Communication is not just a process of sharing messages but also ensuring that the message is understood by the recipient. There will always be gaps in understanding because each person has a distinct ability to understand the meaning. This ability based on his educational and cultural experience becomes the basis of encoding and decoding the messages. The gaps that occur due to such interferences are defined as barriers in the process of communication. A responsible communicator should aim at overcoming these barriers. In this article we delve on the origin and influence of Perceptual barriers in communication.
Barrier in communication is the difference between expectation and reality. It is the lack of understanding that exists between the sender and the recipient. There can be various reasons for such misunderstandings such as perception, attitude, mode of transmission, linguistic or emotional barriers.
Perception has been identified as the primary cause for communication failure. How perception influences the ability to create or perceive a message can be demonstrated through a simple example.
If we observe the current scenario related to the spread of COVID – 19 pandemic, we can see how people across the nations have responded to the warnings issued regarding the spread of virus. It has been repeatedly told to the people to wear a mask and sanitise or wash their hands regularly . Also people everywhere have been instructed by the WHO officials and respective state governments to maintain 6 feet distance from others. However if we go to the market or a public place we can still come across people who are roaming around without masks and violating all rules while making a complete mockery of the situation.
Origin of Perception: Such behaviour stems out of the deep rooted thinking that these people possess like, “I am fine”, ” Nothing will happen to me”, or some others feel, ” The virus only harms the rich”, and there are some who believe that the consumption of alcohol can prevent them from the virus which we know is far from reality. No matter how ridiculous this might sound but this kind of thinking and attitude is prevalent among the masses. Scientists and doctors can testify that nobody is immune to the virus. This is the truth and the very reason why vaccines are being developed to fight against this disease. So when people overlook the facts and carry a false opinion about a certain idea, thing or person then we can define this human attitude as perception.
Perception is pre– conceived notion
It is not based on concrete evidence but rather survives on the basis of abstract ideas that are either in circulation or based on a few isolated instances. Formation of stereotypes may be traced to such vague conclusions.
The claim of superiority by a community or a religious group is based on the self- proclaimed ideals of supremacy. Any theory that promotes differences on the basis of race, colour, class, gender or creed is a deliberate attempt to falsify the fact that all humans are equal by the law of nature and should not be discriminated based on any superficial grounds. Nature does not discriminate between rich and poor, black and white, north or south. In fact, the myth that man is above nature is nothing but an example of perception. We find ourselves helpless before the calamities inflicted by nature. Earthquake, floods or hurricanes are constant reminders that human beings are like any other species on earth and the claim to superiority is again a myth.
Perceptions are born out of social, cultural or physical differences. The climatic and topographical factors also affect the quality of life and output. Food, costume, habitat, festivals and occupations of a society are governed by the external factors of climate and topography. We cannot study the customs and cultural proctices by dissociating them from the environmental factors.
Stereotypes are based on selective perception. We tend to value things or ideas that we believe in and undervalue things that are not a part of our culture or value system. This selective behaviour narrows our vision. We define people and judge them by observing the law of generalisation. If we consider women as more gentle, polite and emotional as compared to males and deny them leadership roles in work environment which demands more aggression and grit then it is just a belief based on common understanding of female personality.
Perception is derived from subjective outlook. We seek similarity and what looks familiar to us captures our attention. Any dissimilarity poses a challenge and we tend to ignore, undermine or dismiss it. Perception also results from lack of understanding of our extended environment. Accepting behavioural and cultural differences can reduce stereotypes and selective perception.
An objective approach and knowledge of the diversity of people, cultures and human behaviour can help minimise the perceptual barriers in communication.