Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Effective Communication in Teams: Overcoming Obstacles to Communication

Effective Communication in Teams: Some Tips!
Overcoming Obstacles to Communication
Written By Shea Wood, M.A., CCC

            When there is a communication breakdown in a team, people often have a hard time identifying what went wrong. What contributed to the miscommunication? How can we overcome these obstacles so that we can improve our own communication and be more successful in a team?
There are many barriers to effective communication, including the sender’s inaccurate expression of the message and the receiver’s misinterpretation of the message. Sending and receiving skills have been discussed in previous posts, so here I will outline two additional obstacles and tips to overcome them.
1. Noise. Often, when we communicate, there is noise that needs to be overcome. There are different kinds of noise. Physical noise is the actual noise in our environment, like a loud truck going by, that prevents us from sending or receiving a message. There are also emotional and social sources of noise, which can be harder to overcome. When we are extremely angry, upset, or frustrated, it is difficult for us to send and receive messages effectively. This emotional noise gets in our way of actually being able to phrase our communication appropriately and listen to what another person is saying. In addition, our perspective, attitude, and assumptions influence how we send and receive messages, and we may not even be aware of these social sources of noise. If I expect a teammate to be rude to me, because this has happened in the past, we may interpret his or her message as rude or negative even if this is not the sender’s intention.
Tip 1: Be aware of the noise! Being aware of the noise that is present, and that may be contributing to miscommunication, is the first step. Stop and think about how your emotions and your own expectations are influencing your ability to effectively send or receive a message.
1      2. Trust. The amount of trust that exists in relationships with our teammates influences how effective our communication is. When there is a lack of trust, the sender reduces the amount of information s/he shares and may not provide a clear and detailed message that is required to effectively communicate an idea. If the receiver does not have a functional level of trust with the sender, s/he may be suspicious of the information being communicated and may not believe that the sender is credible. This lack of trust leads to a breakdown in communication, and it is very difficult for a team to work together in the absence of trust or effective communication.
Tip 2: Build trust in teams! Take the time to get to know one another, share personal thoughts and feelings appropriately, and work on small cooperative tasks. This can help a team to develop trust in the early stages of forming, and lead to more effective communication moving forward.

For more information on effective communication, see Johnson (2014). 

Reference: Johnson, D. W. (2014). Reaching out: Interpersonal effectiveness and self-actualization (11th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.

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