Filters and what to do about them

Excerpts from the book Fighting for Your Marriage: A Deluxe Revised Edition of the Classic Best-seller for Enhancing Marriage and Preventing Divorce authors Drs. Howard Markman, Scott Stanley and Susan Blumberg

What goes wrong when one says “x” and the other hears “y”? Message sent does not necessarily equal message received.  Intent is the message intended by the speaker and Impact is the message received by the listener.  Accurate communication is when Intent = Impact.

Often, intent does not equal impact.  Usually a filter has distorted the communication process.  Filters can be considered to be whatever gets in the way of clear communication.

There are five main types of filters.

1.  Inattention – hearing and speech problems, noise, TV, radio, etc., just being too tired to communicate well.

2.  Emotional States – strong feelings: anger, sadness, happy or bad moods, negative emotions.

3.  Beliefs & expectations – you may believe that silence during an argument means your partner does not care.  you may believe that someone means to hurt you if they raise their voice.  Research show that we often see in others what we expect to see.  People tend to behave the way we expect them to, because we influence their behavior, not just our own.  Negative interpretations are examples of a belief or expectation.  Negative interpretations breed defensiveness: people will defend themselves when falsely accused in motive.  Don’t let old expectations get the best of you.

4.  Differences in Style – wordy or concise, more or less emotional, introvert or extrovert.

5.  Self-Protection – covering up one’s real desire or concern out of fear of rejection.  Underlying thought is “if I don’t say it clearly, you can’t reject me as deeply.”  Things are often said in such a way to protect ourselves from hurt and rejection.  Example:  “Wouldn’t you like to go to see James Bond with me on Friday?” instead of “I would really like to go to the movie with you Friday.  Would you be interested?”

What to do about filters.

1.  Recognize that all filters become barriers to intimacy and openness.

2.  Take responsibility for understanding your filters.

3.  Don’t argue about what was said or done in the past when you remember it differently.  We all probably remember “intent” and “impact” better than actual words.

4.  Announce your filters when you know they are there.  Get them in the open where they can do less damage.

Often the one person in our lives that gets the least benefit of the doubt is our loved one.  Watch your filters.  Speaker/Listener skills counteract the effects of filters because of the paraphrasing – if what’s heard is not what one meant, you politely correct it and move on.