Interpersonal Barriers to Communication: Examples & Solutions

Effective communication between people can be challenging due to various obstacles. This blog explores the common barriers that can hamper the exchange of information among individuals. By identifying and addressing these obstacles, we aim to provide you with valuable insights and strategies to improve your interpersonal communication skills, allowing for more meaningful and productive connections in your personal and professional environment.

What are interpersonal barriers to communication? 

Interpersonal communication barriers refer to obstacles or factors that prevent effective and meaningful communication between two or more individuals. These barriers can disrupt the exchange of information or thoughts, leading to breakdowns in communication. 

Interpersonal communication barriers can occur in various forms, including physical, psychological, semantic, cultural, and technological, and they can have a significant impact on the quality of relationships and the success of interactions. Recognizing and addressing these barriers is essential for achieving transparent, open, and effective communication between people.

What are the types of interpersonal barriers to effective communication? 

Efficient communication is crucial for fostering connections and achieving mutual understanding. However, various interpersonal barriers can prevent the smooth flow of information and ideas between individuals. Following are the several types of interpersonal barriers to effective communication:

1/ Filtering:

Filtering is a significant interpersonal communication barrier that occurs when individuals intentionally or unintentionally manipulate the information they convey to others. It involves the selective sharing of information to present a message that aligns with one’s personal interests or agenda.  This can lead to a twisting of the original message and create a breakdown in communication. 

For example, a salesperson might downplay the drawbacks of a product to make a sale. This type of filtering is often driven by a desire to achieve a particular outcome or gain an advantage.

2/ Lack of Feedback:

Lack of Feedback occurs when there is a failure to provide or receive meaningful responses, during a communication exchange. Feedback is an essential component of effective communication, as it helps both parties determine the success of the message and make necessary adjustments.  

Without feedback, the sender remains uncertain about whether their message reached the receiver, whether it was understood, or if any action or response is required. This uncertainty can lead to misunderstandings and confusion. 

In addition, the feedback communication process provides an opportunity for the receiver to seek clarification or ask questions if something is unclear. When feedback is lacking, misunderstandings can remain, and questions may go unanswered.

3/ Defensiveness:

Defensiveness is a significant barrier to effective interpersonal communication that often arises when individuals feel threatened or criticized, during a conversation.

Sigmund Freud, while developing psychodynamic theory, proposed that internal emotions such as anxiety, guilt, and insecurities can trigger defensive reactions. Defensive individuals are less open to considering alternative viewpoints or new information. 

Defensiveness can lead to a lack of empathy for the other person’s perspective or feelings. Rather than trying to understand the other person’s point of view, defensive individuals may focus solely on protecting themselves. 

Repeated defensiveness in interpersonal communication can break down trust and damage relationships over time. Others may become hesitant to communicate openly, fearing a defensive response.

4/ Barriers of trust: 

Barriers of trust in interpersonal communication represent a fundamental challenge where individuals lack confidence or belief in the reliability of each other. In situations where trust is low, people tend to be careful in their communication. They may hesitate to reveal their true thoughts, emotions, or information, fearing that it could be used against them. 

Distrust often leads to doubt about the accuracy and authenticity of information received from others. Individuals may second-guess the motives or intentions behind messages, which can interrupt open and honest dialogue. 

Furthermore, trust is fundamental for effective collaboration. Without it, people may be hesitant to work together or engage in collaborative decision-making, limiting their productivity. Addressing barriers of trust involves fostering an environment where transparency, reliability, and authenticity are valued. 

5/ Differences in language:

When individuals do not share a common language, or if one person has a limited hold on the language being used, it can lead to difficulties in understanding and interpreting messages accurately. This can result in miscommunication and misunderstanding.

Even when a common language is used, differences in accents, or regional variations can lead to misinterpretation of words or phrases. This can create a barrier while communicating.

In some cases, people who are not proficient in a language may be hesitant to speak, fearing they will make mistakes or be judged for their language skills. This can lead to uncertainty to engage in communication.

Additionally, differences in language can also apply to written communication. For example, individuals may struggle to write clear and effective messages in a language that is not their first language.

Related Finding: Linguix’s research on workplace language barriers reveals that 60% of native English speakers have encountered difficulties when communicating in writing with their non-native colleagues.

6/ Environmental barriers:

Environmental barriers refer to physical conditions and surroundings that can block effective interaction between individuals. These barriers can disrupt communication in various ways. 

