The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place ~ George Bernard Shaw

Say What?

Communication skills have regressed in spite of technological progression.  The following points are seen as stumbling blocks to effective communication.

Inadequate vocabulary

South Africa has eleven official languages, excluding the different dialects of each language.  Specialist languages for computers, legal affairs and specialist fields such as medicine also exists.

Wrong assumptions

To avoid wrong assumptions, one should get the facts and answers before jumping to conclusions.

Selective listening

People who have poor self-esteem may select to hear negative rather than positive comments.

Strong emotions

Anger, worry and excitement narrow our vision so we can see nothing else.  It is therefore very important to choose the right time for effective communication.

Tendencies to talk, not listen

People work out the answer in response to what they think has been said.  Active listening is appropriate.

Environmental noise

Air conditioners, traffic and phone calls all contribute to noises levels in the office that make effective communication difficult.


The law, for example, is full of legalese which obfuscates the message and introduces ambiguity.  In English:  The law if full of legal jargon which confuses the message and introduces double meaning.

Differences in perception

Each person sees things differently.  This has nothing to do with intelligence, but with point of view.

Barriers of Effective Communication

Whether you are communicating in a formal or informal manor, communication barriers can prevent understanding.  These communication barriers are placed under five sections, namely:

Interpersonal Factors

  • People’s perceptions differ, many people can perceive the same thing differently.
  • Differing perceptions are one of the most common communication barriers. People’s backgrounds, values, experiences, social and gender issues can determine how people perceive things.
  • Managers need to realise that there are eleven official languages in South Africa and that different words in different languages may mean different things. What makes it more complicated is that each language also has different dialects.

Selective Perception

  • People tend to see and hear only what they want to see and hear.
  • People pick out favourable messages and ignore the unpleasant ones.
  • People reject or incorrectly perceive information that is inconsistent with their expectations.

Relationship Factors

Relationships between a superior and a subordinate are normally based on the way they treat each other, and how this behaviour is interpreted.

Be trustworthy:

Be open and honest.  If there is trust between a superior and a subordinate, it will eliminate defensiveness and encourage open expression.  This will, in turn, lead to effective communication.


  • Show that you are reliable and credible
  • Keep your promises
  • If staff should know about structural issues, inform them and give the appropriate reasons.
  • Do not leave people in the ‘dark’.

Structural Factors

A person’s status in an organisation depends largely on their job title.

Research has indicated that generally, people prefer to communicate with individuals of higher status, it is therefore said that the more management layers a message must pass through, the longer it will take to reach its destination and it is more likely to be less accurate.

Some companies are going through organisational change and eliminating at least one layer of middle management.  Therefore the middle managers do not act as an information filter and communication should be less distorted.  This process is known as delayering.

Technical Factors

Technological factors have influenced organisational communication.  For sending messages over a long distance we have moved from messengers to telephone and electronic mail.  Technological changes have an impact on the effectiveness of the communication media as well as the amount of available information.  The introduction of new technologies does not necessarily replace the used of older ones.  The use of electronic mail has not made face-to-face meetings redundant.

Communication works for those who work at it ~ John Powell