Communication Filters

We receive information from all our senses, but Neuro-linguistic programming studies indicate that before we can process and act on this, it passes through three perception filters. Everyone uses these and they are an essential of part of the way we understand and process information. However, they can also cause confusion and misunderstanding. They are:

  • generalisation
  • distortion
  • deletion
  • The Generalisation filter allows you to categorise similar things into groups, even though they are not identical - a sliding door, a revolving door and a door with handles are all doors. This filter however may lead you to apply an inappropriate category to something, based on your experience of what appears to be a similar situation. For example “My last partner was cheating on me when he said he was working late” leads to, “My partner says he is working late. He is cheating on me” when in fact this partner was just busy.

    The Distortion filter allows you to move beyond what you see and imagine what it could develop into. It is vital to creativity. The flip-side here is that it can lead you to read much more into a situation than was ever intended. For example “I’m afraid I can’t come on Friday, I’ve got a prior arrangement” is heard as “I’d rather not be with you, but I’m too polite to say so”.

    The Deletion filter removes extraneous information - the sound of traffic outside perhaps. This is useful to prevent wasting thought on irrelevant information. However, vital clues to meaning may also be filtered here. You may hear someone say “I’ll do it, if nobody else can” as “Yes, I’ll do it”, when the other person was really saying “I’ll do it if there is absolutely nobody else.” Hence, you don’t look for anyone else to do it, and they feel disregarded.

    Working out where your misunderstandings generally arise can help you determine which filter is your own biggest stumbling block: Do you jump to conclusions? Do you read more into things than is there? Do you fail to hear all that the other person is saying? Once you recognise which filter is your Achilles heel, you can work to overcome it .

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