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Course Outline

As you are communicating with others, keep in mind that there will be barriers that could determine how effective you are both verbally and non-verbally. Being aware of the following barriers that can create misunderstandings can help you become a more effective communicator.

  • Environmental Factors
    • Noises: Are there other noises in the area? Radios, traffic, and other conversations are examples of noises that could create a barrier to communication. Consider moving to another location where it will be quieter.
    • Time of Day:
      • Is it daytime or nighttime? Depending on other factors, using non-verbal communication may be more effective during the day than at night.
      • Is it a typical mealtime? Hunger may create a barrier to communication.
    • Location: Where are you? You will likely need to make adjustments in how you communicate based on whether you are outdoors, inside a building, or elsewhere.
  • Language Factors
    • Secondary Language: Are you or the other person using a secondary language that could impede your ability to communicate verbally? Do both of you speak the same language?
    • Dialect: Is anyone involved using a regional or other type of dialect?
  • Physical Factors
    • Hearing:
      • Is the other person a poor listener and, therefore, not paying attention to what you are saying? If so, do you need to have the person repeat what you say in order to confirm he or she understands you correctly?
      • Is the other person hard of hearing such that you need to speak louder or be closer to him or her to be heard? Could the person be deaf?
    • Sight: Does the other person have poor vision such that non-verbal communication will not be effective? Is the other person blind?
  • Emotional Factors
    • Prior Interaction: Have you and the other person dealt with each other previously such that previous issues are interfering with the current situation?
    • Anger: Are you or the other person so angry that one or both of you will not listen or respond no matter what is said or done?
    • Fear: Is the situation making you or the other person so afraid that it is impossible to overcome the fear and communicate effectively?
  • Cultural Factors
    • Eye Contact: Will making direct eye contact or avoiding direct eye contact cause the other person to not pay attention to you? It is important to realize and remember that direct eye contact is expected or acceptable in some cultures while other cultures consider it a sign of disrespect.
    • Personal Space: Will being too close to the other person or too far away create an unwanted barrier to communication? The amount of personal space a person wants or expects to have varies among different cultures.


Being able to communicate effectively is a valuable skill to have and can help you resolve conflicts in a non-violent manner. However, it is important to remember that miscommunication can and does occur.

  • Reasons for miscommunication include:
    • Having barriers present, such as differences in culture, age, or language
    • Letting emotions get in the way of rational thought
    • Misinterpreting or ignoring body language
  • Using verbal and non-verbal communication effectively and avoiding barriers to communication can help prevent what might be a minor misunderstanding between two people from potentially turning into a crisis situation.
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