Barriers to Effective Communications

When a bear roars, he is not listening. Barriers are those obstacles that stand in the way of a successful negotiation. Better put, barriers are obstacles to effective communications.

In order to have an effective discussion or negotiation, the people involved have to be able to hear, be heard, and understand each other. They do not need to agree, only to understand and be understood. Agreement may or may not come later. It certainly will never come if channels of communication are not opened and maintained.


Most barriers stem from simple communications issues between the parties.

Barriers can be real, created, or perceived. A real barrier could be a language barrier if the parties do not speak the same language fluently. The nuances of a language can be lost on one who does not speak it as a native tongue. A created barrier can be created by one person yelling over the top of another. As loud as his or her voice may be, the listener will likely reject what is being said as an emotional outburst. A perceived barrier is often based on false assumptions. An example would be one of the parties thinking that the other person does not understand what is being said without verifying that is the case. Playing dumb is an age-old negotiating tactic designed to get the other person to reveal far more than they intended.

Barriers can be verbal and non-verbal. Yelling, as noted above, is an effective verbal barrier to good communications. Equally disruptive is a distraction in the meeting that captures the attention of one person while the other person is making a point.

No matter the cause of the barriers, they need to be overcome to allow effective communications which facilitate good negotiations. Mediators are expert at establishing a dialogue between the parties. Effective negotiators need to be master communicators.