Filters are anything that get in the way of clear communication. These can be the on the speaker side or the listener side. Let's look at several filters that get in the way.
The first is Inattention. Inattention can stem from physical problems like hearing and/or speech problems. It also includes distracting noises in the environment from TV, radio, computer, kids etc. Smart phones and tablets can be even more intrusive. Constantly looking at your smart phone/tablet/computer for the latest status update on Facebook certainly falls in this category as well. It's tough to focus and have an important conversation when any of these are in use.
The second problem filter is Emotional States and Reactions. I sometimes refer to this as the 'kick the dog' filter. You have a bad day at work, come home and take it out on the dog...or in many instances, your spouse.
Sometimes the emotions originate in the present conversation, but not always. Often the emotions originate elsewhere such as with other family, friends, work, etc. and can become a filter affecting the present conversation. Ever had a bad day at work and bring that bad day home with you? Exactly.
One acronym to remember is HALT. This stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired. Remember we tend to give others more or less the benefit of the doubt depending on how good of a mood we are in and we are rarely at our best and most gracious if we are experiencing HALT. So if any HALT is present it's easier to slip into a sour view of the other person. If even one of these is present in you or your spouse, carefully evaluate if this is the best time to go deep in conversation. If all four are present a reschedule is definitely in order.
Next is the combo of Beliefs, Expectations, and Perceptions.
Beliefs affect how actions and words are interpreted. Many of these beliefs develop in our family of origin. Part of this whole process should include learning your story and what you have brought forward to this point both good and bad from the family you grew up in.
Expectations: Humans have an incredible propensity to see in others what they expect to see. Others tend to behave the way we expect them to, because we influence their behavior, not just our own. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
“You will get from me what you expect. If you expect complete faithfulness and restoration, I will meet the challenge, but if you continue to mistrust and suspect me I will probably fall victim to your expectations.” Door of Hope by Jan Frank
We aren't quite to rebuilding trust, and it must be rebuilt not just granted, but be aware of your own expectations of others and the tremendous influence you have.
We are biased in our Perceptions of others by at least two factors:
Our own failings make it hard to accurately see others. 41"Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 42How can you say to your brother, 'Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,' when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye.” Luke 6:41-42 When we disappoint ourselves, it’s difficult not to see others through that lens of disappointment. To avoid the pain and shame of the plank we'll focus on the speck of the other.
Also, our biased motivations influence how we evaluate those around us. Larry Crabb talks about marriage in terms of management or ministry. Managment is more about making your own life the easiest and best it can be and the relationshp becomes a utility. Ministry includes an other-centered perspective of serving your spouse. If you see your spouse only through the filter of ‘what can you do for me today?’ you’ll be disappointed. Your spouse is human and fallible and will disappoint. A better motivation is other-centered and God-focused, i.e. ‘What are You teaching me, God?’ or ‘How can I reflect God to my spouse?’
The fourth filter is Communication Styles. We all have different styles. You must have some tolerance for your partner’s style being different from yours. Some folks are more talkative, some use fewer words, some are intense and others are laid back, some are loud and animated and some are quiet, some get to the point and others like to weave an interesting tale. Different doesn't mean bad, merely different.
The next filter is Self-Protection. We were built for connection. Back in the Garden of Eden, as a result of the fall of Adam and Eve, things went very wrong. They longed to be close, but now the world wasn't safe. Adam and Eve realized they were vulnerable.
Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. Genesis 3:7
It's interesting what they covered up. They hid their areas of greatest difference, significant source of closeness and greatest shame.
Today we still have the desire to be close or intimate on many levels. Even so, we have a fear that being close to another isn't safe. An affair certainly ups that. So we have this battle going on inside our souls of wanting to be close, yet being afraid of being too close. In our fear we construct barriers to keep people away, like people pleasing, being tough, performing, being a party animal...I think you get the idea. As a result, our soul isn't touched deeply. We will talk about intimacy in much greater depth later. Understanding the ways you self-protect - and healing where you can - will increase your ability to offer and receive love.
Monday we'll look at ways to counteract all of these barriers to communication we've covered.