Attitudinal Barriers to Communication: Example & How To Overcome

Definition of attitudinal barriers to communication

Attitudinal barriers are described as “obstacles to communication that arise from individuals’ preconceived notions, biases, or closed-mindedness, preventing effective information sharing and mutual understanding.”

In “Communication in Everyday Life: The Basic Course Edition With Public Speaking” (2nd Edition) by Steve Duck and David T. McMahan.

What are attitudinal barriers to communication?

Attitudinal barriers to communication refer to obstacles that arise from’ attitudes, beliefs, and emotional states that individuals possess. Attitudinal barriers can significantly impact the transmission and reception of messages, which restrain effective and meaningful communication. 

Unlike physical barriers (such as noise or distance) or language communication barriers (such as language differences), attitudinal barriers exist within the minds and perceptions of individuals. They are deeply rooted in personal values, cultural influences, and individual experiences.  

Attitudinal barriers can manifest in various ways, including ethnocentrism, closed-mindedness, defensive attitudes, and emotional barriers. These barriers often prevent individuals from truly understanding and empathizing with others, leading to communication breakdowns and restricted collaboration.

Types of attitudinal barriers to Communication

Let’s explore the different types of attitudinal barriers to communication and their impact on effective interaction and collaboration.

1/ Lack of empathy and understanding:

Lack of empathy and understanding refers to a mindset or attitude where individuals are unable or unwilling to understand and appreciate the feelings, perspectives, and experiences of others. When this barrier exists, effective communication becomes difficult because it requires the ability to see things from their point of view.

The Lack of empathy and understanding can manifest in various ways. For instance, a person may dismiss the emotions and concerns of others, showing little empathy or understanding for their experiences. 

They might be preoccupied with their own needs and opinions, neglecting to consider the feelings and thoughts of those they are communicating with. 

Although from a factual point of view, functional MRI studies have demonstrated that the inferior frontal gyrus (IFG), a specific region of the brain, plays a vital role in facilitating the experience of empathy.

Thus, the lack of empathy and understanding can prevent communication in several ways. Firstly, it creates a sense of disconnect and invalidation for the other person. When individuals feel that their emotions and perspectives are not valued or understood, they are less likely to engage openly and honestly in communication.

Moreover, the absence of empathy can lead to misinterpretation and misunderstanding. Without empathetic listening and a genuine effort to understand the other person’s point of view, assumptions may twist the intended message, leading to confusion and conflict.

2/ Defensive or closed-minded attitudes:

Defensive or closed-minded attitudes refer to a mindset in which individuals are unresponsive to new ideas, feedback, or alternative perspectives. When faced with differing viewpoints or constructive criticism, individuals with defensive or closed-minded attitudes tend to become defensive or unwilling to consider other possibilities.

This attitudinal barrier can significantly prevent productive communication because it creates a barrier to open and honest dialogue. When individuals are defensive or closed-minded, they are less likely to listen actively to others, engage in meaningful conversation, or explore alternative solutions. This can lead to misunderstandings and conflict in communication.

How do defensive or closed-minded attitudes are formed: 

  • Defensive attitudes often arise from a fear of being wrong, criticized, or challenged. People may feel the need to protect their ego or maintain their position. As a result, they may become argumentative when faced with ideas that contradict their own.
  • Closed-mindedness, on the other hand, stems from an unwillingness to consider perspectives that differ from one’s own. This can be due to preconceived notions, or a lack of exposure to diverse ideas and experiences. When individuals are closed-minded, they tend to hold on to their beliefs rigidly and may ignore information that challenges their existing worldview.

3/ Overconfidence and arrogance:

Overconfidence and arrogance refer to an excessive belief in one’s abilities, knowledge, or superiority, which can interfere with effective communication. When individuals demonstrate these attitudes, they may dismiss or devalue the input or expertise of others, leading to communication breakdowns and a lack of collaboration.

Important aspects to understand about overconfidence and arrogance as attitudinal barriers:

  • Belief in infallibility: Overconfident individuals may believe that their own opinions and ideas are always correct, leaving little room for considering alternative perspectives or feedback. This belief can prevent them from engaging in meaningful dialogue and considering other viewpoints.
  • Disregard for others’ expertise: Arrogant individuals may dismiss or devalue the expertise and knowledge of others, assuming that their knowledge is superior. This attitude can create a hierarchical and uncollaborative atmosphere, limiting effective communication.
  • Resistance to feedback: Overconfident and arrogant individuals may struggle to accept feedback or criticism, as it challenges their perception of their competence. They may be defensive when confronted with alternative viewpoints or suggestions for improvement.

