayed. However, had the message been more succinct to begin with, it would not have been a question. Instead of saying “We need to do anything we can to increase the amount of donations we are receiving for St Jude’s” we could instead say “By asking every customer If they would like to make a donation to children of St Jude’s to aid in their fight against cancer” That is not only giving the same message, it is giving an example of how to go about it. This is also an excellent opportunity to offer an open forum to find out what different stores are doing to ensure the success of the St Jude’s fundraiser. More often than not, many of the managers have great ideas that if implemented into all the stores could make a big difference.
Barriers of communication are often ones we put in place ourselves. By practicing our speeches and preparing what we want to say and how we want to say it, we can alleviate the problems that could arise from a misinterpreted message. However, questions will arise and we need to not only be prepared, but encourage them. Encouraging questions is an open admission that the system is not perfect, nor is the message and many times will inspire greater trust and loyalty in the receptors of the message, simply because you are not talking at them, you are communicating with them.
Last but not least, one of the biggest communication barriers is differing perceptions. A perfect speech will never be received by everyone the same way. Whether the reason is background, creed, culture, religion, or any of more than a thousand reasons people are different, some people will react differently to the message. Different events that happen in people’s lives can and will easily change the perception of the world around them. Even if two people were part of the same event, they may very well look at it differently. In the textbook Literature: Reading Fiction, Poetry, and Drama (2007), there is a short story called Everyday Use written by Alice Walker, where two sisters shared the same experience. The experience was a house fire in which they were both involved in. The older sister, Dee was affected not as affected by the fire and just wanted to go on her life living in the big city, living lavishly. Maggie, the younger sister, on the other hand, was burned in the fire. So her view of the world is a vile and cruel one and feels much more safe and secure in her own home with her mother. This was the same event for both sisters yet they both came out with differing views and likely different memories.
This is unfortunately an aspect we cannot control and must do our best to compensate for these situations that will undoubtedly arise. However, open forum, is one our tools of communication that helps us to overcome this barrier. By offering the open forum questioning, we open take away the limitations of world events that have affected our subjects in ways we cannot know, by offering them a chance to ask a question from their point of view.
The simple answer is to be responsive to what is going on, and you can overcome the barriers of communication that are set in your path. The long answer is that there is a time and a place for everything. While there are many events in life that are both positive and negative, if not properly managed can have a negative impact on communication. People fall in love and lose their jobs because they can’t manage their emotions for the time at work to put their significant other to the side long enough to complete their workday. By controlling ourselves, our time, and other aspects of our life by practicing listening skills, paraphrasing, and being involved with a conversation we are in, not just hearing it, actively listening, we will become much better at effective communication and overcome the barriers before us.

References
Author Unknown (1956) Foreign News: We Will Bury You! Time Magazine. Retrieved November 26, 2009 from http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,867329,00.html
Author Unknown (Date Unknown) Getting a Good Night’s Sleep Retrieved November 26, 2009 from http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newTCS_94.htm
Diyanni, R. (2007) Literature: Reading Fiction, Poetry, and Drama New York: The Mcgraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
Mcdaniel, W (March 7, 2005) Lack of sleep increases stress hormone Retrieved November 28, 2009 from http://media.www.thejohnsonian.com/media/storage/paper988/news/2005/03/07/Lifestyles/Lack-Of.Sleep.Increases.Stress.Hormone-2057202.shtml
Subbiondo, C. (November 17, 2009) Interview with Nicholas Cox, District Manager of Corporate Operations…...

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