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Dealing with Communication Barriers

Do you find some people easier to communicate with than others? Ever feel like you’re just not connecting with someone in a conversation?


Stress has many negative impacts on our physical and mental health. But unbeknown to most, it also plays a huge role in our social life and the way that we communicate! Stress changes our state of mind and results in it being harder for us to find the ‘right’ words. The high level of tension and our mind not focusing on the present can also result in coming across as disconnected. Dr. Harry Barry explains that the emotional brain responds first when stressed, which can result in dangerous outcomes. The solution that he provides is before anxiety turns to panic, you must apply ‘logical brain’ thinking. Rationalise the situation and control your emotions – which brings us to our next barrier.


Everybody is influenced by emotion; it’s only when we are not able to control our emotional responses that this becomes a communication barrier. Emotions can influence both tone of voice and body language, but perhaps more importantly, humans absorb the emotions of those around them. This means if you’re allowing negative emotions (e.g. anxiety, anger, sadness or stress) to influence your conversation, you may influence the recipient’s response as well. Alternatively, if you act positively and confidentially – people are far more likely to react positively as well.


Have you ever been in a situation where you are talking to someone who checks their phone during the conversation? Or keeps looking elsewhere? This response doesn’t encourage conversation. In fact, it often leaves a negative impression. According to a study by neuroscientist Paul E. Dux, “humans can barely attend to more than one stimulus at a time and have extreme difficult undertaking multiple tasks concurrently”. So if you’re checking your phone, or scanning the room for something else, despite what you think about your multitasking skills, you’re not engaged in the conversation.

Another factor that often plays a role here is Fatigue, which affects our ability to focus and engage – this plays a noticeable role in conversation (see tips for fighting Fatigue here.)


Body language is five times more influential on how your message is conveyed than the words you say. Most of our genetic body language e.g. smiling when happy and frowning when angry, is universally recognised, however, there are signals and gestures that vary from culture to culture, which is important to be mindful of.

Here are some tips from for making a positive, confident impression:

  • Posture – stand tall with shoulders back
  • Eye contact – solid with a smiling face
  • Gestures with hands and arms – purposeful and deliberate
  • Speech – slow and clear
  • Tone of voice – moderate to low
  • Avoid folding arms – it’s an unconscious barrier


Inconsistent body language, where your body language does not match your words, may result in the recipient subconsciously questioning your sincerity and trustworthiness. In an experiment where participant’s brain waves were monitored, Professor Kelly, S. D. found that when the speaker’s gestures and verbal communication were inconsistent – the listener’s brain had the same reaction as when they were told an obvious lie.

When communicating, it is important to remember that how the recipient/s feel about you influences their reaction more than your words do.

To learn more about Effective Communication in your workplace, contact TMS Consulting on 07 3003 1473 or email

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TMS Consulting