13 July 2016

Semantic Barriers in Effective Communication

As humans living in a community, we need to interact with other people. However, a person may have different types of interactions and as a result has different experiences(and therefore relationships) with different people.  
In my pursuit of understanding what i call "Why misunderstandings occur" :) , i happened to come across some articles on the internet which sort of gave me a scientific explanation of why things work out with some and don't with others.
Semantic Barriers in effective communication

Semantics refers to specific meanings of a word, especially in academic circles. Semantic barriers, therefore, are the misunderstandings that occur by people trying to communicate an idea, but simultaneously having completely different meanings in mind for the words.

Semantic barriers come from differences in language, education, and culture. Obviously if the sender is speaking in English and the receiver doesn't understand English, there's a problem. But even if the sender and receiver speak English, they may not speak the same dialect. The words they use may not mean the same thing.

For example: 
1) If we order a soda in Washington, DC, we'll get a soft drink. If we order a soda in Detroit, we'll get a drink made of soda water and flavored syrup with ice cream floating in it. 

2) If one is from the United States and he is speaking to a Scot from Glasgow, the American may have a hard time simply understanding his pronunciation. And his accent may be incomprehensible to the person from Scot. The receiver may use complicated words or phrases that the sender doesn't understand, such as "to ratiocinate" instead of "to reason," or "I am extremely appreciative of your efforts in my behalf" instead of "Thank you." 

3) In some cultures, the use of titles before names is extremely important as a sign of respect, while greeting someone we've just met using his or her first name (as many Americans do) would be considered quite rude.

4) Remember Shiny Abraham at the 1986 Asian Games at Seoul? Despite coming first by a very wide margin in the 800 m. race, she was disqualified and lost her gold medal for having crossed the track at the place where she should not have gone. According to her she mistook the symbol, i.e., the colour of the flag. Whereas in our country the red flag indicates danger, in South Korea white flag is used for the same purpose. Misinterpreting the white flag which had been put up at that point, she crossed the track at the wrong place and suffered a setback. 

5) We say "Dhanyavad" which means in Hindi 'Thank you,' but the same word in Guajarati means 'congratulations'. 

Personal factors like difference in judgment, social values, inferiority complex, bias attitude, time pressure, communication inability, etc. broaden the psychological distance between the sender and the receiver.
Semantic is the science of meaning. The same words and symbols have different meanings to different people. Difficulties in communication take place when the sender and the receiver of the message make use of words or symbols in different senses. The meaning intended by the sender may be dissimilar from the meaning followed by the receiver. People understand the message in terms of their own behavior and experience.
Well, as the saying goes "Everyone is right from his/her own perspective"! :)

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