If we talk the steps of advanced communication some filters come from a number of different sources that comprise the total sum of our experiences. As we learn about and make decisions about the world, we come to expect there to be certain patterns that will occur and that causes will lead to effects. Some things that act as filters as we process information include our:
- Past Experiences
The things that we value are the things that are important to us in life. We will interpret input in light of our values and make judgments about the input based on our values. For example, if we value education, we may see input as opportunities to learn additional information and improve our education. If we value our relationships with family, we will be more likely to receive input from them and to interpret that input in a way that fosters our relationships with our family. In the business environment, we are likely to value our image as others see us, our reputation, the approval of our boss, the input of our colleagues, our work ethic, and our ability to make a difference in the workplace. This portion works as the most important elements among the steps of advanced communication.
Beliefs are slightly different than values, though there can be some overlap. Our beliefs are the guidelines we use to understand how the world works. For example, we might believe that hard work will be rewarded, that there is a higher power, or that good things will come to those who wait. When we experience input, we will look at it through our beliefs and attempt to make that input fit into our beliefs – or recognize it as not fitting in with our beliefs. In this case, our reaction to the input is likely to be negative or at least skeptical.
Imagine that you are in a meeting where you will be discussing changes in your personnel policies at work. What would you bring with you to the meeting? You might have examples of other company’s personnel policies. You might have examples from your own time in the company that demonstrate why you feel that certain changes might need to be made. Or you might come to the table empty-handed, with just a pad of paper and a pen in order to take notes. This stands out among the steps of advanced communication.
What influences you to do any of these things? Your past experience. You would bring outside information because you have learned in the past that comparing situations can be helpful in decision making. Or you might bring nothing with you because the last time this same group of people met, they did nothing productive. In either case, your past experiences are influencing your current communication. We hear a tone of voice and know that the last time we experienced that tone of voice, we heard bad news. Or we see someone running down the hall and we automatically expect something urgent. Whatever we experience, our brain is examining our past experiences in order to be prepared to respond to what comes next.
We all have prejudices. They occur when we take our past experiences with a person and assume that the same type of experience will happen with all people who are similar to the first. Prejudices are partly due to culture and partly due to personal preference or experience. Not all prejudices involve a negative characteristic either; for example, you could consider all of one group to be smart. When you encounter input that triggers one of these prejudices, you will automatically be making judgments or assumptions that may color your communication as well.
The problem with prejudices is when they start to influence how or to whom we communicate. To get an idea of how this could be happening in your workplace, consider how you might complete the phrases below. If you can’t think of a way to complete it from your own experience, complete each phrase with a stereotype that you might have heard in the past:
- Women in the workplace are….
- Young people in the workplace are….
- Seniors in the workplace are….
- Working mothers in the workplace are….
- Supervisors at work are….
- The lowest job level workers are….
- Blacks, whites, or (fill in a race) in the workplace are….
- Homosexuals in the workplace are…..
- Christians, Muslims, or (fill in a religion) in the workplace are….
- Disabled people in the workplace are….
When we categorize people like this, we eliminate their individuality. If you are communicating to a person through a perceived prejudice or stereotype, at the very least you are greatly limiting the chances of your communication being successful or producing the desired result. At the most, you are alienating or insulting someone with whom you are trying to build a working relationship.
Your goal should be to see each person as an individual that is separate from any preconceived notions you might have about them. It takes practice, but wouldn’t you like to be seen and communicated with as an individual and not as a sum of different labels that can be placed on you?
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