7 common communication barriers – and how to unblock them within your team

Creative team enjoying communication in modern office, discussing ideas for startup, empty space, International Youth Day

Article by Neil Jurd

Being able to communicate effectively is an important skill for leaders and organisations. It is important to understand the various communication obstacles that stop a message getting through.

If you understand the steps that a message must climb to have the desired effect, you can think carefully about how you communicate.

I use the following model, based on work by Jon Davidge and Len Cresswell, to explain this concept. It shows a series of steps, each of which must be successfully taken for a message to be effective. If it fails at any of these steps, then it will be ineffective. When you understand this model, you will understand why what was directed by one person, is not always what was done by the other. Successful communications are well-crafted and well-aimed.

The steps that a successful communication has to climb are:

  1. Spoken

The communication must be expressed. Verbal is ideal, which is where communications are most effective and compelling, but it could mean written or texted. It is surprising how often messages get stuck at this first hurdle. Very often, people say things like ‘she should have known’ or, ‘they must know what I think’, but on reflection, the message was never articulated or spoken. The first stage of getting a message through is to express it.

  1. Heard

The communication must be received – by the right person. That might mean heard, or it could mean that the email or text has been read. Again, the most effective way of making sure the right person receives the right message is to speak to them directly, so they can hear your emphasis and understand your emotion.

  1. Understood

The message has to be understood. Clear and concise language matters at this stage. Often people overcommunicate and the important part of the message gets lost in the padding. Communications need to be exactly the right length; too short and they miss key information; too long and important points are lost in the volume of unnecessary words.

  1. Believed

The message has to be believed. This relies on the existing relationship between the people who are communicating. As a leader, being honest and straightforward is important, because if people trust you, your messages will be more likely to get through successfully. If you are not trusted, then however clearly you express yourself, the successful passage of your message will be undermined at this stage.

  1. Engage

The recipient of the message must be moved to engage. The message needs to be interesting or urgent enough to trigger an intellectual or emotional engagement. Very often we receive information, but it does not move us to think or act. The message does not engage us, so we do not engage with it.

  1. Action

If the message reached the right person or people and was credible, clear and compelling it will be translated into action. When you look back on the steps it has had to climb to reach this point, you can see why so often communication fails.

  1. Back-briefing

To increase the chances of a communication successfully translating to action, actively check the passage of a message up the steps of this model through to action. The way to do this, is once people have been given a message, ask them to think about it and then come back to you and explain their understanding of it.

Neil JurdAbout the author

Neil Jurd OBE is the author of The Leadership Book (priced at £15.99 and available from Amazon.co.uk) and founder of skills platform LeaderConnect. Find out more: www.leader-connect.co.uk

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