Are your filters blocking effective communication?


Believe it or not the majority of your conversations with other people involve the filters you carry. What does that mean? Your filters are your knowledge, experience and values that directly influence how you listen, think and communicate.

In Sherpa Executive Coaching we refer to filters as the block to your ability to be centered and objective in conversations with people who have different points of view.

Believe it or not, not everyone thinks the way you think. We actually see others as we are rather than who truly are.  

“When your filters are in place, you only interpret things as if you had said them. You don’t search for what someone else means, based on their experience, knowledge and values. So, what are filters? 

  • Your personal agenda: Self-contained directions and guidelines that you follow every day. 
  • Pre-conceived notions: Views you have held in the past, with or without adequate information and evidence. 
  • Judgment: Formal decisions you have already made in advance. 
  • Experience: Answers that worked in the past, based on what you have been through in your life. 
  • Opinion: Beliefs or thoughts you have on a variety of issues. 
  • Values: Things you hold most important as you relate to your job and working with others.  

Filters fuel mind-reading, fortune telling (assumptions about how the future will be), and conclusions about why people do what they do or say what they say. Ultimately your filters block effective communication, whether that be collaborative problem solving or casual sharing of information. Pause for a minute and reread the list of filters again. For each filter ask yourself a simple question: How does this filter impact how I communicate?  

As you find yourself in situations where you feel you can positively impact other people’s perspectives, be conscious of your intonation, body language and choice of words. “Your job is to realize how often your filters influence what you think, hear and say.” (Be Don’t Do, By Brenda Corbett and Judith Colemon).  

One of the most effective ways to create safe space between two people communicating is to practice a simple tool used in the Sherpa Executive Coaching process: Listen, Think, then Communicate. It sounds like a simple enough tool to use yet because of our filters, our ability to consciously hear what another person is trying to communicate gets in our way. When we slow the dialogue down by asking questions for clarity, or asking for a pause to think about what was just communicated, and then we can formulate our response based upon the insights that often drop in the pause 

Our world is full of offense these days which flows directly from our personal filters. Much of what spins us into an emotional fit in our daily life usually involves another human being, so it is worth our mental attention to explore what is really going on behind the annoyances. What if you made the conscious effort to see life through the lens of the person you are communicating with this week? What would you imagine you would notice to be different?  

One of the quickest ways to cut through filters is the use of well-placed questions: 

  • A question to ask yourself: Hmmm. Now that spun me. What’s that about for me? Take accountability for your emotions and get to the bottom of which filter was triggered. 
  • I notice you didn’t respond during our meeting. What was that about for you? This question allows you to step away from conclusions you might make around another person’s behavior. 
  • What do you want to do about that? What have you done in the past that worked for you in a similar situation? What do you need from me? These 3 questions give you, the receiver, the opportunity to stay in the audience (the objective observer) rather than jumping on the stage and taking a role in the sender’s drama. Clarity of focus leads to accuracy of response.  
  • That’s a lot of information. Would you please give me a few sentences to sum up what your main perspective is on this topic? This is a great question to use if the sender of the information has a pre-conceived notion from their past experiences that more detail is better.  

Just because someone has a filter does not mean you have to sit and receive the ramification of that filter. For example, you say something in a conversation and the receiver says: “that offends me.” You have the ability to crack the filter code by inserting a question that can open up effective dialogue: “That was not my intention. What specifically about what I said offended you?” 

Based on what the sender says in response to your question, you have the opportunity to stay off the stage of drama and explore your next question to create positive connection verses a dialogue where the filters are guiding the outcome, which too often end in an animal planet scene. 

When I was training up for my black belts, after each technique, we would always come back to a sparring stance. From this position we could easily execute our next move in the ring.

In Sherpa Executive Coaching, we have a similar stance for effective coaching conversations: Be centered and objective, be a good listener and be inquisitive.

These 3 “Be’s” put you in a powerful stance as a detective of what is actually being communicated rather than what the filters dictate. Take back your power to create safe space in the midst of dialogue.  

Take Action: 

  • Observe your conversations and notice where your filters may be distorting the information that you are hearing and influencing how you communicate and behave.
  • Make a conscious effort to hear what other people are trying to communicate along with understanding their side of the story.  
  • Be quick to hear and slow to speak. Think before you speak. Keep your filters in check.  
  • Ask effective questions to gain clarity around what is being said.  

 Lauren E Miller, has a Masters in Adult Education with a Certification in Human Resources Development. She has personally conquered two of life’s top stressors at the same time, advanced cancer and divorce. Now Google’s #1 Stress Relief Expert, Award Winning Author, HRD Trainer and Certified Sherpa Executive Coach, Lauren provides process driven programs and custom trainings with structure, guidance, support and accountability designed to create positive change in behavior resulting in positive impact on business (IOB) and life purpose.  Explore More: