Greeley reading magazineTwo weeks ago I wrote on the Golden Rule of InterpretationTreat the words (or work) of another person with the same care and respect that you would want them to treat your words.

That post focused on understanding the context of the other person’s words or other communication content. We often misinterpret the author, speaker, or artist because we do not consider the context of their communication.

Last weekend I was struck by another principle at work in our communication – our own context as recipients of the words or communication content.

Last weekend I was at a workshop where we were given magazines, poster board, glue, scissors and told to make a collage of our life story. This was way out of my comfort zone! I decided to give try. I would simply flip through the magazines and cut out any words or images that sparked a connection to my story.

To my surprise, there was a lot of cutting!  Magazines which had nothing to do with my life were full of things that caught my attention and connected with my life. Advertisements, stories, images, and words sparked my thoughts and feelings that day, and my memories of my past. That connection generally had nothing to do with what was intended by those on the other end of the communication event.

How often does that happen, at least at some level, every time that we read or listen or watch something?

We all receive communication through the lenses of our experience, environment, presuppositions, and personhood. Our filters make a tremendous difference in our reception, and even more our interpretation of words and other communication content. No human being comes to communication neutral or objective.

I do not believe that means that we should give up on communication!

The fact that we all receive communication with our filters simply means that we have to work at our perceptions and interpretations.  We must recognize our own filters in order to test our interpretations.

We test our interpretations because we want to: treat another persons communication piece with the care and respect that we would want others to treat our communication.