Communications, even those composed with a carefully-applied process approach, can still go awry in terms of your audience understanding your message in the way you intended. Interference in communication is often called “noise.” Noise can be physical noise, such as a loud hallway conversation, but it can also be caused by many other sources. The act of communication can be derailed by the following types of noise, which deflect your audience’s focus away from your message:
- Physical noise
- Physiological noise
- Technical noise
- Organizational noise
- Cultural noise
- Psychological noise
- Semantic noise (language, words)
Physical noise is interference that comes from an external source, or the environment in which the communication is occurring. Static on a phone call, meeting rooms in a building near an airport’s flight path, conversations during a presentation, not muting your sound while typing during an online meeting all constitute physical noise. Physical noise also can be non-auditory in nature. Pop-ups create visual noise in an online environment, just as a co-worker gesturing outside of your office window while you are in an online meeting creates visual noise. Sometimes you can control physical noise, as in asking directly at the start of on online meeting for participants to mute their sound when they are not talking. Other times you will have no control over physical noise. As a communicator, realize that you’ll need to be prepared to deal with physical noise.
Some strategies to help your audience understand your message, even with physical noise present, include repeating key information, following up an in-person meeting or presentation with an emailed summary, or repeating questions that participants ask during an online meeting.
Physiological noise deals with your own abilities to see and hear, your state of health, whether you are tired or hungry at the time of the communication, or any of many different physiological issues that can interfere with paying attention to a message. While you cannot do much as a communicator to allay other individuals’ physiological noise, you can pick up visual cues during in-person, real-time communications and adjust your message accordingly. For example, you can speak more slowly or loudly, or be more succinct if you see your audience’s interest waning before lunch. For both in-person and electronic communications, you can offer electronic versions of your information to audience members who may need to increase font size. Be aware that physiological noise exists, and be prepared to adjust to the communication situation and your audience’s needs.
Technical equipment issues can interfere with your audience receiving and understanding your message. Online or video conferencing equipment may not work for everyone, connectivity may be slow, or servers may go down. To reduce technical noise, make sure that you practice with the equipment you need to use, and have a back-up plan for communicating lengthy or very important messages using a lower-tech format.
Organizational noise can occur if you are unaware of, or disregard, expected communication channels in your organization. Some organizations are structured so that employees at certain levels only communicate with employees at similar levels, while other organizations are less structured with their communication channels. As a communicator, make sure you understand your organizational culture as much as possible. Don’t be afraid to ask peers or supervisors about appropriate channels of communication so that others focus on your message and not the route or persons to whom it was sent.
Cultural noise occurs when cultural expectations, etiquette, attitudes, and values differ. Many different cultures exist based on nationalities, ages, genders, regions, social positions, work groups, and more, and individuals belong to multiple cultures. As a communicator, your task is to try to reduce cultural noise by being as informed as possible about your communication audience; trying to anticipate and address questions from other points of view; and using inclusive, non-biased language.
The following video was created by Japanese students to teach the concept of noise. From your perspective as a student in the U.S., what would create cultural noise for you if you were on assignment in Japan as a new hire in this organization?
After viewing the video, consider what you might do as a communicator to reduce cultural noise for a new hire from Japan who is now working in your organization in the U.S.
Psychological noise occurs as a result of personal attitudes, assumptions, and biases. People have particular perspectives and world views; communication noise occurs when content, language, and perceived attitudes of the communicator and the audience do not mesh. Just as with cultural noise, your task as a communicator dealing with psychological noise is to realize that people will interpret your message differently, depending on their own perspectives. Try to reduce psychological noise by offering your communication very clearly and directly, using inclusive and unbiased language, and responding calmly and thoughtfully to questions and issues raised.
Semantic noise deals with words and language. Is the language of the communication clear and easy to understand? Is it free from professional jargon (if the audience is at a low or mixed level of professional understanding)? Are abstract concepts backed up by concrete examples? Is the language free from grammatical and technical errors? Are the sentences clear in their structure and easy to read or listen to? Are concepts offered in an order logical to the communication’s purpose and appropriate to its audience? Is there too much information, and/or are there too many words? All of these language issues, however small, can derail focus from the content of your message. As an example, you may have read documents in which the writer consistently uses “its/it’s” incorrectly, or you may have listened to speakers who constantly say “uh” while speaking. Have you found yourself more focused on counting the “its” or the “uhs” more than listening to the message?
Example of semantic & cultural noise
Cultural expressions and expectations differ not only internationally, but also on many different dimensions from regional to interpersonal.
