Communication and Cultural Filters

Communication fascinates me.  In the late 80’s and early 90’s I was introduced to a completely new view of communication that changed my life forever.  Sadly, I can liken it to seeing colour TV for the first time – the content was the same but the world I saw and the experience I had were entirely new! 

One way of explaining the change is that I moved from seeing communication as a tool to get things done or avoid having things done to me – to seeing that it is the source of our experience of life, and in fact creates life.

I’ve always loved the old Eskimo quote:  “Words do not label things already there.  Words are like the knife of the carver:  They free the idea, the thing, from the general formlessness of the outside.  As a man speaks, not only is his language in a state of birth, but also the very thing about which he is talking.”

Throughout the 90’s I was trained in this new view of communication by being trained as a leader to train others and to apply it to teamwork, management and leadership.  I developed a healthy respect for the gift and power of language.

25 years later I am still awed by the power of communication and have come to believe that it is not just what we verbalise to others that creates reality, but it is also what we talk about to ourselves. 

In fact, the communication we have with ourselves is the most impactful of all on our experience of ourselves, others and life itself.  Yet our internal conversations are too often not consciously and deliberately designed by us.  We get born into a world of communication filled with conversations about everything, and many of these we unconsciously adopt and never question or consider their impact.

I like this article because it addresses one aspect of those types of conversations we unconsciously adopt and dwell in that can have a huge impact on our ability to connect with others – the conversations that come with our particular culture and which form our ‘cultural filters’.

Increasingly leaders in organisations today need to work with people from many different cultures.  Leadership teams are very often made up of diverse groups of individuals.  Your effectiveness as a leader will be dramatically enhanced when you can take responsibility for the cultural filters you bring to your communication.

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