Filter on the way in, Filter on the way out...

Origi­nal post: http://​​bear­​​filter-on-the-way-in-filter-on-the-way-out/​​

I’d like to quote tact filters by Jeff Bi­gler:

All peo­ple have a “tact filter”, which ap­plies tact in one di­rec­tion to ev­ery­thing that passes through it. Most “nor­mal peo­ple” have the tact filter po­si­tioned to ap­ply tact in the out­go­ing di­rec­tion. Thus what­ever nor­mal peo­ple say gets the ap­pro­pri­ate amount of tact ap­plied to it be­fore they say it. This is be­cause when they were grow­ing up, their par­ents con­tinu­ally drilled into their heads state­ments like, “If you can’t say some­thing nice, don’t say any­thing at all!”

“Nerds,” on the other hand, have their tact filter po­si­tioned to ap­ply tact in the in­com­ing di­rec­tion. Thus, what­ever any­one says to them gets the ap­pro­pri­ate amount of tact added when they hear it. This is be­cause when nerds were grow­ing up, they con­tinu­ally got picked on, and their par­ents con­tinu­ally drilled into their heads state­ments like, “They’re just say­ing those mean things be­cause they’re jeal­ous. They don’t re­ally mean it.”

When nor­mal peo­ple talk to each other, both peo­ple usu­ally ap­ply the ap­pro­pri­ate amount of tact to ev­ery­thing they say, and no one’s feel­ings get hurt. When nerds talk to each other, both peo­ple usu­ally ap­ply the ap­pro­pri­ate amount of tact to ev­ery­thing they hear, and no one’s feel­ings get hurt. How­ever, when nor­mal peo­ple talk to nerds, the nerds of­ten get frus­trated be­cause the nor­mal peo­ple seem to be dodg­ing the real is­sues and not say­ing what they re­ally mean. Worse yet, when nerds talk to nor­mal peo­ple, the nor­mal peo­ple’s feel­ings of­ten get hurt be­cause the nerds don’t ap­ply tact, as­sum­ing the nor­mal per­son will take their blunt state­ments and ap­ply what­ever tact is nec­es­sary.

So, nerds need to un­der­stand that nor­mal peo­ple have to ap­ply tact to ev­ery­thing they say; they be­come re­ally un­com­fortable if they can’t do this. Nor­mal peo­ple need to un­der­stand that de­spite the fact that nerds are usu­ally tactless, things they say are al­most never meant per­son­ally and shouldn’t be taken that way. Both types of peo­ple need to be ex­tra pa­tient when deal­ing with some­one whose tact filter is back­wards rel­a­tive to their own.

Later edit for clar­ifi­ca­tion: I don’t like the Nerd|Nor­mal di­chotomy be­cause those words have var­i­ous his­to­ries and bag­gage as­so­ci­ated with them, so I re­named them (Stater, listener, Launch filter, Land­ing filter). “Nor­mal” is pretty un­helpful when try­ing to con­vey a clear de­ci­sion about what’s good or bad.

Okay; so Tact filters. But what should we re­ally do? What’s bet­ter? Jeff’s Nerd or Nor­mal? And more im­por­tantly—In fu­ture am­bigu­ous cases—what should we do?

Mov­ing parts to this system

There are a few mov­ing parts to tact, I am go­ing to lay them out:

  • Stater—the per­son stat­ing something

  • State­ment—the thing be­ing said

  • Listener—the per­son hear­ing it, or the per­son who it is in­tended to be di­rected to.

  • Tact filter—the filter that turns the State­ment into a clean one.

  • Launch re­spon­si­bil­ity—the Stater’s re­spon­si­bil­ity to launch the state­ment in cer­tain ways. (Jeff’s nor­mal)

  • Land­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity—The listener’s re­spon­si­bil­ity to re­ceive the state­ment in cer­tain ways. (Jeff’s nerd)

In a chart it looks like this:
tact filters2

Who is re­spon­si­ble?

In Land­ing re­spon­si­ble cul­ture, you are re­spon­si­ble for the in­com­ing tact.

tact filters5

But this isn’t great be­cause it la­bels any­one you are talk­ing to as “po­ten­tial jerks”.

In Launch re­spon­si­ble cul­ture:
tact filters6
The re­spon­si­bil­ity to be tact­ful pre­pares the state­ment for a sen­si­tive per­son. Which isn’t great ei­ther. Tact takes time, takes en­ergy and effort, what if no one ever needed to be tact­ful? Every­thing would also be fast.

The wild

So this is real life now. You don’t re­ally know if the other per­son is tact­ful or sen­si­tive or a jerk or just nor­mal… The best pos­si­ble plan for un­knowns:

It’s not rocket sci­ence. Said again:

  1. ac­tively be less offen­sive when you say things that might be taken offensively

  2. ac­tively be less offended when you hear things that sound offensive

Q: But it’s not my re­spon­si­bil­ity be­cause I live in (Launch | Listener) re­spon­si­bil­ity land.

A: yes it is! No you don’t! You live on earth. In the real world, where you some­times en­counter peo­ple liv­ing in the other land. Which is a fact. You can choose to piss them off when you meet them but you should know that’s a choice and up to you. And now that you know this; the re­spon­si­bil­ity is on you to make the bet­ter choice.

Com­pound­ing factors

Even this model leaves out all the fur­ther com­pound­ing fac­tors.

  1. What if the Stater thinks a state­ment is tact­ful but that same state­ment is taken as non-tact­ful by the listener?

  2. What if the stater is used to their state­ments be­ing taken as tact­ful on ev­ery day ex­cept to­day?

  3. What if the par­tic­u­lar pair of stater-listener has an ex­ist­ing nega­tive re­la­tion­ship?

I don’t know. Err on the side of cau­tion.


  • What other com­mu­ni­ca­tion habits have a filter? Does it pay to err on the side of cau­tion?

  • Aside from the fal­lacy of the mid­dle, can this be­come a rule?

Another solu­tion: https://​​en.wikipe­​​wiki/​​E-Prime

Meta: this post was in­spired by Sam’s post on a similar topic.

Meta: this took 2 hours to think about, write and draw out what I meant.