No more misunderstanding between us — break down barriers for effective communication in the workplace.


A famous quote says, "Communication is the key to a successful relationship". Another popular quote also says, "Communication is the key to success in any business". The two sentences share the same message: good communication is important to retain any relationship, including in the office or workplace.

Strong and effective communication skills in the workplace can create a positive work environment, leading to enhanced work performance and job satisfaction. These skills enable anyone at the workplace — from staff, managers, to directors — to maintain positive bonds, making project completion and goals much easier to achieve.

According to Kiran Kachela, founder and managing director of business improvement consultancy Continuous Improvement Projects Ltd., communication is "a critical part of employee engagement — it promotes better performance, employee retention and wellbeing".


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However, not every communication could be smooth-sailing, as barriers to communication will always be present. These barriers can create distorted messages, leading to confusion, misunderstanding, and even conflict, which can hinder work and projects at the office. It is essential to recognize these communication barriers to avoid them, or once encountered, can be resolved immediately.

"Knowing how, when, and where to communicate with your teammates is an essential part of collaboration, productivity, and ultimately being able to do your job," Marie Kretlow, the people experience and programs lead at email app Superhuman, spoke to Forbes.

Obstacles in communication

Mainly, there are three types of barriers to communication, which are physical, emotional, and linguistic barriers.

Physical barriers refer to the environmental surroundings at the workplace that limit verbal to non-verbal communications between coworkers. Examples of this type of barrier are the obstructing layout of an office, remote work that separates workers and limit communication, and closed doors.

Like the name, emotional barriers refer to barriers that arose from feelings within each worker – which can be a result of the work environment or personal reasons. For example, a demanding and intimidating supervisor can cause discomfort, anxiety, and even fear among staff. An emotional barrier can also appear when someone is unsure or uncomfortable with the topics discussed, such as politics, religion, sexuality, and racism.

Linguistic barriers include three forms of language: written, verbal and non-verbal when conveying a message. Coworkers who speak different languages and accents may encounter this sort of barrier. Apart from that, this type of barrier can arise from the use of unfamiliar jargon, vague body language due to cultural differences and speech tones.

Breaking down the barriers

It is implausible to get rid of communication barriers altogether. However, you can lessen its effects to the bare minimum with a few simple steps.

Be open and fully present. Listen to any input from coworkers and get involved in conversations with minimum judgment and assumptions. Provide feedback if necessary, so the communication does not end as one-way, which may come off as dull and unsatisfactory to some.

Be specific when delivering information, and use words that have a clear meaning. Be concise, and let others confirm or ask clarifying questions whenever they don't fully understand. Also, avoid using "um"," like", and "ah", as it can come off as hesitant and unsure, and it may lead to confusion as well.


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If you are a leader at your workplace, encourage your staff to ask questions. Enable them to be as productive as possible by providing clear guidelines that are easy to follow but also leave room for improvements.

"Most people want to contribute and succeed in their roles and being able to operate within clear guidelines and expectations helps them do so," Kretlow added.

Be an active listener. Listen to what others have to say and listen to how they express their opinions to give a better understanding of others' style of communication so that you can adjust accordingly. Do not cut in when it is not your turn to talk and listen to the complete information. This way, your response can be more thoughtful.

With these steps, effective communication and, consequently, a healthy work environment will be more achievable.


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