by Leon Rosenshein


Context can mean a lot of different things in different contexts. Golang even has a built in interface for it. Today I’m using context in the context of communication. Specifically, context as the collection of thoughts, ideas, and biases two or more people bring to a conversation. Even more specifically, the context I’m talking about is the difference between the contexts the people in that aforementioned conversation have.

There are the things you know (your context), the things the other people know (their context), the things everyone knows (global context) and the overlap between those three (shared context). This is important because good communication starts from that shared context and builds out from there. Without that common framework you might connect, but probably not. Certainly not as well as both sides think they’ve connected. And guess what, The overlap between those three is much smaller than you think it is.

Non-overlapping circles

So what can you do about it? The best thing is to provide that shared context. And that means knowing who you’re talking to. Knowing the lens they see the situation through. Knowing what’s important to them, and the language they use to describe it lets you show that what you’re saying is important to them.

And don’t be subtle. Don’t show the facts and let them guess what your point is. Tell the whole story. What the situation was. What changed. What the situation is. Why the change is significant. And most importantly, what, if anything, you want them to do with the new information. Should they start doing something, stop doing something, do more/less of something, or are you just providing more context for future decisions?

Because context is the most important part.