Why do we apologize at work, for things we feel strongly about?

With the uses of social media, I have come to notice that the filters we use on Snapchat and Instagram, have created a subtle contribution and importance to the phrase, “putting your best face forward”. What a powerful tool filters are in today’s environment, especially when we need to put our “best foot forward” and deliver the best version of ourselves to the universe. Have you ever found yourself saying things to people that you mean, but probably will have to apologize for later?

When you say things that you mean but perhaps should not have stated, that feeling of regret may linger at work longer than you may like. The slip of the tongue, insensitivity, aggressive, crude, and verbal diarrhea, are the actions that are also characterized by individuals who talk too much and are not aware of professional filters.

We often read about individuals who speak their truth at work, and how it is a respected skill set that people appreciate, but we encounter others who do not understand the importance of place, time, audience, and purpose. Mentoring and coaching is an opportunity for us to guide, direct, and provide honest feedback on effective communication skills. However, the skill set of verbal independence and free-thinking can frequently place individuals in a bad situation, and one that may place a scuff mark on one’s career.

So, we ask, why do we face so many challenges with professional filtering at work, and how can filtering our statements to help us remain successful in the workplace?

What are Your Communication Filters?

If you find yourself apologizing for something you said to a co-worker and later wondering if you only said sorry, to maintain peace in the work environment? That second guessing and feeling of angst, is caused by you wondering was your professional filter working, and did you really mean sorry for what you said or were more concerned about how you made someone feel.

Communication filters are useful for the workplace and provide you mechanisms to help tailor inappropriate behaviors. Not having a communication filter, can get in the way, and we may not even realize it. A filter is something that can delete, distort, or generalize the message we’re trying to share. And filters are in place for both the sender and receiver in every single conversation. Understanding filters is a way to manage your messaging in the workplace and help you create boundaries for the things you say, and what you actually mean.

Developing Your Professional Filter

As a coach and mentor, I have always enjoyed using the term, “can I be candid with you”, it’s a mechanism that I believe helps me gauge whether my statements will be welcomed, or unwarranted. Personally, I pride myself on knowing the importance of making sure my professional words are used to help verses hurt people. There are many reasons that one should be cautious at work and filter statements, and some of them include; (1) professionalism vs personal viewpoints; (2) unwarranted comments in the wrong setting; (3) trust; (4) timing; and (5) work relationship strain.

It is important to understand that not everything you think or sent in an email or instant message (IM) needs to be stated. There is a purpose to speak up, and this can be effectively managed by understanding your audience, remaining self-aware, and remembering that timing is everything. The use of communication filters can also be of value in work situations, especially those that address; (1) beliefs and expectations; (2) difference in style; and (3) self-protection.

Learning to filter, doesn’t mean that you cannot be yourself, or should be guarded with your relationships at work. The process of pausing and thinking about your actions is a skill set that can be effective in your personal and professional life. If you understand that there are steps to filtering speech which include. thinking, listening and practicing, your relationships will become more meaningful and healthier.

A Final Thought

I recently read that those of us who lack professional filters have strained relationships, and struggle with self-awareness. This caused me to think about providing viewpoints only when relevant, meaningful, and appropriate. The way you filter yourself, is important to ensure you do not change the essence of who you are. It is important to hold onto the genuine nature of your personality but be mindful of the audience around you.

This began me thinking about what mentors and mentees share with me about their relationships, and why they work. Knowing when your filter needs adjusting is just as important as not having a filter at all. Being honest with your mentor/coach about reactions you have received from messaging with your colleagues will guide the coach to provide you the appropriate guidance for communication filters. You may not always get it right but understanding the need for filters is the first step in moving your communication style in a positive direction. Think about how you do not want your messaging to be distorted and reflect often on how you want to be perceived by others. This is the beginning of a healthy communication mindset.

If you or your organization would like to find out more about executive leadership coaching and mentoring, and how a mentoring program can help bridge the gaps experienced from missing employee engagement please reach out and connect with us at Coley & Associates, we are here to help move your organization forward, and we are passionate about what we do and committed to making a positive difference in our customers’ businesses and the world around