Effective Communicating: Filtering out the Filth

A crucial but often overlooked part of communication is an individual’s filter – how a message is conveyed and perceived based on a person’s current knowledge, psychological state, and physical condition.1 Disregarding a person’s filter can quickly lead to confusion, embarrassment, or offense. Think of how frustrating and embarrassing it would be that your laundry wasn’t drying even after having run it through the dryer many times, only to find out that you hadn’t checked and cleaned the lint filter. Or think of how surprising and disgusting it would be to one day finding yourself showering in brown water caused by a malfunctioning water filter that you hadn’t been checking and keeping up to date. Just like these examples, if filters are not checked in our communications with others, unexpected and unfavorable outcomes may result.

On the other hand, problems arising from communication can usually be avoided if the speaker, before conveying a message, considers the listener’s filter and then carefully chooses the right words to accurately say what is meant or intended. Additionally, the listener can also employ this skill by considering the speaker’s filter, which is done through thinking of the speaker’s original intent given everything you know about them. This can be vital for students who must sit in class lectures one after the other. Professors are all different, but students are responsible for controlling their side of the filter and considering the professors’ filters in order to get the clearest and best information possible through lectures. The following table might help give an example of some filters to consider in a science lecture:

Types of Filters
Student’s Filter (Listener)
Professor’s Filter (Speaker)
(language, vocabulary, experience, etc.)
-          Do you understand the vocabulary?
-          Do you recognize the format of learning?
-          He’s a scientist and often uses big words that he’s used to
-          He’s from India and English is his second language
Psychological State
(emotions, feelings, attitudes, perspectives, etc.)
-          How do you feel about the course?
-          Are you still upset from something that happened before class?
-          Is your mind filled with other stressors vying for your attention?
-          Maybe he’s nervous about teaching because it’s his first year.
-          He gets really excited about this subject, so he talks really fast
Physical Condition
(illness, disease, disability, etc.)
-          Are you drowsy from lack of sleep the night before?
-          Are you hungry, and thus easily distracted?
-          Do you have a cold making everything miserable?
-          Maybe he pulled an all-nighter taking care of his newborn son
-          Maybe he’s dealing with a cold as well.

There are countless things that affect an individual’s filter, so it takes effort to observe and learn the filters of those who you are communicating with. It’s certainly worth the effort, though, to remove the possibility of mistaken negativity. If you want additional points to consider, feel free to check out this article by Greenleaf Counseling Services on communication filters.2 So, filter out the filth in your interactions, and happy communicating!

1.       Curtis, Anthony. “The Media of Mass Communication.” University of North Carolina at Pembroke. 2011.  <http://www2.uncp.edu/home/acurtis/Courses/ResourcesForCourses/MediaOfMassCommunication.html>.

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