Electronic communication plays a vital role within organisations, and more recently, is becoming a preferred method of social interactions between individuals. Unlike face-to-face communication, individuals rely on technology to channel their message which can create additional complexities uncommon in face-to-face interactions. Intrapersonal, interpersonal, semantic, and physical barriers are more likely to occur in electronic communication because of different interpretations, absence of non-verbal behaviour or cues, and access to technological resources. This essay will examine all four communication barriers and discuss how different people’s experiences, expectations and attitudes affect the way electronic communication is composed and interpreted. It will look at barriers caused by demographics, and consider how the use of language and absence of non-verbal behaviour can cause the message to be misinterpreted. And finally, the essay will examine how environmental noise, insufficient resources, and information overload can disrupt concentration creating a barrier to successful communication.
Intrapersonal barriers occur within the self, and are more common in electronic communication due to different perceptions and expectations. These psychological barriers usually stem from a person’s life experience and can influence their thought patterns on a subconscious level. An individual’s world view regarding technology may lead them to expect that everyone has a similar level of proficiency with electronic resources, or assume that the receiver will interpret their message exactly as it was intended. In a case study conducted within a university setting, Jerram et al. (2002) examine the use of email and explain that assumptions between senders and receivers played a major role in creating misunderstandings as the meaning was often implied, and both parties assumed their different perspectives were shared. These assumptions can lead to stereotyping based on perceived characteristics of others. For example, if an electronic communication is not interpreted or responded to in the way the sender intended, the sender may make a superficial judgment about the receiver which broadens the communication barrier. Taylor (cited in Tyler, Kossen & Ryan 2005, p.29) states ‘Attitude is another major shaping or organising force in the way we perceive information, ourselves and others and it refers to a predisposition to respond to stimuli in a particular way’. Negative experiences between people or with technology can create pessimistic outlooks, which prevent skill development and contribute to self-fulfilling prophecies and avoidance behaviours. As a result, intrapersonal barriers diminish the effectiveness of electronic communication leading to misinterpretations and unproductive interactions.
Interpersonal barriers occur more often in electronic communication due to different demographics and conflicting interests. These barriers arise from personal differences and incompatibilities between individuals such as age, gender, and culture leading to conflicting viewpoints or beliefs which impede communication. In a study examining older people’s use of email and internet chat, Gatto & Tak 2008 explain that while older adults may enjoy online interactions with family and friends, they can become frustrated when using technology due to physical or mental limitations, and find that detailed conversations are prevented because responses have to be typed. In contrast, younger adults are generally more proficient using electronic communication devices. Younger females are more likely to use instant messaging or texting for social purposes and often compose long messages, while younger males become disillusioned with social texting and prefer to use mobile devices for information gathering and planning (Baron & Campbell 2012). Cultural factors such as different language systems, beliefs, and values, also create interpersonal...
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