Communication Skills

One of my clients was struggling in his relationship with his wife. He couldn’t understand why she was being so selfish.

Any time he wanted to invite work friends in for dinner, she would get “this look” on her face like she was upset about it. It was like she didn’t want to have people over at all. What was the big deal anyway? He would barbecue and he always helped clean up. She didn’t have to do it all. Like him, you might have similar experiences with your spouse and I hope this will help you discover what’s going on and better your communication skills. This is why you and your spouse might not see eye to eye.

Let’s start with the reality first –  she doesn’t want to have people over!

But it’s not because she’s being selfish. It’s because she has a different priority for happiness than he does.

There are 5 ways we filter for happiness:

  1. Place
  2. People
  3. Things
  4. Activity
  5. Information

His wife has place as her priority filter. For these people their home is usually their sanctuary. They will create an experience in the places that are important to them. At work, it can be their office or their desk. Things will be “just so” in that place, and you will want to respect that. Their homes tend to be the one place they can be themselves, where they can really relax and re-energize. When someone they aren’t fully comfortable with is in that space they can’t relax. So it takes a great deal of trust to let someone into that sanctuary. Her home is her sanctuary, so having people over that she doesn’t know well is a big struggle.

His priority filer is people. That means he really focuses on relationships. People-people are the ones who know everyone at the office and chat around the water coolers. They love getting together for coffee, drinks or dinner. At work, their team and how each member feels means a lot to them. They often have pictures of their loved ones around them, and who they know can be important. It all comes back to the experience of the relationship. This is why it’s upsetting for him not to have her accept the people in his life with open arms.

Now you can obviously see why they were having difficulty in their relationship. They had different primary filters which affected their communication skills, and it was creating misunderstandings in their relationship. They had no way to bridge the gap until he understood what was going on, and finally realized she wasn’t being deliberately difficult or selfish, she just naturally had a different way of creating happiness. He was able to look back on many arguments they had, and realize what was actually going on for her, even though she didn’t realize it herself.

We worked together on ways he could approach the situation differently to make it better for her and therefore better for him too. He was also able to be gentler and less judgmental. This was a big shift for him and the way he felt about her, and it made a much stronger relationship for them over all.

Here’s a little more about the other three filters, so you have a full understanding.

People who have things as a primary filter place a lot of value on the objects they have in their lives. Usually there is a story tied to each one, and they enjoy reliving their memories through these things. They will often have collections like stamps, or antiques, or comic books. Garage sales or flea markets are like heaven for them! Their desks will often have displays of things they like and collect. (My husband has his Godzilla collection displayed on his.) You can tell a lot about their personality by looking at the types of things they like to collect.

People with a primary activity filter love to do. These are the ones that are always hiking, camping, baking, and so on. They love do it yourself projects. You can usually pick them out easily, because they hate to sit still. They might pace or tap a pen to help concentrate. On the extreme end of this filter they might find it difficult to sit through whole movie, and they will never understand how people can just sit there to relax, when there is so much they could be doing instead.

People who have an information filter as their primary, love to learn. Data is important for them and they will usually want to have the hard facts before they make a decision. They love reading books, articles, and magazines; and they will spend a lot of time surfing the net or watching informational shows/channels like History or Discover. They are logical, and can be quite methodical in their methods. If you want them to make a decision, you have to make sure you have all the information gathered first, so they get what they need and are fully informed before they do.

It’s good to remember we use all of the filters, we just have ones we tend to go to first. No one filter is right or wrong. Understanding there are differences will help to give you greater communication skills.

To get a full understanding of the way you create happiness in your life, write down the filters in the order of importance to you. For example, mine are:

  1. People
  2. Information
  3. Activity
  4. Things
  5. Place

People come first for me, and I love to research ways I can help people understand how to create better relationships in their life. Nothing is better than putting together a great article or workshop to teach people what I’ve learned. When I am doing that, I am using my top three filters and it makes me super happy.

I am sure that when you take a look at your top three filters and compare that to the things you do that make you feel the happiest, you will see that your top filters are involved too. It will also be easier to see what makes the people in your life happy, and what you have to do to better your communication skills and strengthen your relationships.

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