For instance, excessive noise, distractions, or inadequate lighting can create challenges in hearing and understanding one another, ultimately resulting in misunderstanding. Physical distance between communicators can also pose challenges, as it may affect the ability to pick up on nonverbal cues. 

Additionally, uncomfortable environmental conditions, such as extreme temperatures or crowded spaces, can divert attention and make people uncomfortable during conversations. 

7/ Technological interference: 

Technological interference is a barrier to interpersonal communication that arises from problems or disruptions associated with the use of technology. In today’s digital environment, technology plays a pivotal role in communication, and any related issues can significantly hamper effective interaction.

These technological barriers in interpersonal communication can manifest in various ways, such as poor internet connectivity, malfunctioning equipment, software glitches, or data security concerns.

For example, during a virtual meeting or video call, technological barriers like a sudden loss of internet connection can disrupt the flow of conversation, leading to misunderstandings and frustrations. Similarly, Software glitches or compatibility issues may disturb the smooth exchange of messages, causing delays and confusion. Additionally, concerns related to data security, privacy, or hacking can create trust issues, especially in sensitive or confidential communication.

8/ Emotional distress:

Emotional distress is a significant barrier to interpersonal communication. It occurs when one or more individuals involved in a conversation are experiencing intense emotions such as anger, sadness, or stress, which can slow down their ability to engage in constructive communication. 

Firstly, emotional distress can influence communication through nonverbal cues. Facial expressions, tone of voice, and body language often convey emotions, and when someone is emotionally distressed, these nonverbal signals may not align with their words. This inconsistency can create emotional communication barriers, confuse the listener, and make it difficult to identify the true meaning behind the message.

Secondly, emotional distress can change perception and judgment. When people are highly emotional, they may misinterpret others’ words or actions, reading negative intent into neutral. This can lead to misunderstandings and unnecessary conflicts.

Related Finding: In an extensive study of Finnish workers conducted in 2021, researchers discovered that women reported experiencing higher levels of emotional distress compared to men.

Interpersonal communication barriers examples 

Example 1.1

Consider a situation where two individuals speak different languages, and they need to collaborate on a task. The language barrier can prevent communication, making it challenging for them to convey ideas or understand each other fully.

Example 1.2

Suppose a manager provides feedback to an employee about their performance. However, the employee perceives this feedback through their own biases and preconceptions, causing them to misinterpret the feedback as criticism rather than constructive input. This perceptual filter can hamper effective feedback and communication.

Example 1.3

In academic or technical fields, experts may use specialized terminology that is difficult for non-experts to understand. This language complexity can create a barrier, making it challenging for those with less knowledge in the field to follow and contribute to the conversation effectively.

Causes of interpersonal barriers

Interpersonal barriers in communication can arise from various sources, both internal and external, and can prevent the smooth exchange of information, ideas, and feelings between individuals. To effectively deal with and overcome these barriers, it is essential to understand their underlying causes. Here are some common causes of the interpersonal obstacles:


1/ Lack of Communication Skills: Inadequate communication skills, such as poor listening, inability to express thoughts clearly, or limited vocabulary, can block effective interpersonal communication.

2/ Communication Style Differences: Differences in communication styles, such as directness, formality, or the use of nonverbal cues, can create challenges when people with different styles interact.

3/ Communication Apprehension: Anxiety or fear related to communication, often referred to as communication apprehension, can lead to avoidance of social situations or hesitation to engage in conversations.

4/ Crisis Situations: During crisis situations or emergencies, stress and urgency can impact communication effectiveness, making it challenging to convey and receive vital information accurately.

5/ Lack of Empathy: Lacking empathy, which means not being able to understand and share others’ feelings, can make it difficult to emotionally connect with people and respond in the right way to their needs.

6/ Power Dynamics: Hierarchical power structures, such as those in workplaces or organizations, can affect communication. Those with less power may be hesitant to speak up or express their thoughts freely.

Related Reading: What are organizational barriers in communication

How do you overcome interpersonal barriers to communication?

Overcoming interpersonal barriers to communication is essential for effective and meaningful interactions. Following strategies and tips to help you navigate and address these barriers:


1/ Active Listening

Techniques for Active Listening: Active listening means paying complete attention to the speaker and showing that you’re fully involved in the conversation. Techniques for active listening include making eye contact, nodding to show understanding, using verbal cues like “I see” or “Go on,” and asking clarifying questions to ensure you’ve correctly understood the speaker’s message.

Practicing Empathetic Listening: Listening with empathy goes further than simply hearing the words someone says; it means showing empathy towards the speaker’s emotions and point of view. To practice empathetic listening, try to understand the speaker’s perspective, acknowledge their feelings, and respond in a supportive and compassionate manner.

2/ Clarity and Conciseness

Using Simple Language: To enhance clarity, use language that is straightforward and easily understood by your audience. Avoid including unnecessary jargon or technical terms that could confuse others. Tailor your communication to the knowledge level of your listeners to ensure they grasp your message.

Avoiding Ambiguity: Ambiguity in communication can lead to confusion and misinterpretation. Be precise in your words, provide context when necessary, and avoid vague or open-ended statements. Clear and unambiguous communication reduces the likelihood of misunderstandings.

3/ Nonverbal Communication Awareness

Body Language: Nonverbal cues, such as body language, play a significant role in communication. Be aware of your own body language, as well as that of the person you are communicating with. Maintain suitable eye contact,  keep your body language open and friendly, and use gestures that enhance your message. Being conscious of body language can help convey your intentions accurately.

Facial Expressions: The expressions on your face can communicate a wide range of emotions and reactions. Pay attention to the facial expressions of others, as they often provide insights into their feelings and thoughts. Similarly, pay attention to your own facial expressions to make sure they align with your verbal communication.

4/ Cultural Sensitivity and Diversity Training

Cross-Cultural Communication Skills: When communicating across cultures, it’s crucial to develop cross-cultural communication skills. This involves learning about different cultures, their communication styles, norms, and values. Be open to adapting your communication approach to be more culturally sensitive and inclusive.

Breaking Down Stereotypes: Challenge and overcome stereotypes and biases that may interrupt effective communication. Understand that stereotypes may result in unfair assumptions and judgments. Engage in open-minded and nonjudgmental communication to foster understanding and respect.

5/ Emotional Intelligence

Self-awareness: Emotional intelligence involves recognizing and understanding your own emotions. Self-awareness allows you to manage your emotional responses during conversations. It’s important to identify how your emotions may affect your communication and take steps to regulate them appropriately.

Managing Emotions: Effective communication often requires managing your emotions, especially during challenging or conflict-ridden discussions. Techniques such as deep breathing, active listening, and empathy can help you control your emotional responses and maintain a constructive dialogue.

 How does the frame of reference of perceptual barriers affect interpersonal communication? 

The frame of reference, in the context of perceptual barriers, refers to an individual’s unique perspective, beliefs, experiences, and biases that shape how they perceive and interpret the world around them. This frame of reference can significantly impact interpersonal communication in several ways:

1/ Selective Perception: Each person’s frame of reference influences what they choose to perceive and pay attention to during a conversation. People tend to selectively focus on information that aligns with their existing beliefs and values. For example, someone with strong political views may only hear and remember statements that confirm their preconceived beliefs, even if the speaker presents opposing evidence.

2/ Perceptual Filters: Individual frames of reference act as filters through which people interpret incoming information. These filters are shaped by personal experiences, cultural background, education, and upbringing. When two people with different frames of reference engage in a conversation, they may interpret the same information differently, leading to misunderstandings or miscommunication.

3/ Cultural Differences: Cultural backgrounds significantly contribute to one’s frame of reference. Different cultures may have varying norms, values, and communication styles. When individuals from diverse cultural backgrounds communicate, their frames of reference may clash, leading to misunderstandings or unintentional offense.

4/ Emotional Filters: Emotional states can also impact how individuals interpret communication. For example, someone in a negative emotional state may perceive neutral comments as criticism. Emotional filters can change the intended message and lead to miscommunication.

5/ Self-Concept and Self-Esteem: A person’s self-concept and self-esteem influence how they perceive themselves and others. Individuals with low self-esteem may be more sensitive to perceived criticism, while those with high self-esteem may be more confident and less affected by negative feedback. These self-perceptions affect how they engage in interpersonal communication.

To overcome the effects of perceptual barriers arising from the frame of reference, effective communicators must be aware of their own biases and actively work to reduce their impact. 

Check out our detailed guide to: How to overcome perceptual barriers in communication

Why is interpersonal communication important?