Someone raised in a rural environment in the Pacific Northwest may have a very different interpretation of “downtown” from someone raised in New York City. To the rural resident, downtown refers to a place, such as the center or urban area of any big city, no matter where that place is located. To a person who lives in or near New York City, though, downtown may be a direction that is more southerly, more than a place. One can go uptown, toward the Metropolitan Museum, or downtown, toward the 9/11 Memorial. When asked, “Where are you from?,” a New Yorker’s answer may refer to a different sort of place such as a borough (“I grew up in Manhattan”) or a neighborhood (“I’m from the East Village”).
This example involves people with geographical differences, but we can further subdivide between people raised in the same state from two regions, people of the opposite sex, or people from different generations. The combinations and possibilities for semantic and cultural noise, or other types of noise, are endless.
As a communicator, you should work to eliminate semantic noise through careful revision. Also, whenever possible, request feedback from others to determine whether your audience understands your language in the way you intended.
The following video delves more fully into semantic and psychological noise.
The following video reviews many types of noise that can derail focus from your communication. However, the video itself contains some noise—see if you can find it, and consider the effect it has on you.
What is noise in professional communication? ›
What is Noise? Noise is an unwanted signal which interferes with the original message signal and corrupts the parameters of the message signal. This alteration in the communication process, leads to the message getting altered. It is most likely to be entered at the channel or the receiver.How does noise interfere with effective communication? ›
Noise creates distortions of the message and prevents it from being understood the way it was intended. Comprehension usually deteriorates when there is loud, intrusive noise which interferes with the communication assimilation process.What are the 4 types of interference in communication? ›
The common types of interference in cellular networks are: self-interference, multiple access interference, co-channel interference (CCI) and adjacent channel interference (ACI).What are the five types of noise that impede workplace communication? ›
- 1 Psychological noise.
- 2 Environmental noise.
- 3 Physical noise.
- 4 Physiological noise.
- 5 Semantic noise.
Everyday environmental noise can be a major impediment to clear communication. Passers-by who are talking loudly, music (imagine talking over a band at a concert), traffic, or children playing are all examples of this.What are some things that managers can do to reduce noise in communication? ›
Understanding who you communicate with, practicing active listening, and giving clear instructions are a few of many ways to eliminate noise. When your communication isn't effective, start considering the why. Look for the obstacles that are creating noise and then address them.What are examples of noise in the communication process? ›
This can be physical noise such as traffic sounds, physiological noise such as pain, psychological noise such as anger, semantic noise such as the use of obscure slang or cultural noise such as misunderstanding words in a second language.What is interference in the communication process? ›
Interference occurs when unwanted radio frequency signals disrupt the use of your television, radio or cordless telephone. Interference may prevent reception altogether, may cause only a temporary loss of a signal, or may affect the quality of the sound or picture produced by your equipment.What affect of noise in a communication system is most likely? ›
It is most likely to be entered at the channel and therefore affects the signal in the transmission line.
Explanation: Yes, noise can interfere at any point in the communication process. The communication process between a sender and receiver is disrupted through noise. A communication process can be disrupted by internal and external noise.What are the three common sources of interference in communication? ›
- Microwave ovens.
- Cordless phones.
- Bluetooth devices.
- Wireless video cameras.
- Outdoor microwave links.
- Wireless peripherals.
- PDAs, cellphones.
- Zigbee - Wireless personal area network technology.
One of the best examples of interference is demonstrated by the light reflected from a film of oil floating on water. Another example is the thin film of a soap bubble (illustrated in Figure 1), which reflects a spectrum of beautiful colors when illuminated by natural or artificial light sources.What is the most annoying sound in the workplace? ›
- What Sounds Do People Find Most Annoying In The Office? ...
- 1) Eating Loudly. ...
- 2) Overly-Chatty Colleagues. ...
- 3) Loud Clicking/Typing. ...
- 4) Fidgeting & Tapping. ...
- 5) Coughing and sneezing. ...
- 6) Drinking and slurping. ...
- 7) Phone notifications.
Reducing noise pollution in the workplace
Change or modify equipment. Locate the equipment in a more isolated area, or soundproof the room. Make sure that people spend time working in quiet areas too. Try to run noisy equipment early or late in the day when fewer people will be exposed.
