Apr 5, 2018
There’s an old saying: “I know what I said, but I don’t know
what you heard.” As leaders we can spend a lot of our time sending
out information, with the expectation that people understand what
we intend them to understand. However, when the pressure is on or
time is short—just when we need communication to be its most
crisp—is often when there are the most misunderstandings. Much of
this ties to our own assumptions of what communication actually is,
and to the fact that there are many different ways that the
information we process gets filtered. Without attention to
improving our communication, we as leaders can be destined to spend
our time repeating ourselves, fixing misunderstandings and
ultimately living day-to-day with way more anxiety than we need to
have. So today we’re going to explore ways to enhance and clarify
communication with the people in our lives.
An assumption that communication has occurred
It’s not uncommon for us to say things like:
The trouble with these responses is that they only account for
one side of the communication. Effective communication requires a
confirmation of understanding from the other party. Ever find
yourself in this situation? You’re explaining something to a friend
or a coworker, when you finish and ask, “Does that make sense?”
They do the head nod and say yes. Meanwhile there is a little voice
in you saying, Nope. They have no idea what I
‘m talking about.
So, what to do? First, step back and evaluate your goal. If it’s simply to have your say and do the talking—then just talk more, and explain in more detail. But if your goal is to have the other person understand, you might need a different approach—one that puts the burden of understanding on them, not you.
Ask yourself questions such as:
How can we have discussion to solve this problem together,
rather than me handing the solution to them?
The impact of our individual perceptions
As humans, we have a network of nerves in our brain stem which helps us filter and process all of the information that we take in. In the 1970s, Dr. Taibi Kahler discovered a great approach to understanding these different filters—and he named it the Process Communication Model. His research found there are six distinct perceptions that different personalities filter information through. This filtering process has profound impacts how the brain processes information and helps explain why different people attach different meaning to the same situation.
Some people filter primarily through a lens of THOUGHT. They sort out facts and information—looking for what makes sense, how much something is going to cost, or when it’s going to happen. Others see through a filter of OPINION. They have convictions about what they believe in, and commitment is very important to them. They want to share their opinions and want to hear the opinions of others. Still others more readily process information through a lens of EMOTION, experiencing the world through feelings and emotions happening in and around them. People more in touch with their IMAGINATION tend to think very creatively about things. Using this filter, we can find ourselves lost in thought and imagination about things that “could be.” The fifth lens is that of REACTION. This lens looks for things that are fun, funny and interesting, because it gravitates toward playful and spontaneous energy. And finally, people who primarily invoke the ACTION filter tend to look around for challenges and opportunities. In this view, we don’t want to sit around talking about facts, we want to get out and do something to push toward the goal.
When you look at these six lenses, it quickly becomes obvious how three different people can hear the same thing or see the same event and arrive at completely different conclusions! This makes it clear that there is always potential for miscommunication, conflict and frustration in relationships because different people interpret information and communication differently—on an unconscious level. This knowledge is very freeing, but with it comes the realization that we may, on occasion, need to adjust our approach to communication to manage communicating effectively through these filters.
Tips on managing communication
1. Know yourself. It’s most important to be aware of your own filtering processes. If you find yourself easily accessing the filters of facts and opinion, just be aware that your coworker may have very little energy for those same filters. In a meeting, they may absorbing the emotional dynamics of the room—who’s nice, who has strained relationships, who gets along, and so on...While at the same time you are taking in none of that because you’re looking at the contract and working to understand term of the deal to figure out what the next action is.
2. Be aware. Recognize that others have natural abilities and perceptions that may not come as easily to you. Look for ways to get insights from others to see things in a light that you normally don’t have access to. That way your differences are less of a frustration and more of an asset!
If you are curious and want to learn more about these personalities or the Process Communication Model, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m a certified trainer in Process Communication and would love to share with you more of how this has helped me and our organization to improve communication. Thanks for listening, and I look forward to being with you again next week!