Pitfalls in Communication: Clouding the Truth

Part 3 of a 6 part series. View series intro and index.

It’s hard enough to communicate with people who have different worldviews and come from a different culture—whether they are from across the street or another continent. Communication gets harder when it travels over gender lines. Add to this fact that we usually arrive with personal assumptions about meaning, definitions, and what information the other person has at their disposal.

So you’d think to make things a bit easier, we’d always be honest. Nevertheless, we aren’t. This comes from a heart that desires to please man and exalt self. Obviously, there’s always the old fashioned lie. More than that, there are (at least) three other ways we cloud the truth.

The first way we cloud the truth is that we tend to withhold truths or facts that could damage our reputation. Most of the time, we get caught in our tangled web, and when asked why we didn’t speak up about a certain truth, we say, “Oh, that slipped my mind,” or “I didn’t think it was relevant.” We all know that when truth is inconvenient for us, our tendency is to simply pretend it doesn’t exist.

Instead of lying, we often mask or distort the truth. We call this “manipulating” the truth. This could look a lot like withholding, however it differs in that we tell the truth but put a subjective spin on it. More prevalent than that, however, is that we can use our charisma and charm and make something look good, if it’s bad, or make it look bad, if it’s good.

Changing the Subject
If you want to find out how honest a person is (or how intelligent they are!) pay attention to how often they change the subject. People who change the subject often likely want to avoid the truth. This technique, of course, is similar to the previous two types of clouding truth.

Changing the subject, on the other hand, is a way for us to have an excuse to say, “I didn’t withhold, manipulate, or lie!” We are essentially telling the truth. But the deeper truth is that when our friend asks us how our heart is doing from the burdens of family, work, church, etc. we say, “I’m okay. Do you want to go the game on Saturday with me? I have two tickets?” or “I’m fine. What kind of pizza do you want to order?” The problem with this is that it puts up an open hand to someone’s face to say, “You can come this far and no further. I don’t want you to really know me.”

If we are honest with ourselves, we’ll find out that, truly, we aren’t very honest all that often.


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.