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Making Communication Effective: 4 Language Filters

By Steve Brunkhorst

Language is a challenging way to communicate. It allows us to share our thoughts and feelings by describing our personal views of reality.

Yet language is not reality. It is merely a limited system of symbols, signals, sounds, or gestures that belong to a specific culture or group. It only describes a personal map of the actual territory. We might have a great message to share. Yet there are other important factors to consider if we want to make our communication effective.

In addition to the content of our messages, language conveys feelings. Our voices are colored with emotion and attitude. Add the subtle nuances of pitch and loudness, intonation, rate, facial expression and posture. Now we have a complex pattern of behavior with the power to influence our listeners.

Without those additional nuances available in writing, the selection of words and sentences must do all the work. They must be chosen carefully. Whether our messages are spoken or written, the job is still unfinished.

Our language must pass through the filters of emotion, culture, situational context, and personal beliefs. These filters will influence the listener's perception and interpretation of our message resulting in either acceptance or rejection of our ideas.

1. Emotion: Our listeners may be joyful, anxious, upset, expectant, excited, or in any emotional state. Their emotional state will influence their reaction to our message. An upset individual will not be ready to receive new ideas. On the other hand, someone who is looking forward to hearing what we have to say will accept our ideas if we present them well.

2. Culture: An individual's personal history, country of origin and upbringing will influence their worldview. Their language may not contain words and concepts that ours does. These people will interpret our messages differently than someone with our own background. They may not understand many of our views. When formulating our messages, we must take care to respect cultures, customs, and histories that are different from our own.

3. Situational Context: What the listener has recently experienced as well as environmental factors will also influence the way he or she receives our messages. Unlike emotions, situational context involves elements that are external to the listener. This includes our own presentation of the message. What we said previously and how we said it will influence the listener's perception of what we say next. A room that is too noisy, dark, cold, or uncomfortable will distract the listener's attention.

4. Personal Beliefs: We filter everything we hear through our personal beliefs. We relate everything we experience to previous experiences. If we understand an idea or concept, it is because we are relating it to our past learning. It is rare that we actually have a completely new experience. We have core beliefs about our lives; these personal maps of the world guide the way we listen, perceive, and interpret what we hear. Our messages will be influenced significantly by our listener's personal beliefs. We need to select our words carefully, and craft our presentations so that they will touch our listeners on a deeper emotional level. It is at this deeper emotional level where the most effective communication is achieved.

Well-chosen language can touch the heart and soul, find a common ground, tear down walls of division, and foster powerful new alliances. It can be an extremely powerful success tool.

Language that ignores the listener's emotional state, culture, current life situations, and personal beliefs will miss its mark. Instead of building trust, it will distance us from those who could become friends and allies.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "Eloquence is the power to translate a truth into language perfectly intelligible to the person to whom you speak."

Choosing our messages carefully, and remembering these language filters will help us develop that eloquence, and will make our communications more effective. We will obtain improved results in both our careers and personal lives by engendering trust, building rapport, and creating positive new relationships.

About the Author: Copyright 2004 by Steve Brunkhorst. Steve is a life success coach, and the creator of Achieve! 60-Second Nuggets of Inspiration, a popular mini-zine bringing great stories, motivational nuggets, and inspiring thoughts that will brighten your day and help you achieve more.


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