"Seek first to understand, then to be understood! " - Steven Covey
We all have ways of dealing with interesting conversations and how we converse with others. This is a great post that talks about how frustrating it can be at times.
Paige Walker, Century 21 Millennium, Pineville, LA USA
My wife and I were traveling late one night and stop off the Interstate at a gas station. In a car parked at another gas pump is a woman having a very heated conversation on her cell phone. As we passed near her car, we heard her yell at the cell phone, "What we have here is an imaginary situation and I'm just trying to keep it real!"
There are many things this could mean but we didn't hang around to hear more of this strangely public-private argument. However, I often think of this woman when I hear people that have clear and strong mental filters. "Imaginary situations." Hmmmm.
How many times have you had a client or colleague see "imaginary situations?" Maybe it is homeowner's view of the value of their house? Or a Realtor's view of why a deal fell through? Or an appraiser's report where you have no idea how they chose the comparable homes?
Mental filters are common and easily seen in others if you pay attention. And by "mental filter" I'm referring to the way we all accept some information while ignoring or dismissing other information. This has a huge impact on how we communicate... or fail to communicate! It is one of the classic cognitive distortions that influence our behavior.
The damage to effective communication is when these mental filters are excessive. Just think back about a deal where someone was just "stuck" on something that everyone else felt was trivial. Frustrating isn't it?
Here is an interesting (well, interesting to me) example: Statistics say that people are more likely to be struck by lightening than win a big payout in a lottery. Yet, there are plenty of people that run outside in a thunderstorm on their way to buy lottery tickets each year. Now THAT is selective thinking with a mental filter in place.
I have to remind myself frequently to check my mental filters. They can prevent me from having proper empathy with others and that, in turn, can limit my understanding. And that can make doing business difficult.
Just because someone is not understanding my explanation or view of the world, does not mean they are the one with the problem. Maybe I am too filtered or maybe they are. Or both, creating a double distortion of reality. However, I try to focus energy on what is fact, what is opinion, what is important and what is not important. Mental filters can often put the focus on the wrong things, so this is my exercise to keep the filtering minimal.
I would like to mention that pointing out the facts of a situation is rarely effective in communicating with someone that has strong mental filters. If they already have a very distorted view of the world, their filters have long been in place to block your newly presented facts. However, noticing that they have this strong cognitive distortion can help you understand and avoid wasted frustration.
Mental filtering is inherent in all of us. We see ourselves and others based on our experiences and perspective. Understanding this and consciously keeping this in mind as we communicate and interact with others can improve our communication effectiveness and lower our frustration (and maybe you will close a few more deals too!)