I read an interesting article this morning in The Atlantic about the two different uses for masks during the COVID-19 pandemic and it got me thinking about communication and interpretation. The two main uses of masks are to protect the wearer from particles present in the air (ingress) and to prevent particles being put into the air by the wearer (egress). Ingress protection requires medical-grade masks and are most appropriate for those in occupations and areas most heavily impacted like medical workers. Egress protection is a much smaller lift, as a simple cotton cloth mask can reduce egress by up to 99%. The masks are filters designed to operate for different uses and in different directions.
Turning this to communication: it’s much easier for us to be careful and deliberate about what we put out into the world (egress), than to control what happens when people start to interpret what we’ve shared (ingress). So you may have the ability and the right to share whatever message you’d like, but when it comes to interpretation and ingestion of your message you are at the mercy of the other person’s lived experiences and their lens of understanding. It’s much easier for us to filter our message at the source than to expect others to have the same medical-grade filters for interpretation.