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How Filters (like "The Guest Filter") Improve Workplace Communication

June 27, 2019
By Jerrin Padre
This clip reminds us that filtering our words and actions enables us to remain respectful and inclusive.

How Was Your Day? clip provided for PREVIEW ONLY; not to be used for training.


As shown above, a filter is essentially the ability to adjust one’s behavior to meet the needs of any given situation. Many do this naturally, adapting and code-switching their way through life’s various circumstances. For example, in the workplace, one should filter their behaviors to avoid:

  • Discussing sex, politics or religion
  • Using profanity
  • Over-sharing personal information

As the workforce continues to grow and diversify—spanning different ages, backgrounds, values, and communication styles—the potential for conflict, divisiveness, and alienation of others increases. The ability to use behavior filters is, therefore, an integral part of a respectful, inclusive high-performing team.


Behavior Filters
It’s important to note that filtering yourself doesn’t mean changing who you are—all the facets that make you unique remain intact. Rather, using filters is a sign of empathy and clears the way for a harmonious and productive work environment. You gain a deeper awareness of how your communication style affects others, which is an effective tool in any setting.

Here are a few workplace behavior filters you can use on a day to day basis:

1)      Act as if you were a guest in someone’s home. When in doubt, use the Guest Filter (shown above). Posturing yourself towards others from a place of respect and gratitude is a surefire way to establish clean ground for effective communication

2)      Think about an influential person in your life whom you look up to (perhaps a grandparent CRM Delegateeor former teacher). Would you be totally comfortable saying or doing what you’re saying or doing if that person were present? There’s a good chance that the person you pick for this filter has helped you see the best in yourself.  So, do them proud—be your best self at work.  

3)      Use the "Kid" Filter. Have you ever noticed that many adults "clean up their act" when there are kids around? They do so because they don't want their words to have a negative impact on any young children within earshot. Why shouldn't we bring the same care and caution to co-workers and customers? Using the "kid" filter simply means asking yourself: Is my word choice appropriate for those who are listening? How about the references I'm using, or stories I'm telling? 

Perception Filters

In addition to Behavior Filters, we have Perception Filters: the way we see or perceive the world. Perception filters are unique to each individual and are shaped by multiple factors including our personal upbringing, experiences, values, and cultures.

Communication isn’t only the exchange of words—it’s a simultaneous exchange of body language, vocal inflection, and facial expression. Depending on any of the factors above, your understanding of a particular statement, gesture, or tone could be the difference between true comprehension or misinterpretation.

Becoming aware of perception filters—both your own and those of others—is key to fostering true understanding.

Here are a few tips you can use to start:

1)      Check Your Biases. What are your triggers? Sensitivities? Biases? Becoming aware of these allows you to better understand your reactions to certain messages.

2)      Clarify. If someone’s message doesn’t resonate with you, dig a little deeper. Ask questions, clarify, repeat back what you think the other person said. Only when you have the full picture can you draw conclusions. RWWW image for Conflict blog_1

3)      Notice People’s Reactions. Becoming aware of other people’s reactions to you allows you to adjust your behavior to meet their needs. Doing so instantly makes you a better communicator. When you’re interacting with others, take note of their engagement, emotional reactions, and body language.

4)      When Necessary, Adjust Your Behavior.  Should you find that someone takes offense to something you say or do, be willing to clarify, rephrase, or apologize.

Recognizing the impact filters have on communication can drastically change our efficacy—at work or in our personal lives. The key is to understand how we can use them, and it starts with being self-aware.

In addition to behavior and perception filters, there are a plethora of strategies to improve workplace communication and cultivate a culture of respect and inclusion.

We recommend these video programs:

"How Was Your Day?" Getting Real About Bias, Inclusion, Harassment and Bullying
This multi-award-winning program provides captivating video sequences that overcome learner resistance, inspiring examples that prompt reflection and discussion, and actionable tips for developing respectful behaviors.

Gateways to Inclusion: Turning Tense Moments into Productive Conversations
In today's diverse workplace, people sometimes speak without thinking first—they end up saying something blatantly wrong or that others find offensive. Many times a person's comments are taken out of context and conflict ensues. Turn these difficult encounters into “gateways” for improved working relationships and increased understanding