Have you ever experienced going to an event with someone and when discussing it afterwards, it was as if you were at two different events?  It’s worth understanding why that is in order to help improve communication.

We receive an external event through our sensory input channels (visual, auditory, kineasthetic, olfactory smell, gustatory taste).  Then that information is filtered to make our own personal internal representation of the event.

We delete a lot of information (eg. when you don’t hear the traffic outside while you’re concentrating on a book), distort and generalise through our memories, beliefs, values and preferences.  Here are some examples (from Psychological Facts on Facebook) of distortions and generalisations, which I thought were very useful.

  • Mind Reading – When you make assumptions about what somebody is thinking or feeling without them telling you. In reality, you are delusional or paranoid.
  • Catastrophise – when you over think a problem and the effects that they will actually have on you. For example, when you think that losing a relationship means the end of your life when really you can find someone new the next day or down the line.
  • Filtering – when you only pay attention to one side of things. For example, you only remember the bad times you had in school and not the good ones.
  • Polarized thinking – when you think of things as either black or white or good or bad. For example, there can only be good or bad people or success or fails.
  • Personalization – when you take everything too personally. For example, when you think that everything people do or say is some kind of reaction to you.
  • Blaming – when you hold other people accountable for your problems. For example, you blame someone else for causing you to make a bad decision. In actuality, you were the one who made the wrong call based on your own judgement.
  • Being Right – You feel the need to prove that your opinions or actions are correct. For example, you neglect other people’s perspective in an argument.
  • Should’s – when you place sets of rules on yourself. For example, you think that you should go out whenever your friend asks you to.
  • Emotional Reading – When you use your emotions to make a decision or judgement. For example, you buy into a product because of how good it was marketed when really the product is not that good.
  • Fallacy of Change – when you think others should change for you and that your happiness depends on them changing. For example, you expect that person to stop being a jerk because you are being nice to them.
  • Heaven’s Reward Fallacy – when you expect that all your sacrifices or hard work to pay off. For example, you think that if you work hard enough, you should get a reward.
  • Over-generalization – when you carry a problem over to other domains. When you fail a math test, you think that you are not good with anything to do with numbers.

Knowing that these are happening differently for different people helps you to appreciate why communication can be so complicated.  Through self-awareness, tools such as MBTI, DISC and NLP, you can start to become aware of your own and other’s different approaches, and develop your leadership skills accordingly.

Have you recognised situations when you have filtered information in this way?  When have you noticed a miscommunication that could have been down to one of these?  How could you adapt your communication style, taking these into account?

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