Perception is reality to the person who sees, reads, or hears something. Perception is influenced by culture, gender, physical space, race, ethics, morals, educational levels, tone or perceived tone of communication, physical appearance, intelligence, and many other factors. All of these influences, and more, create barriers to effective communication in the workplace. Research shows that there are seven to 10 major perceptional communication barriers in the workplace.
Spacial and Physical Barriers
Closed doors, dark rooms, separation, cramped spaces, and departmental compartmentalization all contribute to the creation of barriers to good communication. Screens, glass and cubicle walls all separate people from people. More and more often, in workplace and educational environments, computers, email, voice mail, text messaging, social media and other forms of digital communication are replacing human interaction, creating another barrier to communication. Creating a work space with natural lighting, open doors and glass walls encourages face-to-face interaction and can help develop stronger interpersonal relationships in the workplace.
Emotional, Gender, and Moral Barriers
The way a person grows up affects perception and can create barriers between people of different economic status. For example, someone who comes from a wealthy background might have preconceived notions about someone who doesn’t dress in current fashion styles. Someone with a strong religious background may find it difficult to communicate with a woman who dresses in a way that is perceived to be immodest and therefore is given less respect. An obese person may be perceived by an athletic person to be lazy and therefore given less respect. People of both genders may come from backgrounds that relegate women to a lesser position and this, too, can be a cause for less successful communication.
Ethnic and Cultural Barriers
Across the globe, in all manner of work place environments, race, ethnicity and culture have proven to be barriers to both communication and promotion. In India, for example, there is a class system that very few people are able to overcome. The darker the hue of a person's skin often determines how they are treated in the workplace. Gender biases apply in these categories, too. Because people learn behaviors from their families and cultural groups, preconceptions and respect issues are a part of their character. These are often very difficult to change or overlook in a workplace setting. All of these examples produce perceptional barriers to communication.
Identifying and Overcoming
Some of the most effective communicators are those who have made the choice to pursue coursework and undertake self-examination that identifies their own perceptions of the people they work with. They learn to listen and respond in ways that make people around them comfortable. They learn to write effectively, also, so the people they are writing to or about have a solid understanding of information that pertains to them. Companies now have diverse workforces and those that garner the most loyal employees are those that make overcoming perceptional barriers a priority.
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