Roadblocks to communication can negatively impact business, familial, and intimate relationships. Being aware of these roadblocks can make the difference between relationship success and failure. Communication is a major component in relationship building, so if you’re unaware of the dynamics playing out between you and others, you could miss some big opportunities for connection.
The 12 Roadblocks to Communication
Communication doesn’t have to be as hard as we sometimes make it. Don’t let roadblocks to communication take you off-roading onto dangerous terrain. Start by understanding these 12 common barriers to communication, modified slightly from Thomas Gordon’s original list, and recognize when they arise.
1. Making Judgments
Criticizing, name-calling, diagnosing, or even praising someone can make negative impacts on your ability to communicate. By implementing any of these into a conversation, you’re more likely to put the other person into a defensive state, limiting the effectiveness of the dialogue. While the former 3 actions might automatically imply a negative reaction, praising and positive judgments creates its own kind of communication barrier. Not everyone can receive praise without experiencing discomfort or skepticism, so instead of getting your message heard, you might just be making the other person wonder what you’re up to.
2. Sending Solutions
One of the most common roadblocks to communication is offering solutions to a stated dilemma. While you might think you’re being helpful, it could be so that the other person just wants to be heard and validated in their experience. By you immediately offering solutions, you’re not only telling them to move on, you’re also implying they’re not mature or intelligent enough to make the right decisions on their own.
3. Avoiding Concerns
Similarly to the impact of simply trying to problem-solve, diverting or utilizing logic in response to someone’s concerns can be invalidating. This might make the other person less likely to reach out again the next time they want to express themselves.
While your wisdom might be bright and well-earned, better communication skills are less about your subjective opinion and more about allowing space to consider the experience of the other person.
People don’t often reach out to simply receive orders. Telling people what they can, can’t, or will do is likely not your place. No one wants to be told what to do, so taking this approach is likely to shut down future conversations for good.
Communication and conflict resolution go hand-in-hand, and when you start using communication to label things as good or bad, you’re at high risk of conflict. Your opinions are valid but so are those of the other person. Make sure you’re not simply trying to impart your beliefs onto others. Instead, try to understand their perspective. In other words, don’t play the all-knowing moral sage. The other may be right as well.
It probably isn’t too surprising that threatening another person can put a wrench in your ability to communicate. Anytime we put someone else on the defensive, we’ve effectively lost their ability to engage productively in the conversation. Threatening that you’ll implement some kind of consequence if they don’t do what you suggest makes you appear controlling, and it doesn’t bode well for the dialogue.
“If you think that’s bad, wait until you hear what happened to me!” That’s not a response anyone wants to hear when they’re venting, expressing, or sharing concerns, feelings, and experiences. Making our stories a competition is a surefire way to lose the interest of the other person.
When people open up, the last thing they’re looking for is to be shamed for a decision they made or experience they had. Listening with judgment directly impacts your behaviors and responses to this person. Put yourself in their shoes if you feel tempted to impart shame, and try to listen without judgment.
Making interpretations about another person is common. You might even be right. But you have to understand how wrong you can be in order for this to not interfere with communication. In other words, we’ve all been able to connect the dots from time to time and see that someone might be saying something because of another related experience or emotion they expressed. But taking the approach of “you’re just saying this because you’re feeling guilty about what happened yesterday,” is a major communication barrier and one you’re conversation partner is not likely to get over quickly. Don’t try to interpret and explain their actions to them as if you are their therapist.
Responding to authentic expression with a barrage of questions is a surefire way to make someone feel unseen, unheard, and unwilling to speak up again. Honesty is meant for reflection and validation, not probing and questioning. Even though some questioning is reasonable and can be validating, be mindful of the amount and the quality of questions you ask.
Making light of things can be incredibly helpful at the right time. But laughing off something important or serious someone shared with you can make them feel disrespected and undervalued. Know your audience before deploying humor as a means of warm reception.
If you need help improving relationships or learning more effective communication skills, we can help. Pollack Peacebuilding works with individuals, groups, and partners to collaborate on solutions to common roadblocks to communication. Let Pollack Peacebuilding support your relationship-building journey toward a place of mutual understanding and longevity.