Barriers to Effective Communication

Communication refers to exchanging ideas, information, or messages, by speech, writing, signals, or behavior. Communication is verbal if it involves words but nonverbal if it does not involve words. Human communication is effective if it can promote strong, healthy relationships. Quality communication impacts directly on the quality and nature of a relationship.

The Process of Communication and Its Components

The process of communication should be able to convey meaningful information. The components of communication comprise the sender, the message and a recipient. However, the receiver must not be aware or present during the time of communication. Communication can occur over vast distances in space and time. In communication, the parties involved must share a point of communication commonality. A Communication process is complete if the sender’s information has successfully reached the receiver.

Three-Step Communication Process and Its Components

The three-step communication process involves the sender who formulates, encode and transmit the message after overcoming internal barriers.  In the process of communication, there exist some external barriers between the sender and the receiver. The sender must strive to overcome the barriers in order for the communication to be effective. The receiver then receives, decode and interpret the message after overcoming internal barriers and provide feedback.

Differences between Listening & Hearing in Communication

People confuse that listening and hearing are the same. However, a significant difference exists. The ability to hear does not necessarily mean understanding. Inadequate communications make marriages fall apart. This is because the husband and wife do not communicate effectively. They can hear each other as they talk, but they fail to comprehend what they speak due to lack of communication skills. Listening entails an active engagement in any conversation. Hearing involve the channeling of sound stimulus signals into the brain where it is interpreted. Listening, on the other hand, needs concentration on what someone speaks. Unless the brain is engaging in the process of listening, and then a sound that gets into the ears without paying attention is meaningless. Communication entails hearing which involve sound waves reaching the brain and the ability to listen for the mind processes the information. Hearing means the physiological part of listening. Listening entails active participation in the process of communication.

Hearing and listening can not materialize if the recipient cannot understand the speaker’s language. Many people engage in intensive listening, but the difficult words and heavy accents from the speaker cut down the effectiveness of communication. One can improve listening skills by paying attention and by having an open mind. Good listeners are often good communicators. They speak clearly and in a manner that listeners can understand. Effective communication occurs when both parties are interested in the process. Good listeners are often good communicators.

The Formal & Informal Channels of Communication in Criminal Justice Organizations

Many professionals for criminal justice need candidates who possess adequate written and oral skills. Criminal justice system involves courts, police and corrections. Formal channels consist of strict procedures, which are explained by policies within the organization. Informal channels comprise the undocumented information sharing. The two channels of communication share both the efficiency and inefficiency of sending and receiving information.

Formal communication entails the formal communication channels in the criminal justice hierarchy. The command chain directs the existing formal channels of upward, horizontal, and downward communication using the chain of command. The organizational hierarchy sets procedures which relate to communication in the command levels. The directors prescribe ways of communication and the person that the subordinate reports. The hierarchy dictates the atmosphere and structure by using written policies and procedures. Downward formal communication is when the directors convey information to a junior level and is subsequently sent down to the lowest subordinate.

In upward formal communication channel provide the leaders or directors with the subordinates’ feedback. This channel has a system which include structured and report forms. Inefficiency can only set in when the subordinate fails to disclose all the essential information. This is because the subordinate exclude information that can lead them into disciplinary action or termination. Horizontal formal communication channel are within the same level of command within the organization and is essential for problem solving, handling group projects and conflict resolution. Inefficiency is possible if the level becomes too comfortable in it and fails to seek information from other levels. It is specific to a level of command, for instance patrolling police officers communicating among themselves or detectives communicating with each other.

Informal communication channels are mainly the “grapevine” type where employees from any level share information which they receive or hear from other employees. This channel is inefficient since the employees do not retain the originality of the information, hence making it different and invalid. In the criminal system, this channel can be efficient since it can create an atmosphere of kinship where coworkers in the organization can bond together resulting in loyalty and teamwork. The practice where police officers meet in a local pub after the day’s work is an “Old Boy” networking which provides an informal communication channel.

Different Barriers to Effective Communication

Barriers to communication mean those things that disrupt effective communication among people. Noise is a barrier, for example, if group members are mumbling and the team leader is trying to elaborate task assignments, information may not get to them effectively. The mumbling group members are not only making noise but also failing to listen, thus creating two barriers. Up to 80 % of high-ranking executives admit that proper listening is the most effective skill of executing tasks in the work place. President Calvin Coolidge made the remark that a man never listens himself out of the job.

There are two types of barriers, cultural and functional barriers. Cultural barriers or cultural filters are those that result from the differences among different cultures. Although cultural diversity is strength in an organization for initiating many ideas, increasing diversity can brood people with various attitudes and ways of expression.

Functional barriers arise when an organization is “divisionalized” into units or divisions which are accountable for their individual performances. This creation of independent units discourages information sharing, hence acting a barrier to an effective communication.  The independent units create a functional barrier whereby two teams, for instance, may not effectively work together due to different approaches to work. Duties assigned to a department may not be done by another due to functional differences.

Strategies that May be Implemented to Overcome Communication Barriers

In order to overcome the stated barriers, people should engage in selective perception whereby we harmonize the differences in perceptions and rearrange them into a pattern that is acceptable across the cultural diversity. In case of incorrect filtering, the leadership needs to establish more channels of communication and remove many intermediaries. This helps to reduce distortion by focusing on the essentials of the message information.

In order to overcome diversity or language barriers, people within an organization should use accurate and specific words, which are understandable to the audience. People can overcome many communication barriers by being a faithful listener, avoiding too much emotion, and accommodating people of different backgrounds like education, economic position, temperament, beauty, religion, and even political belief.


Effective communication should be able to overcome both the internal and external barriers in order for the sender to convey the message to the recipient. It is essential to be an excellent listener in any communication process. Formal and informal communication channels are essential in the criminal justice systems. People can overcome cultural and functional barriers by proper listening, accommodating diverse views and employing selective perceptions.

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