The 5 Barriers To Communication, Explained

These communication barriers interfere with the way we interact.

Communication barriers

We all communicate with other people every day, and in different ways. We do this even in the absence of oral language (consider, for example, some children with autism, who use alternative communication systems).

Through communication we express ideas, feelings, desires, emotions … that is why it is essential to live in society. But … is communication always a clear and fluid process? Does the message always reach its recipient (s) properly? Well, the truth is that no, and in this article we bring you its explanation: communication barriers.

Here we will see what these consist of, what types exist, how they can alter the transmission of a message, how to detect them and how to combat them.

What do we understand by communication?

Surely we all know roughly what communication consists of. When we hear this word, we surely think of people who speak to each other, who write, who use words but also the body to express themselves, etc. That is, we imagine a more or less fluid conversation and the exchange of ideas that occur through it.

In more technical terms, we can say that communication is the process that allows transmitting and receiving messages (information, ideas …). Through this process, two or more people are related through messages that flow from one side to the other, through a channel (for example the air, in oral communication).

However, communication is not always fluid, clear and precise, but many times the message is distorted or deformed, not reaching the receiver properly (or directly not transmitting properly from the sender). When this happens, it means that communication barriers are operating, which are nothing more than interference or obstacles that occur in it.

Now, let’s see what exactly these types of barriers consist of:

Communication barriers: what are they?

Communication barriers, also known as interference, consist of obstacles that make it difficult for the message to arrive in a communication process.

Thus, through these barriers, messages can be distorted or misrepresented, and not properly reach their addressee. These barriers are located between the sender and the receiver of the message.

On the other hand, communication barriers can be of different types, as we will see below. However, although they present different characteristics, what all of them share is that they interfere with the correct transmission or arrival of the message.

The result is, as we have seen, a message that is fragmented (partially or totally), distorted, incongruous, meaningless, altered or distorted.


There are different types of communication barriers, depending on their characteristics. Let’s see them:

1. Semantic barriers

Semantic barriers are related to the meaning of words. In this way, these types of barriers explain that we do not understand a word, a phrase or a speech. In other words, they make it difficult for us to understand a message or give it meaning. Thus, they would act when, for example, the receiver does not correctly interpret the message transmitted by the sender.

On the other hand, if as recipients, we use a word with a meaning that does not really correspond to it, we are producing a semantic barrier; this specific case is called a “change in significance”.

2. Psychological barriers

Communication barriers can also be psychological; These have to do with the specific psychological situation of the sender or receiver of the message. Thus, these types of barriers are also related to the emotional states of the sender and / or receiver, which can alter the message.

On the other hand, they also have to do with the sympathy or rejection that we have of the sender or receiver, which can influence how we receive or interpret the message.

Finally, prejudices also play a causal role in these types of communication barriers, since they influence how we see others and how their message reaches us.

3. Physiological barriers

Another type of communication barriers are physiological barriers. These, like all communication barriers, make it difficult or prevent the message from being transmitted with clarity and precision, but in this case it is due to certain physiological alterations on the part of the sender or receiver.

That is, if one of them (or even both) are in an altered state, at a physiological level (for example drunk, upset, confused, sleepy …), this will alter the emission and / or reception of the message, which will be distorted.

4. Physical barriers

Physical barriers are perhaps the most obvious. It is all those circumstances of the context or environment that hinder a fluid and clear communication. We are talking, for example, about: noise, lack of light, excessive distance between the interlocutors, problems in the means used to communicate (television, telephone, mobile …), etc.

5. Administrative barriers

Administrative barriers are those that have to do with the channels through which the message is transmitted in a communicative process, as well as with organizational structures or planning in a communicative act.

To give us a clearer idea, it would be, for example: information overload, loss of information, lack of planning, semantic distortions, impersonal communication …

How to detect communication barriers?

It is not always easy to detect when communication is being disturbed or distorted. That is, when the message is not being transmitted, understood or received properly. Sometimes the interferences that occur in a communication process are subtle, and others, more obvious.

Some elements that we can take into account when detecting these barriers are: the frequency of silences in the communicative act, the appearance or not (and their frequency) of unfinished sentences, the tone of voice, non-verbal language, the way to express yourself …

How to overcome these barriers?

There are different ways to overcome or combat communication barriers, and each person will use the technique that suits them best or that best suits their needs, depending on their context.

The ideas that you will see below can be applied whether we are senders or receivers of the message (each technique will be put into practice at the appropriate time), they are:

  • Always clarify messages that are not understood before moving forward in the interaction.
  • In case of not understanding a message, ask directly.
  • Use expressions that encourage clear and fluent communication (ie, be clear and direct).
  • Empathize with the interlocutor.
  • Practice active listening (listen carefully, looking into the eyes, asking…).
  • Use a language according to the age of the interlocutor (for example, children vs. adults).
  • Be congruent with what we say and with how we say it (verbal and non-verbal language).
  • Don’t let prejudices affect us.
  • Take care of the environment (lighting, noise …) to facilitate communication.
  • Check / verify that they follow us when we speak.
  • Exercise control – as far as possible – of emotions, preventing them from distorting the message.

Bibliographic references:

  • De Gasperin, R. (2005) Communication and human relations. Xalapa, Mexico: Universidad Veracruzana, pp. 95-135.
  • Francois, F. (1973). Language, communication. Buenos Aires, New Vision Editions.
  • Pasquali, A. (1990): Understand communication. Caracas: Mount Avila.

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