Problems in Verbal Communication

Young couple arguing on beach

John Foxx/Stockbyte/Getty Images

Verbal communication problems include translation difficulties, misinterpretations due to clouded judgment and many others. Learn how to improve communication by analyzing the situation objectively. Are you as good a listener as you need to be? Is there something you can do to open the lines of communication? Once you identify problems, try different methods for improving communication.

Cultural Barriers

People from different cultures often have difficulty communicating. For example, if two people don’t speak the same language, they will need an interpreter. But even with interpretation, communication barriers still exist. Different cultures have disparate systems of idiom and etiquette, which can cause problems. For example, if one person uses phrases that do not translate easily into another language, the full intent of the message might be lost. The best way to avoid these types of problems is to learn as much as possible about the other’s culture and heritage. Over time, you will develop an awareness of potential intercultural communication problems, the University of Colorado advises.


Too often, participants in a debate or argument misunderstand the opponent’s meaning and then respond to what they assume the opponent is saying. To avoid this communication problem, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill offers the following suggestions: Don’t simply react. Take a minute to analyze what the other person is saying. Are there assumptions you are making that might influence your interpretations? Don’t personalize the debate. For example, chances are the person you are debating is not intentionally trying to anger you, but rather is trying to make a point. Focus on the issue at hand. Avoid tangents and irrelevant issues. Don’t try to control the other person. Instead, listen carefully and aim for understanding and compromise.

Confused Messages

Even if you do your best to understand what someone is saying, you still might miss the point. And even if you express yourself as clearly as possible, the other person might miss yours. To avoid this, repeat back the other person’s concerns to ensure you understand everything correctly. Try rephrasing the main points. For example, say something like, “So your concerns are the following...” and then list your interpretation of the essential issues. Encourage the other person to correct any misunderstandings and to clarify any hazy points. The other person will appreciate your desire to listen and understand.