Christy and I have been talking a lot lately about context. By context, we mean "what is already known."
For instance, if I am solciting business advice from someone, they will communicate with me about their business experience from their business experience.
Communication is the art of conveying meaning from one to another. If you think about it, you can see the importance of context. We see this in technology all the time. TLAs (Three Letter Acronyms) are perhaps the best example.
I've experienced this recently when communicating with someone about the importance of working hard and working smart (and refusing to choose one over the other) for career enhancement. The person with whom I am sharing agrees with the words I am emailing and speaking, but they have little or nothing in their past experience to compare to my experiences and advice.
In other words, our contexts do not intersect much.
The result is mental assent: the reader/hearer agrees that the words make sense and sound nice, but the reader/hearer has no idea how to take the first step to implement any of them.
The technical term for this scenario is "bad."
So how do we communicate? We need context. How do we gain or share context? I'm glad you asked.
There are several ways. One way is to continue to communicate. Context will grow out of shared experiences, and communicating is a shared experience. Repetition works as well. Repetition works as well. (Get it?)
Leading is another way to convey context. Leading is not the same as managing. Leading is different from directing. If you are leading, someone can gain context by mimcking your actions. If you cannot be followed, you are not leading.
Learning broadens context. As you learn you increase your individual ability to comprehend the experiences of others - your context increases, providing more opportunity for intersection with the context of others. Experiential learning is best (and hardest). Christy has this saying: "Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment."
Ask anyone who travels and they will tell you travel broadens one's horizons like nothing else in life.
Building common (or intersecting) context is time-consuming. Don't expect it to be easy, simple, or be readily repeatable - what works with one may not work with another. But it is the basis by and for which our words - written and spoken - and ultimately our actions and intentions are interpreted.
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