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Barriers to Effective Communication


Communication is the process by which information moves from one person to another. It can either be formal or informal. Informal communication is used by everybody whereas formal communication is mostly used by organizations, although they also use the informal type of communication. For communication to be effective, information has to be sent, received, and fed back. Feedback can also be defined as a response to the message received, for example, a person can go to the manager’s office as a response to the information given to him. Communication is a complex skill that has to be learnt by everybody for it to be used effectively. Many barriers exist in the process of communication. This paper will explain the communication process, differentiate between hearing and listening, give some communication barriers and how to overcome them, and conclude by analyzing the formal and informal communication channels in the criminal justice system.

The Communication Process

The communication process commences when a sender (who can be defined as the person with the intention of communicating) sends his or her thoughts to the other person (receiver). The sender puts his ideas/thoughts into words which can be understood by the receiver and then transmits the message. This can either be in the form of a written message or can be through a word of mouth. Mediums of transmitting information include but not limited to emails, post office, phones, and oral. After receiving the message, the receiver is expected to give his feedback concerning the message. Communication can not exist if the receiver does not give his feedback. Barriers exist in the process of communication which is referred to as noise (Guffey, 2006). They can either be external or internal barriers. These barriers include poor listening skills, a lot of disruptions, and a lot of noise among others.

Listening and Hearing

Many people are not able to differentiate between listening and hearing and most of the time, they assume that they are the same. However, there exist major differences which may be hard to recognize. Many people (except the deaf) have the ability to hear words spoken to them but that does not mean they understand everything being said. Hearing is received by the ears and does not require any kind of concentration. On the other hand, listening requires a lot of concentration for the parties involved to understand everything being said (Gracyk, 2007). Many marriages today fail because of luck of listening which can be referred to as ineffective communication. For listening to be effective, both parties must be willing to allow each other to express their point of view before jumping into conclusion.

Barriers to Effective Communication

Four barriers will be discussed under this subheading. Poor listening skills can be said to be the top most barrier in effective communication. This may be as a result of lack of concentration on the topic being discussed, distractions for example high levels of noise, and disagreement. The other barrier is making of assumption while in the process of communicating, for example, many people assume to know what other people are about to say and instead of waiting to hear from them, they just leave (Guffey, 2006).

Another barrier to effective communication is the improper use of non-verbal signals. Many people use non-verbal signals which are not in line with what they speak out. For instance, a person may point at a certain object then tell the other party to draw nearer. The receiver may not be wrong at assuming that he was meant to collect the object but by being told to go to the sender, he gets confused. The last but not the least barrier to effective communication is misuse of questions. There are people who believe that by asking many questions, they will be able to get the answer they want. This is not true because the more the number of questions, the more it becomes tricky for the other party. People should learn how to use the right question at the right time so as to get the right information. Questions should not be ambiguous but clear and understandable.

Strategies that may be implemented to overcome communication barriers

Communication is a skill that we learn in our everyday lives. It seems easy, although it is one of the complex skills that exist and requires everyone to master. To overcome the barriers that exist in the process of communication, both parties must be willing to let go of their assumptions and judgments and give each other enough space to express their ideas. People should learn how to listen as this is the major component in communication. Communication means more than just giving out messages; it involves speaking, listening, sending, and receiving messages (Guffey, Rogin and Rhodes, 2009). In communication, listening is the key to success and most of the time listening gets people into problems because they do not practice it. For communication to be successful, listening has to be proficient. Listening simply means holding back one’s judgment and allowing answers to come from outside.

Another strategy that can be employed to overcome these barriers is learning how to focus on other people’s thoughts, ideas, and feelings. Every person should learn how to step away from his own thoughts and opinions and allow the speaker to express his feelings and thoughts. For example, we should learn how to pay attention to the non-verbal signs being used and the speaker should not use these signs if they contradict with what comes out of their mouths. Non-verbal signs are good at giving an in-depth understanding of what the speaker communicates.

Asking of questions is another good strategy in overcoming barriers to effective communication. If a point is not clear, we should always be able to ask questions for the speaker to clarify his point. However, these should not be a multiple of questions but a simple and clear question. The speaker should also not assume that the audience understands everything he says; he should ask questions so as to ensure that people do not misinterpret his message.

Formal and Informal Communication Channels in the Criminal Justice Organizations

In the criminal justice system, just like in other organizations, the communication process is referred to as the organizational communication. Information moves through both formal and informal channels. More often than not, there are police officers of different ranks, objections, and other staff intermingling with each other in the hallway, seated, standing, or moving about in different directions. For that reason, the formal decision making follows the direction approved by the formal channels, but communication is a lot more slackly connected to social relationships. Information that flows outside the formally authorized channels and does not hold on to the hierarchy of authority is called informal communication. Such information tends to connect everyone in the organization. Interpersonal social interactions are inevitable in the workplace, and these form the basis of informal communications. There are two types of informal communication used in many police stations today, these are: management by wandering around and the grapevine (Schultz, 1975).


As seen above, communication is the process of sending and receiving messages. There is a difference between hearing and listening. Every person has the ability to hear words and sounds (except for the deaf) but not everyone has the ability to understand the words being said. There exist major differences between hearing and listening, which may be hard to recognize. Some of the barriers that exist in the communication process are poor listening skills, improper use of non-verbal signs, multiple questions, and assumptions. Some of the strategies used in overcoming communication barriers include: proficient listening, learning how to focus on other people’s thoughts, ideas, and feelings, asking of questions among others. Information in the criminal justice system moves through both formal and informal channels. The formal decision making follows the direction approved by the formal channels whereas the information that flows outside the formally authorized channels and does not hold on to the hierarchy of authority is called informal communication.

Reference List

Gracyk, T. (2007). Listening to popular music, or, how I learned to stop worrying and love Led Zeppelin. Michigan: University of Michigan Press.

Guffey, M.E., Rogin, P. and Rhodes, K. (2009). Business Communication: Process and Product. New York: Cengage Learning.

Guffey, M. E. (2006). Mary Ellen Guffey’s essentials of business communication. New York: Cengage Learning.

Schultz, D. O. (1975). Critical issues in criminal justice. New York: Thomas.