To overcome defensive or closed-minded attitudes, individuals should cultivate a mindset of openness and willingness to consider different viewpoints. Several studies have shown that teams achieve the highest level of effectiveness when their leader acknowledges mistakes and maintains an open mindset toward learning from others. This requires actively practicing active listening and suspending judgment.

4/ Power dynamics and hierarchical attitudes:

Power dynamics and hierarchical attitudes refer to situations where there is an imbalance of power or a perception of hierarchy within a communication setting. This barrier occurs when individuals in positions of authority or higher status apply their power or influence in a way that hampers open dialogue.

Power dynamics can manifest in various ways. For example, in a workplace, it could be seen between managers and subordinates or in team settings where certain individuals hold more authority or decision-making power. In social or personal relationships, it may arise due to differences in social status, age, or other factors that create an imbalance of power.

When power dynamics and hierarchical attitudes come into play, it can lead to a range of communication challenges. Individuals with less power or lower status may feel intimidated or hesitant to express their thoughts or concerns openly. They may fear negative consequences or perceive their opinions as less valuable, leading to a lack of active participation in communication.

Furthermore, hierarchical attitudes can contribute to a lack of transparency and information flow. Communication may become one-way, with those in higher positions dictating decisions without seeking input from others. This can limit collaboration and innovation, and result in hierarchical barriers to communication.

5/ Resistance to change:

Resistance to change is a negative attitudinal barrier to communication and it refers to a mindset where individuals are reluctant to accept new processes or ways of doing things. This barrier arises when people stick to familiar routines, habits, or ways of thinking, even when change is necessary or beneficial.

Resistance to change can appear in different ways. Some individuals may fear the unknown or the potential risks associated with change. Others may feel a sense of attachment to existing processes or structures and resist any alterations that disrupt the status quo. This resistance to change can emerge due to a multitude of factors, including the fear of failure and a preference for familiarity and comfort.

According to Rick Maurer, an accomplished author, and advisor specializing in strong support for change. Have identified 3 levels of resistance: 

  • I don’t get it 
  • I don’t like it
  • I don’t like you 

Thus, the barrier of resistance to change can significantly hamper strong communication within organizations or relationships. When individuals resist change, they may be less receptive to new ideas or alternative approaches. 

Moreover, resistance to change can create tension and conflict, particularly in situations where change is necessary for growth. The lack of open and constructive communication prevents the exploration of new possibilities and limits the potential for positive outcomes.

6/ Passive-aggressive behavior:

Passive-aggressive behavior refers to indirect expressions of negative feelings, resistance, or hostility in communication. It involves avoiding direct confrontation or openly addressing conflicts, but instead expressing frustration through secret or hidden means.

key points to understand about passive-aggressive behavior as a communication barrier:

  • Indirect communication: Passive-aggressive individuals often avoid expressing their concerns, needs, or disagreements directly. They may use sarcasm or other forms of nonverbal communication to convey their dissatisfaction.
  • Ineffective conflict resolution: Passive-aggressive behavior block effective conflict resolution because it avoids addressing issues openly and directly. Instead, it can increase tensions and create misunderstandings as the intended message is often unclear or ambiguous.
  • Undermining trust and relationships: The use of passive-aggressive behavior weakens trust and damages relationships. It can create an atmosphere of tension, uncertainty, and miscommunication, making it difficult to establish open and honest dialogue.

To overcome the barrier of passive-aggressive behavior, it is essential to promote assertive and direct communication. Encouraging individuals to express their thoughts, concerns, and disagreements openly and respectfully, which will help foster a more transparent and constructive communication environment.

7/ Judgmental attitudes:

Judgmental attitudes refer to a mindset where individuals are quick to form opinions and make negative evaluations about others. This attitude can create a barrier to effective communication by introducing bias, undermining trust, and limiting two-way dialogue.

When individuals have judgmental attitudes, they tend to make assumptions, criticize, or label others based on their own preconceived beliefs. This can lead to misinterpretation of messages, reluctance to share ideas, and a lack of understanding in communication.

This barrier impacts communication in two major ways: 

Firstly, judgmental attitudes create a climate of defensiveness and hostility. When individuals feel judged or criticized, they are less likely to engage openly and honestly in communication, leading to a breakdown in trust and effective collaboration.

Secondly, judgmental attitudes can hamper the exchange of diverse ideas and perspectives. When individuals are quick to dismiss or label others, it limits the opportunity for an inclusive discussion, where different viewpoints can be considered.

In order to over come Judgemental attitude, Therapist Emily H Sanders has given 8 approaches to transition from a judgmental attitude to a more gracious attitude: 

8/ Ethnocentrism and cultural differences:

When individuals are ethnocentric, they may judge or evaluate others’ behaviors or beliefs based on their own cultural framework, without considering the cultural perspective of others. 

This cultural difference in communication can lead to conflict and insufficient recognition of the value and diversity found within various cultures.

Ethnocentrism can also lead to cultural misunderstandings when individuals assume that their cultural norms are universally understood or should be adopted by others. it can result in misinterpretation of gestures or communication styles. 

In addition, ethnocentrism can reinforce stereotypes and biases, perpetuating a sense of the “us versus them” mentality. This can create divisions and prevent the establishment of meaningful connections and collaborations across cultures.

Examples of attitudinal barriers in communication

  1. First Example: Ignoring or dismissing input from subordinates due to a hierarchical mindset.
  2. Second Example: Making sarcastic comments or giving backhanded compliments.
  3. Third Example: Making assumptions about someone’s abilities or character without valid evidence.
  4. Fourth Example: Always expecting the worst outcome in a situation and expressing pessimism.
  5. Fifth Example: Reacting defensively and refusing to accept constructive criticism.

Example of an attitude in communication


These examples represent various attitudes that individuals may exhibit during communication interactions.

Examples of attitudinal behavior 

  1. Listening actively and attentively during a conversation.
  2. Displaying open-mindedness by considering alternative viewpoints.
  3. Offering constructive feedback and suggestions rather than criticizing.
  4. Being receptive to change and demonstrating a willingness to adapt.
  5. Engaging in collaborative problem-solving and teamwork.
  6. Demonstrating confidence without arrogance or superiority.

How to overcome attitudinal barriers in communication 

Overcoming attitudinal barriers to communication is crucial for fostering meaningful connections and establishing effective relationships. Let’s delve into the following ways in which attitudinal barriers can be prevented. 

1/ Developing self-awareness: Developing self-awareness is a crucial step in overcoming attitudinal barriers to communication. It involves introspection and reflection to gain insight into one’s own thoughts, emotions, and communication patterns. By understanding oneself better, individuals can identify their own barriers and biases that block effective communication.

2/ Cultivating an open and receptive mindset: Cultivating an open and receptive mindset involves being open to new ideas, perspectives, and feedback. It requires letting go of rigid thinking patterns and being willing to consider alternative viewpoints. An open mindset encourages curiosity, flexibility, and a genuine desire to learn from others. By cultivating this mindset, we create a conducive atmosphere that encourages transparent and efficient communication.

3/ Enhancing emotional intelligence and self-regulation: Emotional intelligence refers to the capacity to perceive, and control both personal and others’ emotions. Strengthening emotional intelligence empowers individuals to effectively manage their own emotions during communication, avoid impulsive reactions, and respond thoughtfully. This allows for clearer, more constructive communication and reduces the likelihood of conflicts or misunderstandings.

4/ Seeking feedback and being open to constructive criticism: Seeking feedback and being open to constructive criticism is essential for personal growth and improvement in communication. It involves actively seeking input from others, valuing their perspectives, and being receptive to suggestions for improvement. By embracing feedback, individuals can identify their communication weaknesses, address them, and continually enhance their communication skills.

By actively incorporating these strategies into their communication practices, individuals can overcome attitudinal barriers in communication and achieve effective communication.

What is the difference between emotional barriers and attitudinal barriers?


