Reasons for communication failure

Imagine a world where no one ever communicates with anyone. It’s a hard image to create even in the imagination because communication is such an integral part of our lives. We communicate verbally, non-verbally, sometimes even intuitively. We communicate to express what we’re feeling, to share ideas and thoughts, to ask for something we need, to let the other person know whether we agree or disagree with what they’re saying, among other things.

Despite it being such an everyday affair, communication breakdowns often come in the way of what we are trying to say and what is heard. This causes misunderstandings, causes friction among people and leads to a loss of time and productivity at work.

Let’s look at what makes communication fail.

Unclear expression: When you have not thought through what you want to say, you might use words that convey something different than what you want to communicate. In which case, there are higher chances of your message being misunderstood.

Distracted listening: Listening goes beyond just hearing the words being spoken. It involves paying attention on what is being said with an open mind. Multi-tasking while listening or listening with pre-conceived notions in mind, can lead to errors in taking in the actual content of the communication. 

Coloured interpretations: Assumptions are communication’s worst enemy. When we pre-suppose what is being said without clarifying the intended meaning, we are likely to fall into the misinterpretation trap. Asking timely questions to check whether we have understood the communication correctly can prevent lapses in understanding. 

Skewed responses: The communication cycle is incomplete without an appropriate response. If the initial message has been misunderstood, the response is obviously more likely to be skewed or incorrect. An appropriate response should ideally match the tone of the initial message, answer any query that might have been asked and confirm that the message has been understood.


Ask anyone and they’ll tell you that communication is a soft skill. But in reality, communication is more of a dance between two or more people. One person leads and the others follow and move (figuratively, of course!) in response. Whether you’re leading a conversation or responding to it, the trick is to not miss the beat and the rest will fall into place.