Knowing the barriers to effective communication is the first step in learning how to improve your communication skills.
Although there are many kinds of barriers to communication, most are characterized by not being present to what's being said, or simply by not listening.
So what is it that keeps people from listening and being present in a conversation? Here are some possible causes:• Rehearsing what to say next When you're too busy and too focused on preparing your response to what the other person is saying, you aren't being fully present to what's being said at precisely that moment.
• Being overemotional - Allowing defensiveness,fear, anger, love, disgust, or resentment to take control. Emotions are going to show up all the time, it's only when they overwhelm us that they become barriers to effective communication.
• Being distracted by happenings in the environment: too noisy, too cold, too hot, etc. The more we pay attention to a distracting noise, the less attention we pay to the conversation at hand.
If you play a sport, you can relate to this fact. As an example, golfers are told to block out their surroundings and focus only on driving or putting the ball. The audience watching the golfer is told to keep quiet. These instructions are an acknowledgment that noises can be very distracting to the task at hand.
It just takes practice to block distractions and remain focused on the conversation.
• Wearing a Mask Pretending to be someone you are not. We go through life putting on masks to suit the needs of the moment. If we need to please someone, we put on our people pleaser mask. When we pretend that we are happy with everything other people are doing, we don't express anything that may be seen "not nice". We don't express ourselves freely, we fail to communicate.
• Having an agenda. When you have a hidden agenda it's unlikely you'll be able to stay focused on what the other person is saying. Most likely you'll be too busy thinking of how to convince them about something - or of ways to ask them for something, to be actually listening to what they're saying.
You may argue that most people have an agenda, and you'd be right about that. One of the main reasons we communicate is to get something we want, either through control, manipulation or just influence.
Having an agenda becomes a problem when you become too focused on fulfilling it; when you remain too attached to getting your way.
• Prejudging and Filtering This consists of using our personal frame of reference to process any information we get. Our frame of reference consist of ideas, conclusions, experiences, preconceptions, values and beliefs that we have about life.
As an example, we disregard what someone is telling us because we dislike a trait about the person. We dismiss their input beforehand.
Another example, we reject or ignore someone's ideas because their values are different than ours.
So many barriers, so little time…
Actually, overcoming communication barriers is simpler than you think. Of all the barriers to effective communication, the one that causes the most problems is not paying attention.
So, if you do nothing else to get rid of these barriers, do this: on an ongoing basis, take aside some time to do some mindfulness exercises. You will notice that you're going to start paying more attention to conversations, to people, and to life in general. This will go a long way towards helping you really connect with people.
As you overcome each and every one of these barriers to effective communication, you'll be able to enjoy closer and more authentic relationships with others in your life.
You'll connect with people in ways you hadn't anticipated.
But more importantly, you'll feel at ease in practically any situation, confident that you'll be able to handle it.
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