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Effect of Filters & Screens on Communication

Instructor: Allison Tanner
This lesson describes how filtering and screening can impact communication in businesses. It also provides strategies for businesses to use to reduce filtering and increase the quality of communication.

Filtering and Screening

Mark collects client information for his boss Nadine. As he listens to voicemails, reads emails, and takes phone messages, he screens the messages for what he feels is important and filters out the content he does not believe is necessary. On the other hand, Nadine occasionally has to deliver information on negative sales records or layoffs. When she has to share this information with her staff, she tries to reduce the negativity by speaking broadly, saying something such as, 'The company is going through a tough time; we will all need to put in some extra effort.'

Screening is the process of checking information prior to delivering it and filtering is removing potentially important information when delivering a message.

Filtering can occur either:

  • Unintentionally: when someone translates information inaccurately
  • Intentionally: in an effort to control or mitigate the reaction of the receiver

Although both Mark and Nadine have everyone's best interests at heart, filtering and screening can lead to confusion, frustration, and misinformed teams.

Effects of Filtering and Screening

When Mark filters and screens messages before delivering the information to Nadine, he can reduce the clarity of information and prevent Nadine from being able to handle the situation effectively.

For example, consider that Mark receives a call from Jan, a client that Nadine is supposed to meet. Jan's flight is delayed and she will not be able to make it to the original meeting. Mark, in a hurry to complete a project, quickly tells Nadine only that Jan cancelled her appointment. Because Mark does not explain that Jan's flight was delayed, Nadine assumes that Jan no longer wishes to pursue using their services and does not call her to reschedule.

As you can see, when information is screed and filtered it can prevent the final recipient, such as Nadine, from seeing the whole picture. This can lead to misinformation and misunderstandings, and ultimately, reduce the relationships that the company can build.

Reducing Filters

In order to improve communication and reduce the impact of potential problems, a company can implement various strategies to reduce filters.

This includes:

  • Increasing communication channels
  • Reducing intermediaries
  • Cultivate a trusting environment

Integrating these strategies into the business can help reduce the risk of filtering.

Increasing Communication Channels

The more communication channels that a company uses, the more effective they can be at delivering messages and information.

Consider that using the phone, e-mail, and in-person meetings both in groups and one-on-one, as well as employing online programs for communication flow, can enhance communication and decrease the risk of message distortion.

Imagine that Mark could have sent an email to Nadine detailing the incident instead of waiting to speak to her in person. If this was integrated into their communication system, it would have been easier for Mark to give the full details instead of quickly filtering information.

Reducing Intermediaries

The more 'middle' men there are for a conversation, the more quickly the conversation can be distorted.

Imagine that Mark reports to Nadine. Mark may sometimes receive messages that need to go to Nadine's boss, Ben. Because of a hierarchical communication system, Mark cannot deliver the message directly to Ben. By the time the messages have gone from Mark, to Nadine, and finally to Ben, the details can be distorted and the information may no longer be accurate.

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