lets look beneath the surface to some of the inner processes that influence
your outer expressions. As youll notice in the diagram on the next page,
we filter meanings through a set of inner expectations, rules, and underlying
values. Todays filters emerge out of things weve learned in the past
and act like rules for deciding - guides, rules of thumb, even conscious censorship
- that we use, more or less consciously, in our day to day communication. They
form a way of seeing what is going on as well as a way of responding to it. Each
persons total set is unique and is subtly changing as todays experiences
are added to yesterdays. Some of the sources of filters from yesterday are:
customs and practices, styles of parenting
Sex and expected social roles
and ethnic background and expected social roles
When you were born and
the social meaning of your age today
Socioeconomic class in geographic
area where you grew up
Education: amount, subjects, degrees, status and
quality of schools
Military experience, exposures to hierarchy, authority,
Being single and dating; marital and parenting experiences of
Religious, spiritual, moral, and ethical learnings
experience, habits, values, kind of jobs held
Cultural exposures to music,
art, dance, reading, television
Unknown repressed material
of these and other past life experiences - and what you learned from them - come
todays inner expectations, perceptions, inner rules, and underlying values
that generally guide your decisions, consiously or not, such as:
when its best to lie a little, to use tact, to be brutally honest, to say
nothing, handling moral dilemmas
Valuing yourself: how you see your value
in relation to others, how you compare yourself now with where you were earlier,
how much you listen to yourself, your body, your hunches
others and their value: whether you look for their strengths or their vulnerabilities,
and whether you tend to evaluate others or accept them as they are
and stereotypes: assumptions about the right ways to do things or that there is
one best solution, stereotypes about people with different educational backgrounds
than your own
Attitudes about work: work habits, what motivates you to
work, how you feel about unions, your values of physical labor compared to head
work, whether work can be pleasurable or if it should hurt
Authority: if and when authority can be questioned, how your behavior may change
from when youre with peers or subordinates
Manners, courtesy, whats
appropriate, right, in good taste: whether you use these for personal graciousness
or as standards against which you measure other people
How the world
works: truisms, adages, pearls of wisdom garnered as conventional wisdom that
you dont question
These are only a few of the many kinds of subjective
feelings, beliefs, attitudes, and convictions we each hold. Some might be very
pervasive in your thinking. For example, if your were raised on the religious
dictum, An eye for an eye; a tooth for a tooth, you may now believe
in retributive justice, in capital punishment for murderers, and you may see yourself
as a dispenser of justified punishments when others need it. If you were the child
who was told, And stay in your room, young man, you might feel justified
in getting back at others with the same measure of punishment you recieved. You
might even occasionally play God.
learnings may not be so pervasive, but we can make insistent demands through expectations
we call reasonable. Consider the potency and frequency of this expectation, If
you loved me, you would... This common manipulation says, Prove you
love me by doing what I want. It comes in many versions: If you think
Im doing good work, youll give me a promotion; If you
like the food I fixed, youll have seconds; Since I won the sales
contest, I should be able to pick my territory. These conditional expectations
are designed to define, control, and limit other peoples choices so they
give you what you want, often at their expense.
this one: I helped you out, so you should help me when I need it.
This seems so eminently reasonable that its hard to refute, but it imposes
a unilateral bargain to which you didnt consent. They helped you at their
convenience but dont consider your time demands nor your willingness to
Consider also some of the differences in perceptions when engineers
and artists try to communicate. Many engineers (as well as other professionals)
have been trained to think in logical sequences, sorting, culling, narrowing,
until they find casual links and corrective solutions. They use analytical, diagnostic
and prescriptive modes of thinking to arrive at regularity and predictability.
Some artists might do the same, depending on the style of art they produce.
However, artists are more likely to learn to break through patterns, to see new
shapes, textures, abstracts, unusual linkages, to create simplicity out of complex,
or to allow distortions and misalignments to speak. They value the ability to
see things in new ways of approaching their work. These people arent likely
to see things the same way - personality conflicts, some might say.
Wells, T. (1980).Keeping Your Cool Under Fire: Communicating Non-Defensively. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Book Company.
Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Bornstein, R. F. (2019). Synergistic dependencies in partner and elder abuse. American Psychologist, 74(6), 713–724.
Figueredo, A. J., Jacobs, W. J., Gladden, P. R., Bianchi, J., Patch, E. A., Kavanagh, P. S., Beck, C. J. A., SotomayorPeterson, M., Jiang, Y., & Li, N. P. (2018). Intimate partner violence, interpersonal aggression, and life history strategy. Evolutionary Behavioral Sciences, 12(1), 1–31.
MilesMcLean, H. A., LaMotte, A. D., Semiatin, J. N., FarzanKashani, J., Torres, S., Poole, G. M., & Murphy, C. M. (2019). PTSD as a predictor of treatment engagement and recidivism in partner abusive men. Psychology of Violence, 9(1), 39–47.
Online Continuing Education QUESTION
How do we filter meanings? To select and enter your answer go to .