Factors affecting communication
This article aims to identify and analyse the major factors affecting communication. Communication plays a vital role in any organisation. It is the key to building trust and companionship. However, it can be difficult due to several factors. Communication is not an isolated act. It is a process that involves several stages and variables. If people fail to recognise the extent of those variables and how they interact with one another, their communication may suffer as a result.
People and tools of communication
When it comes to communication, people are the key factor. Whether trying to improve a team’s communication or improve personal communication skills, understanding how people communicate is essential. There are four main types of people: visual, auditory, read/write, and kinesthetic. These are also called learning styles which have been derived from the work of Fleming and Mills (VARK, 2022).
People with visual modality communicate better through graphics (graphs, charts, pictures, etc.). On the other hand, the auditory learners communicate better with sounds. They often prefer music, podcasts, radio, mobile phones, lectures, and group discussions.
People with kinesthetic modality prefer to learn from the experience of doing something. They learn best by touching and doing. They are very active learners. On the other hand, people with read/write modality prefer to see information being displayed as words. Therefore, they love to work with ppt slides, diaries, dictionaries etc.
These modalities are simply preferences. However, these preferences can be considered some key factors affecting communication. For example, using lectures to communicate with someone of visual modality may not be effective as they may not pay enough attention to what is being said. Rather, showing them information with visual aids would be more effective.
When communicating with people from another country, awareness of their behaviour and culture is very important. In fact, it is vital for a successful working relationship. For example, in the Western culture, hand shaking is common when meeting someone; however, in Korean culture, bowing is common. Likewise, there are some gestures that are unacceptable in certain cultures.
According to the University of Houston-Victoria (2020) cultural differences stand out as one of the biggest challenges in communications as different cultures impact on how people participate in groups and how they work within communities. To deal with this challenge, the Internet can be used to find out about the dominant culture of a particular country; how the people of that country act and communicate; and how businesses can reciprocate that respectfully and in a more effective manner.
Language is one of the major factors affecting communication. Imagine, an English speaker trying to speak to a Japanese speaker (they do not know each other’s language). They will hardly be able to communicate with each other and may have to rely on signs only.
Therefore, to have effective communications, the language used must be familiar to the receiver. Likewise, use of jargons, technical words, poor choice of words, weak sentence structure, unusual font size, excessive and irrelevant use of visual aids, and use of certain colloquial expressions may hinder communication badly.
Length of communication
Some people cannot simply stop talking! This is a common observation by many people. Well, this can be a problem in communication. The length of a message needs to be consistent with what has been intended to channel. Sender needs to ensure that the length of the message serves the purpose and is appropriate for the receiver. Sometimes, a message may be too long that makes the reader bored. On the other hand, a very brief message may exclude key details causing confusion and conflicts.
Time of communication
Speaking to people who are preoccupied with some important tasks may not be useful as they may not pay attention to the message delivered. Therefore, the sender needs to identify the right time to send the message to the receiver.
Technology is also one of the key factors affecting communication. It enables communication across various platforms and can be the key to expanding a business globally. In fact, Internet has been a key to removing numerous barriers affecting communications.
There have some major breakthroughs in the last several years when it comes to digital communications. Video conferencing has connected people from remote corners of the world. Microsoft Teams and Zoom are heavily used to conduct meetings and deliver learning sessions. In fact, these programmes and many social networking sites have enabled making calls and watching videos online easy for people with mobility, vision, hearing, and cognitive difficulties (Casey, 2022).
The environment in which the communication takes place can affect the outcome. Loud background noises, a messy environment, and distractions can make communicating certain messages very difficult. Therefore, it is imperative to ensure that the environment is conducive to communications.
The communication environment should reflect the company’s image and culture. A clean environment helps businesses concentrate on their core message and makes communication more effective. Expecting a customer to pay attention in a messy environment is not ideal. What is most likely to happen when a customer comes to a restaurant where chairs and tables are somewhat dirty and disorganised? Untidy environment sends a negative signal to them which may impact on their purchase decisions.
Summary of factors affecting communication
As shown above, there are many factors that affect communication. Many businesses now-a-days have employees working from many parts of the world. In such circumstance, communication becomes rather more challenging. According to Taras et el. (2021) differences across time zones, languages, cultures, skill levels, economic conditions, and political systems impact on how people communicate with each other and how they perform.
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Last update: 28 July 2022
Casey, C. (2022) Communications technologies, friend, or foe? Available at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/carolinecasey/2022/03/24/communications-technologies-friend-or-foe/?sh=6a88e5c46564 (accessed 27 July 2022)
Taras, V., Baack,D., Caprar, D, Jiménez, A., and Froese, F. (2021) Research: How cultural differences can impact global teams, available at: https://hbr.org/2021/06/research-how-cultural-differences-can-impact-global-teams (accessed 28 July 2022)
University of Houston-Victoria (2020) How does culture affect communication? Available at: https://online.uhv.edu/articles/undergraduate-studies/does-culture-affect-communication.aspx (accessed 20 July 2022)
VARK (2022) The VARK modalities, available at: https://vark-learn.com/introduction-to-vark/the-vark-modalities/ (accessed 28 July 2022)
Author: M Rahman
M Rahman writes extensively online with an emphasis on business management, marketing, and tourism. He is a lecturer in Management and Marketing. He holds an MSc in Tourism & Hospitality from the University of Sunderland. Also, graduated from Leeds Metropolitan University with a BA in Business & Management Studies and completed a DTLLS (Diploma in Teaching in the Life-Long Learning Sector) from London South Bank University.