Pitfalls in Communication: Differing Interpretive Filters

Part 2 of a 6 part series. View series intro and index.

Cultural (Environmental) Filters
Everyone has their own culture.  Culture is a shared system of values, beliefs, attitudes, and norms.  Culture is not simply an ethnicity thing.  It’s not just “Irish” culture and “Indian” culture and “South African” culture.

I grew up in Omaha.  People from South Omaha (like me) have a different culture than people from North Omaha or West Omaha or Downtown Omaha.  Neighbors living on the same block can have completely different cultures.  “Come on over,” for one family means the door is literally always unlocked.  “Come on over,” for another family means, “Call before you come.”

We tend to communicate the way our culture has conditioned us to communicate.  This means we view time, relationships, contexts, privacy, and methods of communication (that is, direct or indirect) differently than other cultures.  When we talk to people using words or concepts about our particular values (that even might be ambiguous to someone in a different culture), we must be extremely intentional to define what we our meaning is.

Gender Filters
Let’s be honest here.  Men and women are different.  I’ve long said, “Men might not be from Venus, and women might not be from Mars, but they certainly could be from opposite sides of the earth.”  Now communicative rules concerning gender aren’t without exception, but for the most part, you know what I mean.  I won’t go into specifics because I don’t want to get an email that says, “That’s untrue!  We aren’t like that!” and then I get railed on.  (By the way, an email like that — from a man or a woman — might just prove my point.)

Nevertheless, when men and women communicate, whether in marriage, in a family, as friends, or in a work relationship, we must have it on the forefront of our minds that we are different from each other.  Men and women are created equal — no question about it.  But anyone who says we are the same has some serious issues.


One reply on “Pitfalls in Communication: Differing Interpretive Filters”

Oh yeah dude. I experience a culture everyday that I think is strange, and its at my apartment complex. If someone doesn’t know, I’m from West Virginia, a very friendly state throughout, but no one has introduced themselves to me at my building. We see each other all the time, but its like, people just don’t want to be talked to for some odd reason. I feel it is a challenge for me to go out and meet them, but its hard when they don’t even make eye contact when walking past.

And that might just be an apartment complex kind of thing. I’ve always lived in houses before and have found it easy to meet and be friends with my neighbors, but here it is just a different animal.


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