A filter is your friend. And in the workplace, it helps to make for a civil and respectful environment.
But … what if you don’t have one?
With offices reopening and teams coming back together in person after working alone in our jammies for over a year, we thought it might be a good time to review why having a filter on what you say and do at work is a necessity.
What kind of communication and actions does a filter help eliminate?
- Gossip. Talking about something that is not validated, info picked up in the halls, or gleaned from a conversation you overheard is no good.
- Assumptions. Take masks for instance. Making assumptions about why someone is wearing one when it’s not mandatory and commenting on that could lead to discrimination, harassment, or bullying issues and an uncomfortable workplace.
- Random, impulsive, or rude comments and thoughts. Open mouth, insert foot, as they say. If you wouldn’t say it to your mom, you probably shouldn’t say it at work.
- Inappropriate actions. Letting out a big belch after pounding a Diet Coke may feel awesome but no one wants to hear it at work. The same goes for that pesky itch. Don’t do it!
The reason people need a filter is probably the most vital piece to consider for those who lack one.
- Perception. Without a filter, people never know what you’ll say or do next, and your peers learn that quickly. While you may be a hoot to be around, you are not going to be the one someone takes seriously.
- Keeping confidences. No one will trust you with information that isn’t meant for the masses if they know you don’t have a filter.
- Respect. Ultimately, it is tough to respect someone who can’t be taken seriously or totally trusted.
So, the million-dollar question is: How does someone without a filter develop one? Here are some tactics to consider for those who tend to blurt out their thoughts or lack office etiquette.
- Ponder your backfires. When you get feedback that you have come across strong, it’s time to self-reflect. Reliving what you said and did when something didn’t go well is an effective exercise to work on while developing a filter.
- Be self-aware. Pay attention in meetings when you are talking with people. Was there a time when the conversation took a nosedive, or people stopped engaging? What made that happen? Also, be aware of other people’s body language—they don’t have to say anything for you to know they are uncomfortable.
- Hire some help. Training on civility, active listening, mindfulness, and giving and receiving feedback can be helpful. It takes self-discipline to change, but it certainly can be done.