Emotional Barriers

Attitudinal Barriers


Emotional barriers are internal obstacles rooted in feelings

Attitudinal barriers are negative attitudes or mindsets impacting communication


Related to emotional states and reactions

Related to beliefs, biases, and preconceptions

Influence on Behavior

Impact the individual's emotional state and response

Impact how individuals perceive, interpret, and respond to information


Fear, anger, anxiety, defensiveness

Preconceptions, closed-mindedness, resistance to change

Source of Barrier

Internal to the individual, often tied to personal experiences

Influenced by cultural, social, or personal factors

Overcoming Strategies

Requires managing and addressing emotions through emotional intelligence and self-awareness

Involves challenging and changing beliefs, fostering open-mindedness, and promoting empathy


Prevent self-expression, understanding, and connection

Hamper effective communication, collaboration, and empathy

Related Reading: Define emotional barriers

What are attitudinal barriers in the workplace? 

Attitudinal barriers in the workplace refer to the negative mindsets, attitudes, and behaviors that negatively impact effective communication, and productivity among employees.  Attitudinal barriers can create a toxic work environment, slow down teamwork, limit innovation, and prevent the overall success of individuals and the organization.

Some common attitudinal barriers in the workplace include:

1/ Lack of respect or courtesy: When individuals fail to demonstrate respect and courtesy towards their colleagues, it creates a negative work environment. Disrespectful behavior, such as interrupting others or rude communication, limits effective collaboration and damages relationships.

2/ Negative attitudes or pessimism: Negative attitudes and a pessimistic outlook can spread quickly in the workplace and impact team morale and productivity. When individuals consistently display negative attitudes, it can create a toxic work environment, restricting problem-solving, and good communication.

3/ Lack of accountability: When individuals avoid taking responsibility for their actions, it creates a culture of blame-shifting and excuses. The absence of accountability results in trust issues and undermines collaborative teamwork.

Addressing these additional attitudinal barriers in the workplace requires fostering a culture of respect, inclusivity, and accountability. Organizations can encourage open and honest communication, and establish feedback mechanisms to address these barriers effectively.

What are attitudinal barriers in the classroom?

Attitudinal barriers in the classroom are related to the attitudes and perceptions that individuals bring to the classroom environment, impacting their engagement, interactions, and academic performance.

Attitudinal barriers can manifest in various ways and create challenges in the classroom setting. They can result in decreased motivation, limited participation, conflicts, and limited understanding of concepts. Overcoming these barriers is crucial for creating an inclusive and conducive learning environment.

Here are two common examples of attitudinal barriers in the classroom:

1/ Lack of engagement or disinterest: Students who display a lack of interest or motivation may be less likely to actively participate in classroom activities, ask questions, or engage with the learning material. This barrier can prevent effective communication and delay the acquisition of knowledge.

2/ Negative attitudes towards learning: When students hold negative attitudes towards the subject matter or learning itself, it can affect their willingness to put effort into understanding and mastering the content. Negative attitudes can lead to limited comprehension, resistance to challenges, and reduced academic achievement.

Overcoming attitudinal barriers in the classroom involves promoting positive attitudes, and creating an inclusive and respectful learning environment. Encouraging student engagement and open communication are important steps in minimizing these barriers.

 What are the attitudinal barriers to disability? 

Attitudinal barriers related to disabilities refer to the negative attitudes, misconceptions, and stereotypes that individuals may hold towards people with disabilities. These attitudes can create barriers in various aspects of life, including employment, education, social interactions, and access to services.

Attitudinal barriers toward disability can manifest in different ways and impact the participation of individuals with disabilities in society. These barriers are often rooted in ignorance, fear, or a lack of understanding about disability.

Some key characteristics of attitudinal barriers toward disability include:

1/ Pity or paternalism: Some individuals may view people with disabilities through a lens of pity or see them as objects of charity. This attitude can undermine their autonomy and dignity and perpetuate a sense of dependency.

2/ Stigmatization and social exclusion: Negative attitudes towards disability can result in social exclusion, isolation, and discrimination. People with disabilities may face barriers in accessing education, and other opportunities due to the stigma associated with their disability.

Overcoming attitudinal barriers toward disability requires: 

  • Promote education and increase awareness about disabilities, including their diversity and the capabilities of individuals with disabilities.
  • Emphasize the importance of positive attitudes towards disability, challenging negative perceptions, and promoting a mindset that focuses on abilities rather than limitations.
  • Encourage empathy and understanding by promoting personal interactions and experiences that allow individuals to better understand the challenges faced by people with disabilities.