Choose low-noise tools and machinery. Maintain and lubricate machinery and equipment (e.g., oil bearings) Place a barrier between the noise source and employee (e.g., sound walls or curtains) Enclose or isolate the noise source.What are noise barriers examples? ›
Earth bunds. Earth bunds are simply large mounds of earth placed at the perimeter of a site; they are often used to direct water flow but are also an effective noise barrier. As earth bunds require a large amount of space, architects or developers may prefer more compact noise barriers, such as fencing.What is an example of external noise barrier in communication? ›
An example of external noise would be the hum of a loud fan that prevents the listener from hearing the message. Another example of external noise would be a band playing loudly at a dance that keeps people from hearing what is said to them.What is noise that physically disrupts communication? ›
Physiological noise occurs when you encounter a barrier to hearing. It could be a barrier you create, or it may be an issue with another person speaking. It encompasses physical problems such as being hard of hearing or not being able to differentiate low noises.What are the common examples of communication breakdown and noise? ›
Distraction/Noise: Communication is also affected a lot by noise to distractions. Physical distractions are also there such as, poor lightning, uncomfortable sitting, unhygienic room also affects communication in a meeting. Similarly use of loud speakers interferes with communication.
Examples of internal noise include physical distractions posed by recurring illnesses, jet lag, or even the onset of a midlife crisis. Phobias, such as a fear of public speaking or a fear of enclosed spaces, also can function as sources of internal noise.What is the difference between noise and interference? ›
The distinction between interference and noise is that interference is artificial noise (radio frequency jammer) while noise can be natural (thermal noise) or man made.What are the main techniques to reduce the noise levels? ›
- Erect enclosures around machines to reduce the amount of noise emitted into the workplace or environment.
- Use barriers and screens to block the direct path of sound.
- Position noise sources further away from workers.
- Wear earplugs or headphones. ...
- Locate a quiet room. ...
- Divide up jobs based on your concentration needs. ...
- Expose yourself to loud noises. ...
- Shut out your own distractions. ...
- Drown out distracting noise with other sounds.
- sound therapy to get you used to everyday sounds again, and may involve wearing ear pieces that make white noise.
- cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) to change the way you think about your hyperacusis and reduce anxiety.
Noise essentially is anything that distorts a message by interfering with the communication process. Noise can take many forms, including a radio playing in the background, another person trying to enter your conversation, and any other distractions that prevent the receiver from paying attention.How many types of noise impact effective communication? ›
What are the 4 types of noise and how does each interfere with successful communication? Sample answer: The different types of noise include physical, semantic, psychological, and physiological. Each interferes with the process of communication in different ways.Which two components of communication does noise affect? ›
Noise can affect the transactors, the channel, the encoding or decoding, or any aspect of the process.How is noise characterized in communication systems? ›
In communication systems, noise is an error or undesired random disturbance of a useful information signal in a communication channel. The noise is a summation of unwanted or disturbing energy from natural and sometimes man-made sources.What are the 3 types of noises? ›
Three types of noise are present: internal, external, and semantic.
a type of interference or noise due to misunderstandings. Examples include: misunderstandings due to language skills, interpreting skills, cultural familiarity etc.Is noise an example of barrier in the workplace? ›
Examples Of Physical Barrier In Communication
Noise is one of the most common physical barriers to listening. It interrupts communication by acting as a disturbance in the environment or the medium of communication. Noise restricts the flow of messages, makes them inaccurate or unclear and causes misinterpretations.
A noisy environment can create distractions for both listeners and speakers, resulting in possible disruptions to conversations. To minimize noise, turn off mobile devices or place them on silent. Plan to hold important conversations in a place that you know will be quiet, like your office or a private meeting area.What are examples of internal noise barriers in communication? ›
Internal: Internal noise, also called psychological noise, describes internal distractions that hinder communication. For example, internal noise like fear, depression, anger, or over excitement of the speaker may cause him or her to become muddled in communication, hence hindering understanding or clear speech.What is an example of noise in communication process? ›
This can be physical noise such as traffic sounds, physiological noise such as pain, psychological noise such as anger, semantic noise such as the use of obscure slang or cultural noise such as misunderstanding words in a second language. The following are common examples of communication noise.What is psychological noise in communication? ›
Psychological noise occurs when emotions interfere with the receiver's interpretation of a message. For example, if a person starts to feel uncomfortable when someone enters a room, the resulting emotions could cause them to get distracted from their conversation.What are the four main types kinds of noise in verbal communication? ›
What are the 4 types of noise and how does each interfere with successful communication? Sample answer: The different types of noise include physical, semantic, psychological, and physiological. Each interferes with the process of communication in different ways.