Communication Filters

Five types of filters:

  1. Distractions.
  2. Emotional states.
  3. Beliefs and expectations.
  4. Differences in style.
  5. Self-protection.


  • When you say something to your partner do you have his/her attention?
  • External things like noisy kids, a hearing problem, or background noise can be a problem.
  • Internal factors are such things as preoccupation, feeling tired, planning what else is to be done that day, etc.
  • Make it easier to pay attention to your partner. Ask for their attention.

Emotional states:

  • Moods greatly affect communication.
  • Studies have shown that we tend to give people more benefit of the doubt when we’re in a good mood and less when we’re in a bad mood.
  • When we’re in a bad mood we are more likely to perceive whatever our partner says or does more negatively no matter how positive he/she is trying to be.
  • Don’t use a filter such as a bad mood as a reason to treat your partner badly.
  • Talking about how you feel may be the best first step in starting a conversation, especially if is about important matters.

Beliefs and expectations:

  • Many studies have shown that we tend to see what we expect to see in others and in situations.
  • It takes humility to recognize and admit that you do this.
  • It has been shown that expectations not only affect what we perceive but can influence the actual behavior of those around us. For example, if you believe that someone is an extrovert, he is more likely to sound like an extrovert when talking with you, even if that person is normally introverted. We “pull” behavior from others consistent with what we expect.
  • This is one reason why old habits and feelings and patterns of communication come back with full force during holidays when we are with the family we grew up in.
  • We can easily get into “mind reading”, thinking that we know what someone else means or wants.

Differences in style:

  • One person may be more expressive and one more reserved.
  • Styles are determined by many influences including culture, gender, and upbringing. For example, in one family it may be very normal to raise one’s voice when making a point and in another raising one’s voice was never done. When people from these two varied backgrounds marry, for one to raise his/her voice may be perceived by the other as threatening.
  • In other families there may have been many conversations going on at once around the dinner table while in other families to talk while someone else is talking is considered rude.
  • All families develop spoken as well as unspoken rules for conversing, caring, making decisions, and otherwise relating to each other. The key is to become aware of the unspoken and therefore assumed rules that you have grown up with and learn to adapt them to living in your current family.


  • This filter comes from the fear of rejection we struggle with in marriage.
  • Fear is the big enemy of secure and warm attachment. It will stop us from saying what we truly feel or want. Even simple statements such as, “Would you like to go see that new movie?” can reflect a fear of rejection. Instead of saying it directly, “I want to go see that new movie; want to go?” we often hide our desire because speaking of it reveals more of who we are and increases the risk of rejection.
  • Movies may not matter so much as do feelings, desires, expectations.

Points to remember:

  • Gentleness and humility are two of the most powerful forces for staying close and keeping love alive.
  • We all have filters; become aware of yours.
  • Think about your filters and how they may distort your communication.
  • Reflect on what you could do or have done to derail hurt and move toward your partner.