Overcoming Barriers

Message-based Approaches for Overcoming Communication Barriers

Whether it is a face-to-face conversation or a transmission over the phone, communicationOpens in new window is a complex process that craves careful attention. SendersOpens in new window, therefore, must ensure that message-based approaches are adopted to ensure there is compatibility between the nature of the message and the selected channel of communication so that the intended messages are sent and received without any interference.

It is true that telephones, faxes, teleconferences, the Internet, virtual workplace, and other technological advancements have helped in overcoming physical communication barriers such as time and distance, and enabled us to communicate with virtually anyone, anywhere. However, it is important to ensure that proper message-based approaches—compatibility between the nature of the message and the channel of communication—are adopted so that no further communication barrier occurs.

1.   Oral communication

Oral communication—speaking to communicate—is suitable in different settings such as the formal and informal networks in which peers exchange information face-to-face.

Whether to use oral communication or not should depend on the nature of the message. The speaker must be able to identify the situations in which oral communication is the most appropriate one to use.

  Use oral communication when:
  • The receiver is not particularly interested in receiving the message. Oral communication provides more opportunity for obtaining and retaining the receiver’s interest.
  • It is important to get feedback as it enables one to get feedback by observing the complementary non-verbal cues and asking questions.
  • Emotions are high. Oral communication provides more opportunity for both the sender and the receiver to let off steam, cool down, and create a suitable climate for understanding.
  • The receiver is too busy or preoccupied to read. Oral communication provides more opportunity to get attention.
  • The sender wants to persuade or convince. Oral communication provides more flexibility, an opportunity for emphasis, a chance to listen, and an opportunity to remove resistance to change.
  • When discussion is needed. A complicated subject frequently requires discussion to be sure that it has been understood.
  • The communication budget is tight as it is more economic than written communication.
  • When criticism of the receiver is involved. Oral communication provides more opportunity to accomplish this without arousing resentment as it is less threatening because it is not formalized in writing.
  • When the receiver prefers one-to-one contact.

2.   Written communication

Written materials often bear greater burden than spoken words especially when one is communicating new ideas and procedures. Effective writing is the product of long hours of preparation, revision and organization.

The entire philosophy of effective written communication is ‘vigorous writing is concise’. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a sketch should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts.

In fact, a clear, vigorous writing is a product of clear, vigorous thinking. Whether to use written communication or not should again depend on the kind of message to be delivered. The sender must be able to identify the situations in which written communication is the most appropriate one to use.

3.   Visual communication

Visual communication—showing to communicate—complements the written message with photographs, diagrams, charts, drawings and graphic symbols.

There is an old saying that ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’. This is because most people understand things better when they see how they work.

Visual aids, when used imaginatively and appropriately, help your audience remember more. Research shows that people remember only 10 percent of what they read but 40 percent of what they hear and see.

Visual communication complements the written message with photographs, diagrams, charts, drawings and graphic symbols. It is the sender’s discretion to decide whether to complement written communication with visual aids or not.

The sender must be able to identify the situations in which written communication needs to be supplemented with visuals.

  Use Visual communication when:
  • The message is complex and requires to be supplemented with clear and quick visual aids.
  • Highly technical topics needs to be presented using graphs and diagrams. Visuals simplify technical information.
  • The message has a mix of written and numerical data. People tend to retain information longer when it is presented to them visually.
  • Receivers are from varied backgrounds. Visuals may be useful in presenting technical information to a non-technical audience. People think in terms of images, not words, so visuals help them retain and recall technical information.
  • There is not much time. Visuals are useful when trying to condense information into a short time period. Visuals attract and hold the attention of observers.