Every day we dress for work and take with us our collection of conceptual filters. We use these filters to structure the constant stimulus of life. Our conceptual filters collection includes our attitudes, cognitions, and perceptions: all of those unobservable internal states through which we make decisions, interpret messages, and convey information to others.
To use communication language, we utilize our conceptual filters to encode and decode messages.
Our coworkers all have their own collections of conceptual filters. You will notice some coworkers require an extra file cabinet for all their filters, and they hand-truck them into work each day. Wow – can’t they just answer the question? Nope, they have to pull out several filters and then several layers of filters. And then there are those who barely have enough filters to fill a messenger bag. Don’t they know they shouldn’t have said that? Don’t they understand why it’s not okay to do that? Nope, they are missing some key filters from the interpersonal collection.
Wouldn’t it be useful if we could see the filters and quickly determine which filters we are choosing to use in any given moment, as well as see the filters through which others are interpreting our messages? “Hey, why are you using the camo filter right now? You don’t need that when you work with me. Can’t we be transparent?”
How many filters are in your collection? Do you ever feel weighted down by them? Is objectivity a human possibility? I think the best we can do is be aware of our filters and how we use them. For example, last week when talking with a CEO I said, “I can’t visualize what this would look like because I don’t think we should do it. I think this will create more work in the long wrong, and I’d prefer to do that work now, on the front end.” I might as well have said, “The filter I’m using is so thick I can’t see through it.” Please pass the Windex. I need to clean my filters.
This week pay attention to which conceptual filters you use, how and when you use them, and the results of your filtering process. Sometimes our filters keep us from going off the deep end and landing in leadership jail. Sometimes our filters bring out our worst, and the worst in others, and people sulk away to their corners where things are taken too personally. And every now and again, we get lucky when we reach into our collection and pull out the right filter for that person and situation, and we bring out the best in ourselves and others.