Interpersonal communication is of utmost importance in various aspects of our personal, professional, and social lives. Here are several key reasons why interpersonal communication is crucial:

1/ Building and Maintaining Relationships: Effective interpersonal communication is essential for forming and nurturing meaningful relationships. Whether in personal life or the workplace, the ability to connect, share, and understand one another strengthens bonds and fosters trust.

2/ Conflict Resolution: Interpersonal communication skills are vital for resolving conflicts and disagreements. Clear, open, and respectful communication enables individuals to address issues, express concerns, and find mutually acceptable solutions.

3/ Effective Collaboration: In workplaces, it’s often necessary to work together as a team and collaborate to accomplish shared objectives. Interpersonal communication facilitates the exchange of ideas, delegation of tasks, and coordination among team members, leading to improved productivity and outcomes.

4/ Effective Decision-Making: Communication is central to the decision-making process. It involves gathering information, discussing options, and reaching conformity. Effective communication ensures that decisions are well-informed and accepted by all relevant parties.

5/ Cross-Cultural Communication: As the world becomes more interconnected through globalization, the skill to communicate effectively with people from different backgrounds becomes more and more important. Interpersonal communication skills help connect cultural gaps and avoid misunderstandings.

Barriers to interpersonal relationships 

Interpersonal relationships are fundamental to human well-being, but they can be influenced and restrained by various barriers. These barriers can make it challenging to establish, maintain, or enhance relationships with others. Understanding these barriers is essential for addressing and overcoming them. Here are some common obstacles to interpersonal relationships:

1/ Lack of Communication: Effective communication is the foundation of any healthy relationship. When individuals fail to communicate openly and honestly, it can lead to misinterpretations, and a breakdown in the connection.

2/ Lack of Empathy: Empathy, which means understanding and sharing another person’s feelings, is crucial for creating strong relationships. When individuals lack empathy, they may struggle to connect on an emotional level and provide the support and validation that relationships often require.

3/ Communication Styles: Differences in communication styles, such as one person being very direct while the other is more indirect, can lead to misunderstandings and frustration. It’s important for individuals in a relationship to adapt and find common ground in their communication.

4/ Cultural and Social Differences: Cultural and social backgrounds can influence how people perceive and navigate relationships. Differences in norms, values, and customs may create barriers that require understanding and adaptation.

Related Reading: What are examples of cultural barriers to communication

What are personal communication barriers? 

Personal communication barriers are challenges that individuals themselves create or face when attempting to engage in effective communication with others. These barriers are often rooted in a person’s beliefs, behaviors, attitudes, and communication style. Identifying and addressing personal communication barriers is essential for improving interpersonal relationships and interactions. Here are some common examples of personal communication barriers:

1/ Lack of Self-Confidence: People who have low self-esteem or self-doubt might have difficulty expressing themselves with confidence. They may hesitate to share their ideas, opinions, or emotions, fearing rejection or criticism.

2/ Over-Talking or Dominating Conversations: Some individuals habitually monopolize conversations, not allowing others to speak or express their thoughts. This behavior can disconnect others and delay effective two-way communication.

3/ Selective Listening: People may engage in selective listening, only hearing what aligns with their preconceived beliefs or interests. This selective attention can lead to misunderstandings and missed opportunities for empathy.

4/ Nonverbal Communication Issues: Personal communication barriers can also manifest through non-verbal cues. For example, individuals may use negative body language, such as crossed arms or eye-rolling, which can convey disinterest in the conversation.

5/ Fear of Rejection or Judgment: The anxiety of facing judgment or rejection from others can result in hesitation to speak up or convey thoughts openly. This fear can suppress open and authentic communication.

Frequently Asked Questions 

Q1) What are written communication barriers?

Ans: Written communication barriers are factors that hamper the clarity and effectiveness of written messages exchanged among individuals or within organizations. These barriers can include unclear or ambiguous language, lack of organization and structure, grammatical errors, spelling mistakes, and poor formatting.

Q2) What is an example situation of interpersonal barriers? 

Ans: An example situation of interpersonal barriers is a workplace meeting where team members from diverse cultural backgrounds come together to discuss a project. During the meeting, one team member, unaware of cultural differences, dominates the conversation and dismisses input from others. This behavior may be perceived as disrespectful and may lead to others feeling unheard and reluctant to contribute their valuable insights.

Q3) What are intrapersonal barriers to communication?  

Ans: Intrapersonal barriers of communication refer to obstacles that exist within an individual’s own thoughts, emotions, or cognitive processes, hindering their ability to effectively convey or receive messages. 

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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