Most of us like to think that we have a relatively rational and impartial outlook on the world around us. We’ll often claim that we hold the same values, attitudes and behaviour every day.
But is it really like that?
We all know that when a person becomes really angry or frightened then there’s a tendency to say or do things that we otherwise wouldn’t. Some might also agree that this occurs if they become extremely happy.
But is it just those extreme emotions that alter our behaviour?
If we are to believe decades of psychological research and hundreds of years of philosophers, then the answer to that is a definitive no.
All our emotions and mood affects us. What we experience emotionally affects how we see and interpret the world around us; our experience of the thing around us is coloured by our thoughts and emotions.
These work as a kind of filter which our experiences are interpreted through. That filter dictates what we think about what is going on, and very often, our behaviour in relation to it.
We probably all have experienced giving a sour answer to someone we love, just because we’re having a bad day. Or said something that we later have regretted saying, just because our thoughts were out of balance for a moment.
What we need to understand and remember is that this not only occurs in extreme mood situations. The effect is always present, every minute, and it affects our behaviour.
NOTE: Some may refer to “filter” as to why and how a person perceives politics, culture etc. Many people anyways, myself included, typically refer to that as “lenses”. But so to clarify, when we talk about “filter” in this article we are referring to the filter a person maintains caused by his/her thoughts and emotions.
Why is it so important?
If you wish to increase and enhance your social skills or for your relationships to attain a higher level than the average, then this is one of the things that it is crucial that you’re fully aware of.
To be consistent in the way we interact and behave with others is an invaluable skill. It helps us have better and more productive communication and relationships, it helps others to easily interact with us, and it avoids misunderstandings and mishappenings.
However, we won’t be able to approach this completely — we’re not robots. So it is unrealistic and probably unwanted to try to behave 100% consistent in all situations, no matter the circumstances and no matter the emotions.
What we need to do is identify the filter we use from day to day, so that we can choose for ourselves what we want to do with it. And the alternatives are quite simple:
- We can let the default filter control if we see that it will lead to an authentic communication or outcome, and that it won’t impact our situation, others, or ourselves negatively.
- Or we can make the other person aware of the filter we have on at the moment, so that they understand our behaviour and our reactions. This is easily achieved by telling the other that we are “a bit [insert emotion] today”. Then it’s more straight-forward for the other to understand and to interact with you efficiently.
- Or we can regulate our behaviour by thinking about what we would have done if we had a more neutral and clear filter on us. When I get angry or upset, but think about what “calm-Jon” would have done to best handle a situation, then it’s very rare for me to say or do things that I will regret later. Similarly, when I do get wrapped up in a negative filter I tend to actively change my mind and think about positive things and that it “could always be worse, so it’s not that bad” and so forth.
The exercise to become better at being more consistent and more in control of our behaviour and emotions is not really complicated. The only thing you need is to start performing self-observation on yourself. Check in on yourself several times a day and try to identify your filter and your mood. Think about how it affects your behaviour and whether there are certain adjustments you can or wish to do in order to achieve better results.
Over time this will become more and more of a routine. And even though it is impossible to never evah react unfortunately due to a bad day/filter, then the number of times it would happen will at least be substantially reduced.
So, what filter do you got on today? And are you in control of it?