Do You Self-Filter Your Thoughts? Here Are 5 Reasons Why It’s Important.
As a loud, extroverted, and opinionated young person, I’ve always felt the need to express myself as openly as possible. As I grow older, I realize that there is wisdom in self-filtering (but this does not necessarily mean silence) my thoughts. I would often confuse this with some form of societal oppression. For example, do I feel the need to keep quiet because people look down on me for my age or gender? I realized that these discriminations were – most times – internal and self-imposed.
Self-filtering is a lot more about how you say something and not whether or not you say it at all. It is also about responding to a situation and not reacting to it. If you’d like a better understanding, here is a breakdown of the difference between responding and reacting.
These are some of the reasons why it’s important to practice self-filtering (and I learnt them the hard way):
You might burn bridges.
When things are said out of anger or spite, you might end up saying very hurtful things. If you have the habit of sharing these details on social media, you might also end up stepping on many people’s toes. Although you had no real intention to, you might create enemies and make it really hard for yourself. These would demolish your subordinate’s, friend’s or colleague’s morale. Not only that, but it will also hurt the relationships you have. As friends, these might be easily forgotten or forgiven. However, in the workplace, it might cause unnecessary conflict. In turn, this might end up as a career-limiting move.
You might embarrass yourself.
Regardless of how frustrated you are or who is at fault, it is always better for your actions to speak louder than your words. You might feel very tempted to prove your worth (for example, saying you’d be able to do a much better job), but remember this golden rule: never overpromise and under-deliver. Let your actions speak louder than your words; if not, you might just embarrass yourself.
You might come across as a gossip.
Although you just need to vent, over-complaining paints a bad image of the person you are venting about AND of yourself. Let’s admit it, we all have a friend who gossips too much. If you do not, then you might be that friend. If you do this too often, people will also start to wonder if you have been complaining about them behind their backs too. In fact, this might end up damaging your company’s reputation and brand as a whole. Eventually, people might lose trust in not only you but also your company.
It might demotivate others.
In situations where you are required to give feedback, it is important to think through how you want to provide comments. As a manager, you technically do have the right to say it as it is. However, it is important for your feedback to be constructive. Your staff might make mistakes and it’s tempting to shove your honest opinions (especially if they are under-performing) down their throat. But at the end of the day, your brutal honesty might not lead to better performance.
It is simply unprofessional.
Even if someone attacked you on something personal, do not stoop down to their level. If people try to discredit you through some form of discrimination (such as your race or gender), you should report it to upper management. Do not waste time and energy reacting to petty people. Instead, carry yourself professionally and do your job to the best of your abilities.
It’s not easy to immediately begin self-filtering, so here are some practical steps you can take:
1. Build a trustworthy support circle.
We all have colleagues we simply cannot vibe with. Moreover, having to withhold your thoughts and opinions is a difficult task. However, rather than complaining to any and everyone, form a friendship group who is there to listen and support you. This is where you are able to be your unfiltered self and confide in them. Of course, these are also people who keep you accountable. Give them permission to call you out if you are being unreasonable too. Also, trust that they have your best interest in mind.
2. Follow the Rule of 7.
If it’s something they can change in 7 seconds or 7 minutes then sure, by all means, tell them as it is. However, if it’s something that requires 7 months or even 7 years to fix, save it for a proper conversation. For example, if there was a stain on someone’s shirt, food stuck in their teeth or if they have bad breath, let them know nicely. If someone has crooked teeth or a curved spine, then it might not be necessary to point it out. Especially not with others around or in a public space! Even in a work setting, if slight adjustments are needed in a deck, be objective with your comments and point them out on the spot. However, if you are concerned about your staff’s long-term performance, this might require a more intentional one-to-one conversation.
3. Just ask (nicely).
Rather than spending hours deliberating if you should say what you want to say OR spend hours regretting what you said after (which happens to me too often), just ask prior to saying or suggesting something. This can be for more casual things like wanting to make inappropriate jokes. For example, you could say, “I thought of something funny but it might be inappropriate. Would you be comfortable with it?” It could even apply to more formal conversations such as giving feedback – ask prior if it’s okay for you to give constructive feedback. This sets the tone and expectations of the conversation so you don’t accidentally offend or upset anyone.
Self-filtering does not mean you are dishonest about how you feel. It is just a matter of communicating your feelings in a way that can be received and reciprocated well. We might think we are smart when we come up with snarky remarks, but it is wiser to be professional about what and how we present our messages.