Three Barriers To Effective Workplace Communication And How To Fix Them

Updated: Jul 1

Written by: Nikki Langman, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

1. Unconscious Competence

“I know what I’m talking about. Why don’t you understand what I’m talking about?”

Unconscious competence is a silent killer of communication.

It can be very empowering to be reaffirmed that you do a particular behavior or skill extremely well and are recognized for it. However, the more natural and automatic your competency becomes, the more opportunity there is for others to be left behind. When we get so good at something, we tend to forget that the people around us might not share our same level of expertise or passion. What is “obvious” to us may not be to others.

Don’t be so good at something that you inadvertently alienate yourself or cause a breakdown in communication.

The Fix

Focus on strengthening your emotional intelligence. Developing your emotional intelligence can provide you with the self-and other-awareness tools you’ll need to skillfully interpret how your message is being received and how to shift direction when necessary. For example, what are you seeing first – nodding heads or furrowed brows? How can you adjust your message to foster greater understanding?

One of my strengths is having a telescopic perspective, or the ability to see the big picture. That strength serves me very well when I use it in the right context, such as long-term vision and strategic planning. However, it can also not serve me well when I am working alongside people who prefer to look through a microscopic lens and value processes, steps, and certainty. In these instances, I have to slow down and design my communication to take others on the journey of strategy and vision with me while occasionally stopping to make sure they have what they need along the way.

2. Noise

Many different types of noise can interfere with successful communication, especially with our ability to listen. Here are four of the most common:

  1. Physical noise. This is the most common and widely understood type of noise. Physical noise is something that occurs externally, which can cause distraction – a barking dog, a crowded room, loud music, passing cars, etc.

  2. Physiological noise. This type of noise is when there is something happening within your physical body that is not obvious to othe