I had a major disagreement this month with a friend and, after the dust had cleared, it turned out to be a complicated series of miscommunications. As I listened to his version of what he thought had happened and compared it to mine it was clear that our respective filters had been at play.
We all have filters—points of view about how life works. When something happens, our interpretation of it is significantly impacted by these filters. It’s why there is such a wide variety of stories about the same event.
I began to wonder how filters tie in with the Law of Attraction that dictates, “We get more of what we focus on.” Another way to say it is, “You get more of what you expect.”
If, for example, Lucinda has a filter that people don’t appreciate her, then all her interactions are flavored by that belief; she expects a lack of appreciation. She turns in a report to her boss, hoping for a “Thank you,” but hears none. She does things for others hoping they’ll appreciate her efforts but it doesn’t happen. She volunteers for a task that no one else wants to do and it seems to go unnoticed.
The interesting thing about all of this is that Lucinda’s filter is so strong that even when her boss does say, “Thank you,” she can’t hear it. Others appreciate her efforts but because they don’t express themselves in a gushing manner she had anticipated, she feels slighted. And someone who was about to mention how great it was that she volunteered decides not to because of the scowl on her face.
What are your filters? Here are some common ones besides the one already mentioned:
• No matter what I do, it’s never right.
• I am unlovable.
• I don’t get the respect I deserve.
• No one understands me.
• All women are ________ (fill in the blank).
• All men are __________ (fill in the blank).
So how can we avoid the impact of our filters? What steps might we take when one of them gets activated? The solution is a difficult one because it requires us to admit we might be wrong in our interpretations. And have you noticed that human beings would rather be right than happy?
In order to reverse the impact caused by our filters it is necessary for us to start looking for evidence that we are wrong. For example, Lucinda’s lack of appreciation filter could be counteracted if she conducts a scavenger hunt for moments of appreciation. She could make it a game, giving herself a reward for finding five examples of appreciation in one day and giving herself an even bigger prize if she reaches ten. If this doesn’t work, then there is one more step she can take—giving herself a prize for five examples of appreciation that she has given others, and an even bigger prize for ten. We get more of what we focus on and Lucinda were to focus on giving appreciation, she would, very quickly, start receiving it herself.
Another very important way to counteract the impact caused by our filters is through communication. My friend and I would have avoided a lot of pain if we had simply sat down and said, “This is what I heard you say. Do I have it right?” Instead, because we were thoroughly convinced that our viewpoint was accurate, we nursed hurt feelings, stopped interacting and, because of our filters said to ourselves, “I can’t believe this has happened to me again. I was right.”
Why are we so afraid to talk to each other? The worse thing that could happen is confirmation that our interpretation is correct. Since we already think so, what do we have to lose by asking?
The next time you have hurt feelings or anger, ask yourself if maybe, just maybe, you are reading the situation through a filter. Rather than feeding Miracle-Gro™ to your self-righteousness (like I did) ask some questions OR start acting in the way you wish others would.
Maybe I should adopt a new slogan: Change Your Filters, Change Your Life!