What are attitudinal barriers to effective listening 

Attitudinal barriers to effective listening refer to the internal factors that restrain individuals from actively and attentively engaging in the listening process. These barriers are rooted in attitudes, beliefs, and personal biases that impact an individual’s ability to receive, understand, and respond to the messages being communicated.

Here are some attitudinal barriers to effective listening:

1/ Lack of openness: If individuals approach a conversation or presentation with a closed mind, it can hinder effective listening. Being unwilling to consider alternative viewpoints or new information prevents individuals from fully comprehending the message being conveyed.

2/ Selective listening: Selective listening occurs when individuals focus only on certain aspects of the message that align with their interests, preferences, or preconceived ideas. This selective attention prevents a comprehensive understanding of the speaker’s intended message.

3/ Impatience: Impatience can lead to a lack of focus and a desire to rush through conversations. When individuals are impatient, they may interrupt the speaker, finish their sentences, or lose interest before fully understanding the message being conveyed.

 How attitude can affect communication 

Attitude plays a significant role in shaping the effectiveness of communication. It impacts communication at various levels, starting with the perception and interpretation of messages. 

The attitude individuals hold influences how they perceive and interpret information. Positive attitudes tend to foster open-mindedness and a willingness to understand different perspectives, leading to a more accurate understanding of the message. Conversely, negative attitudes can color perceptions, leading to biased interpretations and miscommunication.

Attitude manifests through nonverbal cues, such as posture, body language, and gestures, which can either reinforce or contradict the oral message. These cues significantly impact how messages are received and understood by others.

In addition, attitude can also influence the level of engagement and active participation in communication interactions. Positive attitudes promote active engagement, and a willingness to contribute to the conversation.

 Individuals with a positive attitude are more likely to actively listen, ask questions, and offer valuable insights. In contrast, negative attitudes may lead to disinterest, disengagement, and a reduced willingness to actively participate and limiting two-way face-to-face communication.

Thus, recognizing the influence of attitude on communication allows individuals to be mindful of their own attitudes and how they may impact the effectiveness of their communication.

What are the 4 types of attitudes in communication?

In communication, there are four main types of attitudes that individuals can exhibit. These attitudes influence how individuals perceive, interpret, and respond to messages. 

1/ Open attitude: An open attitude is characterized by receptiveness and a willingness to consider and accept new ideas and information. Individuals with an open attitude actively listen and remain open to changing their viewpoints based on new insights or evidence.

2/ Closed attitude: A closed attitude, in contrast, reflects a reluctance to consider alternative viewpoints or new information. Individuals with a closed attitude may be resistant to change, hold firmly to their own beliefs, and exhibit a lack of receptiveness to differing opinions.

3/ Positive attitude: A positive attitude in communication involves a constructive and optimistic mindset. Individuals with a positive attitude approach communicate with openness, respect, and empathy. 

4/ Negative Attitude: A negative attitude in communication involves a pessimistic or resistant mindset. Individuals with a negative attitude may be closed-minded, dismissive, or defensive. 

Frequently Asked Questions 

Q1) What are some examples of attitudinal barriers? 

Ans: Examples of attitudinal barriers include lack of empathy and understanding, defensive or closed-minded attitudes, overconfidence and arrogance, power dynamics, and hierarchical attitudes.  These attitudes prevent constructive communication, create a negative environment, and slow down collaboration and understanding.

Q2) What is attitudinal communication? 

Ans: Attitudinal communication refers to the process of conveying and exchanging attitudes, beliefs, and opinions between individuals or groups. It involves the expression and reception of attitudes through verbal and nonverbal means, influencing how messages are perceived and understood.

Q3) What are the three factors resulting in attitudinal barriers?

Ans: The three factors leading to attitudinal barriers are personal beliefs and biases, lack of awareness and understanding, and emotional factors and past experiences. By addressing these factors, individuals can work towards overcoming attitudinal barriers and cultivating an environment of inclusivity and understanding in communication.

Aditya Soni

Aditya is the head of content at clearinfo and is responsible for improving the site's organic visibility. He is a certified SEO trainer and has worked with SaaS companies and startups to enhance their digital marketing presence. He is also an ahref fanboy. Click to connect with him on Twitter, and LinkedIn.  

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