“Many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our point of view.” –Obi-Wan Kenobi
Merriam Webster defines communication as, “a process by which information is exchanged between individuals through a common system of symbols, signs, or behavior.” It sounds so simple, yet miscommunication is one of the biggest issues with which many people struggle. When we communicate it is not just the words that are spoken. There is a whole other level of communication that is shared with the tone, inflection and body language of each person. Then there are our own thoughts and opinions about the person, the situation and our beliefs about ourselves. When we talk with another person, it is filtered through all of our own ‘stuff.’ When a co-worker I trust and respect says that I did a ‘great job’ on a project, I may appreciate the compliment, but if a co-worker I don’t trust says the exact same thing my mind may start to imagine all kinds of scenarios in which they are against me in some way. My ‘stuff’ influences how I react to the same words.
Our minds are wonderful at deduction. Many times, it serves us well. We get a few clues and we are able to piece together meaning and fill in the blanks so the story makes sense. Unfortunately, we also fill in the blanks with incorrect information from time to time. We assume we know the intent of the other person and what they meant by what was said. When I envision us as people, I see our ego as being a filter that surrounds us. As we get information it passes through our ego. When our filter is clear, we are able to objectively look at the facts of a situation. The more clogged the filter, the more we include our own judgements and assumptions. Miscommunication happens when we fail to explore how the debris on our ego filter may have distorted our view of the situation. Take a step back the next time you find yourself in a situation where miscommunication is occurring. Ask yourself what the facts of the situation are and begin to reflect on any debris that may be distorting the facts. The more clogged the filter, the harder this will be to do, so start with little issues first. The more we recognize our own debris, the more we are able to remove it and begin to clear our ego filters. That will improve communication.