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Seven Barriers to Good Communication


Disciplines > Communication > Seven Barriers to Good Communication

Bad listening | Nagging | Contradiction | Talking too much | Fear | Self-referencing | Self-ignorance | See also


It is easy for attempted communication with other people to fail. Here are seven ways that things can go wrong. Watch for these and your communication skills will clearly improve.

Bad listening

One of the most important communications skills is not so much what you say, but how you listen.

It is too easy to want to speak, to say what you want, but if you do not listen then people will be less likely to want to listen to you. When you do listen, then there is an exchange effect such that the other person feels obliged to listen to you in return.

Even if you do listen, there are bad listening habits that can nullify the effect and make others more irritated than appreciative. Do learn to avoid these. Recording yourself or getting others to give feedback is helpful here.


If you want to get somebody to do something and they refuse, what do you do? One of the most common approaches is to ask them again, perhaps a little more insistently.

Repetition can be a powerful way of persuading, but it can also become too much and create irritation and a reactive determination to not listen. In consequence of this, you should use this approach to persuasion only with care.


When you say something, it makes sense to keep in alignment with yourself. If you contradict yourself, you may appear insincere, uncertain or just plain stupid, any of which can lead to people not believing your message and deciding to ignore you in future.

Self-contradiction can include where your words say one thing but your voice tone or body language says something else. You can also contradict yourself by saying one thing and doing another, or simply saying two things that do not align.

You can also get into trouble if you contradict what other people believe or go against things like company policy or social values.

Talking too much

While enjoying talking is not bad in itself, when you keep talking just to hear the sound of your own voice (and so affirm your identity), then you may find that others are not as enthralled as you are.

People who fall into this trap will typically grab attention as soon as possible and talk longer than is socially acceptable. They will also not listen, interrupt others and wander off into areas of personal interest (often within their own lives).

Sometimes also we talk too much when we are enthusiastic about our topic. However, this can confuse and irritate others who may not fully understand us or want to say something themselves.

You may tell that you are talking too much if others are looking elsewhere or trying to speak. When this happens, they are not really listening to you, so why are you still speaking?


If you are cautious, anxious, insecure, intimidated or otherwise fearful, then this internal state is likely to drive you inside such that you lose real attention to the other person.

Talking with fearful people can be exasperating when they do not really listen and seem more concerned with protecting themselves, for example in the way they are less than honest and say what they think others want to hear rather than what they really think.


When we talk with others, it is normal to speak a certain amount about ourselves, but there is a point at which this becomes tedious and selfish.

Self-referencing can be identified by the number of 'I' and 'me' statements as opposed to 'you' or 'we'. In extreme, this becomes narcissism.


Many of the above problems can be caused by a lack of understanding of oneself, of not seeing how others see us and being unaware of how we are really communicating.

Emotional intelligence in such situations is low, and is a good route for improvement for anyone who wants to communicate more effectively. If we are not in touch with ourselves, it is also more difficult to be in touch with others and also for others to be in touch with us.

See also

Emotional Intelligence, narcissism, Fear



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