> Filters & Barriers in Communication

Filters & Barriers in Communication

Posted on Tuesday, 1 January 2013 | No Comments

When we communicate, our personal experience and view of the world have a strong influence on the messages that we form in our minds and communicate to others. Each one of us sees the world through a mental filter, which colors our communication.

The sender sees the world through one set of filters and the receiver sees it through a different set. Each message has to pass, therefore, through two sets of filters.

The filters aren't only mental or psychological, but they can also be cultural. For example, an American sees the world differently from an Indian, because of cultural filters.

Language itself acts as a filter, because each language forces its users to view the world differently.

A filter can sometimes be so powerful that it blocks or prevents communication altogether. The filter then turns into a barrier.


NOISE
Anything that hinders or obstructs communication is referred to as noise. Filters as well as barriers, whether psychological, cultural or linguistic, constitute noise. In addition, noise can also be physical. For example, if two people are trying to talk to each other in/on a crowded street, there may be a lot of physical noise which prevents them from hearing each other.

INFORMATION LOSS
Because of the presence of filters in every system of communication, the message that the receiver receives is seldom the same as the one which the sender sends. Some distortion of the message is almost inevitable.

In some cases, some of the information encoded into the message by the sender may be lost during the process of communication and may not reach the receiver, resulting in information loss. It is also possible for a receiver to add or interpolate some information which was not present in the original message sent by the sender.

REDUNDANCY
All communication, therefore, is imperfect. An efficient communicator is aware of this and tries to compensate for the defects existing in the system of communication. For example, to compensate for information loss, senders often put more information into a message than necessary, so that even if some information is lost in the transmission, enough information can still get through to the receiver.

All languages have a quality called redundancy which allows them to carry more information than is needed, in order to compensate for information loss during communication. For example, in the sentence ' Five boys met me yesterday, ' there are two signals that convey the idea of plurality : the word 'five' and the plural '-s' ending word 'boys'. Even if  the sentence was 'Five boy met me yesterday,' we would still get the plural meaning. But an extra indication of plurality ('boys') is provided, so that even if we miss one of the signals, there is still another signal available to carry the meaning.

Sometimes senders introduce redundancy into a message by repeating a message, to make sure that it is not missed. For example:

"This report must reach office by 10.00 a.m. on Monday. I repeat, 10.00 a.m., Monday."

This repetition of a message is more effective if the sender uses different words to repeat the message. For example:

"Ramesh and Mohan will form the school team at the debate competition. Those two have been chosen as our representatives."

COMMUNICATIVE FOCUS
The principal factors of communication: Sender, Receiver. Channel, Code, Message, Topic, Context and Feedback.

Each one of these factors is important, but sometimes one or more of them become specially prominent in the process of communication.

INFORMATION GAP PRINCIPLE
In any kind of communication, information is transmitted from a sender to a receiver. If the receiver already has the information which the sender is trying to convey, he/she is unlikely to be interested in it. No one likes to be told thing they already know!

Communication works on the information gap principle. Transmission of information is possible only if there is a gap between the information which the sender intends to transmit on any given topic, an the information that the receiver already possesses on that topic.

The sender must, therefore, try to make an informed guess about the receiver's state of knowledge of information. If the sender believes that the receiver already has the information which he/she is about to transmit, he/she should not attempt to transmit this information.

Information which is already known to the receiver is called old or given information, while information which the receiver does not have is referred to as new information.

Every message must communicate some new information. However, if the information is totally new, the receiver will not be able to understand the message. The receiver must have some background information which helps him/her to decode the message. Messages should therefore be a mixture of old and new information.

INFORMATION OVERLOAD
If too much new information is fed to the receiver, he/she will be unable to take it in. It is necessary for the sender, therefore, not only to mix new information with old, but also to break the information down into small chunks - just as a mother breaks food down into small bite-size morsels for her baby. (If this is overdone, however, the receiver may be insulted!)

After some information has been communicated, the sender should seek feedback from the receiver, to make sure that the information has been taken in, before providing some more information.

Information overload also describes a situation where so many different messages are received that the receiver is unable to cope with the information.

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