The four main barriers to effective communication are as follows:
- Semantic barriers: this refers to the words and signs that people use to communicate. For example, the speaker might use jargon that other people don't understand, or the speaker might express him or herself badly or use words that have more than one meaning. In addition, the speaker might assume that the listener understands or shares the same assumptions about word use or body language (as body language can also vary by culture). A person might nod his head, thinking it means yes, while the other person, from another culture, thinks this gesture means no.
- Psychological barriers: this refers to the emotional state of the speaker and listener and their relationship. For example, there might be distrust among the people speaking, or the listener might not pay attention or might jump to conclusions. All of these emotional states affect communication. If one person distrusts the other, he or she will not likely listen to the other person.
- Organizational barriers: this refers to barriers that the organization puts up that interrupt communication. For example, some organizations do not allow certain members to communicate directly and require them to communicate through another person.
- Personal barriers: this refers to personal variables that get in the way of conversation. For example, some people are unwilling or frightened to speak with people of higher status, such as their boss.
Oral communication in a downward flowing direction is from someone higher up in an organization to someone lower down, provided orally (not in written format). For example, a boss could give his or her employee directions orally about how to complete a project. Written communication in an upward flowing direction could be an e-mail or memo sent from an employee to a supervisor reporting his or her progress on a project. Non-verbal communication in a lateral direction could be a situation in which colleagues who are at the same level of an organization both roll their eyes in a meeting when someone else is speaking and they look at each other to convey their thoughts.