Semantic barriers refer to the different uses and meanings of words. How to find post Graduate jobs in Ethiopia. Words are symbols; therefore, they do not necessarily have the same meaning for everyone. The words and paragraphs must be interpreted with the same meaning as was intended. The choice of a wrong word or a comma at a wrong place in a sentence can sometimes alter the meaning of the intended message.
There is also “body language,” which includes facial expressions, the twinkle in the eye, gesture made, and tone of voice. For example, a word spoken in anger can have an entirely different meaning from the same word spoken in friendliness. The statement “All right, I’ll show you how to do the work” can be said with various voice inflections, emphases, and gestures so that different meanings are imparted to the listener- for instance, a feeling of encouragement or, in contrast, a feeling of impatience.
In general semantic barriers arise because of many factors and the major ones are discussed below.
- Different Interpretations of words by the receiver and the sender
Do you remember a situation where you and your friend understood a word communicated by somebody else in a different way? The knowledge we each have about a subject or word affects the meaning we attach to it. Individuals have their own network of words and meanings available for recall that overlap, but do not correspond exactly, with those of others. Individuals using their own networks can attach different meanings to words. Receivers decode words & phrases in conformity with their own network, which may be very different from those of senders. Words are capable of communicating a variety of meanings. It is quite possible that the receiver does not assign the same meaning to a word as the sender has intended, that may lead to miscommunication.
For some, a successful career means having prestigious job title and making lots of money; for others, it may mean having a job they really enjoy & plenty of personal time to spend with family and friends. Different word interpretations are especially noticeable in ‘bypassed’ instructions & in reactions to denotations, connotations, and euphemisms.
- Bypassed instructions or failure to understand instructions to be followed to take some actions
When the message sender and receiver attribute different meanings to the same words or use different words though intending the same meaning, bypassing often occurs. Example: An office manager handed to a new assistant a letter, with the instruction “Take it to our store room and burn it.” In the office manager’s mind (and in the firm’s jargon) the word “burn” meant to make a copy on a photocopier. As the letter was extremely important, she wanted an extra copy. However, the puzzled new employee afraid to ask questions, burned the letter and thus destroyed the only existing copy! To avoid communication errors of bypassing, when you give instructions or discuss issues, be sure your words & sentences will convey the intended meaning to the recipient. Also, when you are the recipient of unclear instruction, before acting on it, ask questions to determine the sender’s intended meaning.
- Denotations, Connotations, and Euphonious meanings of words
Many of us have at some time been surprised that a remark intended as a complement, or joke was interpreted by the receiver as an insult. A statement intended as a good deed can be distorted into something self-serving. Some of these communication problems may occur because words have both denotative and connotative meanings, and the sender has not considered the receiver’s probable interpretation and reactions.
Denotations: the denotative meaning is the meaning on which most people will probably agree. It often is the dictionary definition. The word informs the receiver & it names objects, people, or events without indicating positive or negative qualities. Such words are car, desk, book, house, water conveys denotative meaning, provided, of course, that the communicators understand the English language & provided that the receiver has a similar understanding of the context in which the word is used.
Connotations: in addition to more literal denotative meanings, some words have connotative meanings that arouse qualitative judgments and personal reactions. The term ‘meeting room’ is denotative. Director’s lounge, executive suite, boardroom, though they each denote a meeting place, also has connotative meanings. The word ‘student’ is denotative; bookworm, scholar, dropout, school dummy, gunner are connotative. Some words have favorable connotations in some contexts but unfavorable meanings in other instances. Compare, for example, fat check and fat girl; free enterprise and free (rude, bold) manners; cheap products & cheap price.
The communicators’ different backgrounds and interests also affect the connotative meanings for words. On hearing that a particular person is ‘cool’, members of one generation may take it to mean the person is fun to be with, while members of earlier generation may believe it means that the individual is unemotional & insensitive.
Euphemisms: tactful writer & speakers are euphemisms whenever possible to replace words that might have blunt, painful, lowly, or distasteful connotations. Euphemisms are mild, innovative expressions with which most people do not have negative associations. Expressions like the following have obvious connotative advantage: maintenance worker or staff member instead of janitor; slender instead of skinny; restroom instead of toilet. Instead of saying an employee was fired, a communicator may use such euphemism as laid off, terminated, or a victim of reorganization or staff cutbacks.
To communicate effectively you need to be aware of the usual connotative meanings of various terms and also to realize that some people may have their own unique meanings because of their experiences and background. Thus choose your words carefully, considering both their connotations and other denotations to convey the idea you want and achieve the desired results.
- Difference in the perception of reality
Perception relates to the process through which we receive and interpret information from our environment and create a meaningful word out of it. The reality of an object, an event, or a person is different to different people. Reality is not a fixed concept; it is complex, infinite and continually changing. Besides, each human being has limited sensory perceptions-touch, sight, hearings, smell, and taste and each person’s mental filter is unique. People perceive reality in different ways. No two persons perceive reality in identical manners. We make various abstractions, inferences, and evaluations of the world around us. Hearing what we want to hear and ignoring information that conflicts with what we know can totally distort the intent or content of the message. Some of the perceptual situations that may distort a manager’s assessment of people resulting in reduced effectiveness of the communication are- Stereotyping, halo effect, contrast and selective perception.
- Attitudes and Opinions: communication effectiveness is influenced also by the attitudes and opinions the communicators have in their mental filters. People tend to react favorably when the message they receive agrees with their views towards the information, the set of facts, and the sender. In addition, sometimes unrelated circumstances affect their attitudes, and responses like:
- Emotional state: a person’s ability to encode a message can become impaired when a person is feeling strong emotions. For example, when you are angry, it is hard to consider the other person’s viewpoint and to choose words carefully. Likewise, the receiver will have difficulty in decoding a message when her/his emotions are strong. For instance, a person who is elated at receiving good news might not pay close attention to some one else’s words or body language. Some one who is angry might pay attention but misinterpret a message in light of her/his anger.For example, a manager who has just an disagreement with a spouse is not likely to receive a quarterly report showing a downturn in sales with much sensitivity or to be open to explanations as to why sales are low. However, it is possible that, with time to cool off, the manager will be more willing to listen to reasons for poor sales.
- Favorable or Unfavorable information: rejecting, distorting, and avoiding are three common undesirable, negative ways receivers react to information they consider unfavorable. For example, if a change in the policy of an organization proves advantageous to employees, they welcome it as good; if it is contrary to their beliefs or benefits, they may reject, or resent the company and their boss, perhaps falsely accusing them of being unfair. Or they may instead, distort, the meaning and misinterpret the true purpose of the policy change. Or they may avoid the message; situation or people by putting off acceptance, hoping that the delay will some how prevent the change & protect them.
Closed mind: some people have a closed mind toward receiving new information. The closed-minded person is one of the most difficult to communicate with. Typically this person has only inadequate and mainly incorrect knowledge of the subject.