Barriers to Effective Communication

Written by Posted On Thursday, 19 September 2019 05:00

Communication skills are critical for success in any endeavor, but especially in a sales profession like real estate.  As a real estate professional, you have to be able to listen and respond appropriately to what your client is REALLY saying—and sometimes those messages are hard to decipher!  There are many barriers to effective communication that can distort the intention of a message. The result? A breakdown of communications and misunderstandings. 

Barriers include filtering, selective perception, information overload, emotions, language, silence, communication apprehension, gender differences, and political correctness. This also happens when a person uses ambiguous or complex legal words, medical jargon, or descriptions of a situation or environment that is not understood by the recipient.

Some examples of barriers are as follows:

Physical barriers. 

These are often due to the nature of the environment. An example of this is when you’re physically in a different space than the person you’re communicating with–such as if your assistant is working virtually, or your transaction coordinator works in a different office than you. 

Attitudinal barriers. 

These barriers often occur because of poor management and lack of clear communication with team members. Personality conflicts are common in the workplace, and result in people delaying or refusing to communicate with each other. You may also have team members who lack motivation, are dissatisfied with their work, or simply resistant to change due to entrenched attitudes and ideas.

Ambiguity of words/phrases. 

Words sounding the same but having different meaning can convey a different meaning altogether. It’s important to speak and write in a way that the receiver receives the same meaning as was intended. Using simple, clear language helps make sure the message is not misconstrued.

Individual linguistic ability. 

The use of jargon, difficult, or inappropriate words can result in confusion about the message. Again, using simple language helps to make sure the message is conveyed correctly. It’s important to ask periodically if the person you’re speaking to understands what is being said. A simple statement of “That was a lot of information—do you have any questions or need me to clarify anything?” will go a long way in making sure your client understands what you’ve told them. It’s equally important that you make sure you understand what your client is saying. For example, if you’re working with a buyer, you can say things such as, “You’ve told me that you need a 4-bedroom home, a large yard space so your children have room to play. You also said it’s important to be within 15 minutes of the school. Is that correct?” Repeating back what your client has told you and making sure that you heard them correctly not only saves you the headaches of miscommunication, but it gives your client the message that you care enough to really listen.

Physiological barriers. 

These may result from individuals' personal discomfort, caused by ill health, poor eyesight, or hearing difficulties, for example. If you’re working with a client who has challenges like these, it’s critical that you make sure that they are comfortable—so when meeting with them, make sure you check to see if they need something to drink, is the room temperature ok, brighter lighting on paperwork, or slow down your speech and speak more clearly. Just because you’ve said something a thousand times before and can rattle it off quickly doesn’t mean you should! Elderly or hearing-impaired clients will appreciate you slowing down and enunciating your words clearly.

Cultural differences. 

We live in an increasingly diverse society where interactions with people from different countries, religious groups, or ethnic groups has become commonplace. Those cultural differences can create unspoken expectations; for example, in some cultures, being offered tea is done before any business is conducted. Declining the offer of tea is consider rude.  Also, words, colors, and symbols have different meanings in different cultures. If you are working with an international client, or a client from a different cultural background than yours, do a little research ahead of time to avoid accidently offending your client.

Gender and behavioral differences. 

We should all know by now that men and women communicate differently. It pays huge dividends to understand the best way to communicate with the opposite gender so both parties are heard.  It’s critical to also understand how the different behavioral styles communicate. A high-achiever CEO will lose interest quickly if you spend a lot of time building rapport, and on the other hand, if you talk to a person with a more supportive personality in the same language that you used for the CEO, they will be overwhelmed and shut down.  If you’re not familiar with behavioral differences, read about the DISC assessment, and learn to quickly identify what behavior type you’re working with.

Technological multi-tasking and absorbency. 

With the rapid increase in technologically-driven communication, individuals are increasingly faced with condensed communication in the form of e-mail, text, and social updates. The abbreviated method we commonly use when texting is full of potential misunderstandings! Take a few minutes to actually spell out what you’re texting. Texting “y” for “yes” may mean “why” to someone else.   

With practice and attention to the words you use, you can learn to become an effective communicator. This will enhance your professional and personal life as you learn to reduce the barriers in communication so your message is clearly understood by the recipients.


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Terri Murphy

Terri Murphy, Communication engagement specialist, author, speaker, consultant, and Master Coach with Workman Success. She is the author of 5 books, TedTalk speaker and co-radio host on Contact: or Email: [email protected]

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