This communication barrier consists of being overwhelmed with emotions.
Imagine your face is red hot with anger, or your lips are trembling because you're about to cry, or your heart is pounding because of extreme anxiety. Will you be listening? Will you be able to focus on the conversation? I think not.
What if you are cool but the other person is hot? Same result: a failure to communicate.
When we are overwhelmed with emotions, our mind is overwhelmed with thoughts or memories fueling those emotions.
How exactly do emotions come to be? There are two sources of emotions: thoughts and memory imprints.
Thoughts The majority of emotions follow thoughts, so we first think a thought that triggers a given emotion.
Memory Imprints Less frequently - but just as powerfully - emotions are triggered by previous intense experiences, some of them going back to childhood.
As an example, Tina on the chart above is asking her supervisor for a raise, and the following dialogue takes place.
Tina: "I've been reviewing all my contributions for the past year and I feel I deserve a raise" She notices her boss is not quite receptive to her request so she adds: "Laura just got one and she did not make any significant contributions during the same period".
Her boss leans forward and says: "Look Tina, the work you do and the work Laura does are very different, her work is critical to the survival of this company, that's why she is getting a raise. I can't justify giving you a raise"
Two things could happen:
One, Tina's thoughts could start to get out of control: What is he saying?, that I'm not worth as much as Laura?" Her heart begins to pound faster, she's feeling sad.
Alternatively, Tina could have a memory imprint of low self-esteem caused going back to when she was 6 years old and her Dad made fun of her abilities in front of the entire family. As a matter of fact, her supervisor looks a bit like her Dad. She is overwhelmed with anger.
Either way, because of her thoughts or because of an early memory imprint, she is likely to feel humiliated.
At this point, she's no longer able to communicate effectively. Her thoughts (or imprints) and subsequent emotions have taken over. At this point, she's unable to ask her boss to clarify why he thinks Laura's work is key to the company, nor able to list the reasons why her own work is just as important. She will not be able to ask her boss what she can do to merit a raise. She may even decide, prematurely, that she is under-appreciated in the company and it has now become necessary to look for another job.
The conversation won't end well. A communication barrier is now in place. When exactly got built? At the point that Tina's thoughts (or imprints) triggered emotions; her biology took control and the act of communicating became secondary.
This communication barrier can be toppled by following these steps.
The first step is to become conscious of your so called "buttons", so you know when they are being pressed. Pin down which thought triggers a given emotion. This awareness is critical to take the next step.
The next step is to deal with the emotions so you can stop them from taking over. When you see an emotion coming up, just recognize it: (I am getting angry). Take a deep breath and tell yourself while you exhale: "I am letting the anger pass"
Emotions are energy, and energy can't be bottled up - you need to acknowledge it and release it. Acknowledging and releasing any pent up emotion will help you clear your mind.
Once your mind is clear, you can focus on the conversation at hand and direct it in whatever way you choose.
You may also want to read: Overcoming Communication Barriers