Article Category: Delivery Techniques

6 Communication Barriers and
How You Can Avoid Them


Editor’s Note: As I watched the video contained in this article, my 7-year-old daughter peered over my shoulder and proclaimed “Dad, she’s doing bad stuff.”

True, but sad, since so many speakers perpetuate these communication barrier habits. I invited the video’s creator — Stacey Hanke — to share it with Six Minutes readers, and here is her article for you.


Most individuals are unaware of the static they create when they communicate. What do I mean by static? Static is created when what you say is inconsistent with how you say it.

For example, suppose you’re having a conversation and the other person says, in a boring, monotone voice, “I’m so excited to have this opportunity to work with you.” Their facial expressions are lifeless. They never look you in the eye while they’re fidgeting with a pen. Most likely you’d question their credibility and knowledge, and not take action on what they have to say.

This article will increase your awareness of the static you are creating for your listeners, and give you practical, immediate tips to have more impact and influence.


Video: Stop Communicating Ineffectively

Take a couple minutes to view the video below, and then continue with the rest of the article which builds upon it.

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Communication Barrier #1
Lack of Enthusiasm

Do you really believe your product is better than the competition’s? Do you look as confident as you say you are? The benefits of your product will not be believable if you don’t communicate your passion, enthusiasm, and commitment through your facial expressions.

How to Avoid This Barrier: Show Some Enthusiasm

  • Begin paying attention to the type of facial expressions you use and when you use them. You may not be aware of when you frown, roll your eyes, or scowl.
  • Make sure your facial expressions are appropriate based on your topic, listeners and objective. When you’re smiling while communicating a serious or negative message, you create a discrepancy between your facial expression and your message. The same discrepancy applies when you’re communicating a positive message without facial expressions.
  • Once you have increased your awareness of facial expressions, practice the skill of incorporating them into your message, matching the appropriate expression to each situation. You wouldn’t want to have a stone-cold look on your face when you are expressing your passion for your company’s products.

Communication Barrier #2
Distracting Gestures

The majority of individuals I work with fidget with their fingers, rings, pen — the list goes on. If they don’t fidget, then they unconsciously talk with their hands. Their elbows get locked at their sides and every gesture looks the same. Or they’ve been told they talk with their hands so they hold their hands and do nothing.

Throughout the day, notice how you and others use gestures.

  • Do you talk with your hands or gesture too often? If you’re constantly using gestures, you’re not able to think on your feet and you’re creating static.
  • Do your gestures have purpose?
  • Ask for constructive feedback from friends, family and co-workers: “When I gesture do I look like I’m talking with my hands?” “Do I use gestures too often or not enough?”

How to Avoid This Barrier: Use Gestures for Emphasis

Confident speakers use gestures to add emphasis to their words. To gesture with purpose, avoid locking your elbows at your sides or creating the same repetitious gestures. Instead, expand your gestures from your sides and let your hands emphasize and describe your message.

Add variety to your gestures by relaxing your arms back to your sides after you complete a gesture.

Static is created when what you say is inconsistent with how you say it.

Benefits include:

  • When your gestures create a visual for your listeners, they’ll remember more information and will remember your message longer.
  • Gestures will grab your listener’s attention.
  • Gestures add energy and inflection to your voice and channel your adrenaline and nervous energy.

Communication Barrier #3
Lack of Focus

The more you add information that isn’t necessary, the greater the risk your listeners will misinterpret your point.

How to Avoid This Barrier: Stay Focused

  1. When you begin to say too much and feel like a train about to derail, put the brakes on and get yourself back on track … PAUSE!
  2. Keep your objective in mind. Think in terms of what your listener needs to know about what you want them to do, not what you want to tell them.
  3. Put thought into your words.
  4. Focus your message on three significant points.
  5. Pay attention to your listener. Are they hanging on your every word or are they dazed? Are they attentive or fidgeting?

Communication Barrier #4
Using PowerPoint as a Crutch

The more you add information that isn’t necessary, the greater the risk your listeners will misinterpret your point.

PowerPoint isn’t designed to serve as your notes. The purpose of visual aids is to enhance and support your message through pictures and illustrations.

How to Avoid This Barrier: Design Visual Aids, not Wordy Slides

How you design your visual aids will determine your ability to stay connected with your listener.

  • Create PowerPoint slides with more pictures and fewer words.
  • Ask yourself, “Why am I using this PowerPoint slide?”
  • Identify how your PowerPoint slide best supports your message based on the following criteria:
    • Listener expectations and needs.
    • Listener experience and knowledge level.
    • Objectives.
    • Time frame.
    • Number of participants.
  • Save details for handouts. Your listeners will appreciate a conversational approach with interaction accompanied by take-aways they may use as a resource.
  • Stay away from software overkill. If you’re clicking the mouse every few seconds, your visual aids are the message and you are the backup.
  • If you’ve been using the same PowerPoint design for more than six months, it’s time to make a change!
  • Stop disconnecting with your listener by talking to your visual aids. Only speak when you see eyes! Pause when you refer to your visual aids and stay connected with your listener.

Communication Barrier #5
Verbal Static

Um… what perception… like… do you create… you know… when you hear… um… a speaker using… uh… words that clutter… you know… their language? Knowledgeable, credible and confident are labels which probably don’t come to mind.

As I travel the country, the number one challenge individuals need to overcome to increase their influence is the ability to replace non-words with a pause. We use non-words to buy ourselves time to think about what we want to say. These words are distracting and your listener misses your message.

How to Avoid This Barrier: Eliminate Filler Words

PowerPoint isn’t designed to serve as your notes. The purpose of visual aids is to enhance and support your message through pictures and illustrations.

Benefits for you:

  • Think on your feet.
  • Get to the point and avoid rambling.
  • Take a relaxing breath.
  • Hold your listener’s attention.
  • Gain control over your message.

Benefits for listener:

  • Hear, understand and respond.
  • Act on what you say.

Communication Barrier #6
Lack of Eye Connection

The only way to build a relationship is through trust. When you forget what to say, you will look at the ceiling, floor, PowerPoint slides or anywhere away from your listener. When you disconnect you’ll say: “uh” “um” “so” “and”, etc.

How to Avoid This Barrier: Keep Your Eyes On Your Audience

When speaking to more than two individuals, connect with one individual for a complete sentence or thought. Take a moment to pause as you transition your eyes from one individual to another.

When rehearsing, ask your listener to immediately give you feedback when you look away from them while you’re speaking.

This is one of many public speaking articles featured on Six Minutes.
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Comments icon3 Comments

  1. Excellent video and article!

    Delivery trumps content.

    NonVerbal Delivery trumps Verbal Delivery.

    Everything should be in sync.

    Thanks for the Post!

  2. Great article! The video effectively demonstrated how truly distracting it is to try to understand information when presented with a communication barrier.

    When I was in choir in high school, our teacher used to record our rehearsals so we could watch ourselves perform. It was very interesting to see how often I fidgeted and when my facial expressions did not correspond to the music. It was a very beneficial exercise and I recommend recording yourself speak and watching it back to see how you do.

    Thanks again for the great tips! I will definitely work these tips into my next practice speech.

  3. niketha macklin says:

    i liked it

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