The Communication Filter

March 19, 2024

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The Communication Filter

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You likely have heard of, or have participated in, one of those teamwork exercises, where each table of participants is handed the same exact set of instructions and resources for building a structure.

Inevitably, this exercise yields 8 or 10 variations of “buildings,” all from the exact same set of instructions!

Why does this happen?


When it comes to communication, there is the output factor and the response factor. But somewhere between the output and response, there is a third factor that differentiates man and machine. That filter is a person’s personality, strengths and weaknesses, emotions, and experience.

This means a lot happens between output and response!

And most leaders fail to take this into consideration.

“I explained very clearly what needed to be done, and it was not done accordingly.”

This is the lament of exasperated leaders across the globe and across time.

How can leaders communicate better with their teams?

It begins with an understanding of the three-part communication cycle.


This is where you express what you are thinking or what you envision. It is where you give instruction, delegate a task, or make a statement.

But this is just the beginning of communication.

How you express output is also important. Always ask yourself, “Is my output in my style or theirs?” If you can express your thoughts in a way that connects with your team member’s style, you have paved a clearer path to communication.


As a leader, do you give your team members time and space to respond? Listening is just as important as speaking when it comes to communication.

The style of response should ideally be a give and take of your style and theirs. For example, you may prefer direct bullet-pointed communication, but your team member may need to tell you a story first in order to connect. Work together so that you spend a little more time listening, and they learn how to get to the point a little more quickly.

Do what you can to encourage open and honest responses from your team members. This builds trust and connection, two of the most important factors for employee engagement and company success.


The filter in between output and input is like the processing center of communication. In this space, your team member is interpreting your actions and what you said based on their experience, emotions, strengths and weaknesses, and skill set. A myriad of silent conversations take place in this space in just moments of time.

Your team member instinctively is thinking…

  • Why are their arms crossed?
  • Am I valued or “in trouble”?
  • Why am I being asked this question?
  • What is the best solution? How can I fix this?
  • How can I make it better?
  • How can I help streamline the process for this?
  • What are the risks to consider?
  • What details need to be addressed?
  • Do I have time to do this task?
  • Is this in my strengths zone?
  • Is this in a weak area for me, to where I should make other recommendations?
  • Should I accept this challenge?
  • What experience or connections can I bring to the table for this?

And, finally, all these thoughts feed into the response. If you ask your team member a question, and they hesitate momentarily, allow them that space. This is the filter.


Problems arise when leaders treat people like Output-Response machines, without giving them time to process their thoughts through the filter. This can short-circuit success because the filter is where the magic happens. In the filter, your team member’s strengths and experience begin to surface.

In a world of fast-paced output-response interaction, make time regularly for true communication. This is where the bigger ideas come to life, problems get solved beyond the short-term fix, and deeper connections are forged.


Action Steps

  1. Think about a recent conversation someone had with you. What thoughts ran through your filter?
  2. As you’re having a conversation with a team member, pause, and ask them to share what thoughts are running through their filter.
  3. What value do you find in the filtering?

For valuable resources on Communication, click here.

Deb Ingino is a highly sought-after executive coach, mentor, consultant, and speaker worldwide. Deb is well versed in business operations and in the importance of asking key questions most business leaders won’t ask themselves. She brings deep experience in leadership development, strategy, high performance team building and effective communication. She has a passion for leading people to discover and maximize their strengths as well as those of fellow team members, while offering advanced strategies to achieve high performance. Deb is the perfect fit if you’re ready to take your leadership and impact to the next level!