Putting Things into Context

I have been travelling across the country this week for client meetings. Contrary to what some believe, this doesn’t mean that I saunter into meetings at 10 a.m., that we break for lunch at noon and then in the evening, drink good wine and eat fabulous meals. It does mean I get up early (earlier than usual… which is already pretty early!) and that I watch a lot of television news shows and read even more newspapers than usual. (Hey – if they are going to make the effort to deliver it to my hotel room door, I am going to read it.)

I have been following several big stories this week, including the tragic Trayvon Martin case and the Jet Blue pilot who had to be subdued by passengers (two of the biggest stories). Both traditional media coverage and social media play a big role in what the public is learning in both these cases.

That got me thinking about context and how it impacts what we take in. I have been as interested in comments on news pieces and the social media discussions as I have been in the traditional media coverage itself. The comments and discussions provide insight and context and that is important. Our world has become more complicated – we have access to many opinions and perspectives. That’s important. It can help us to put information into context and to understand what the actions and reactions mean relevant to social norms and expectations. This gives us a broader scope of understanding, I believe.

However, because so many people have the ability and opportunity to participate in discussions, it’s also important to put the comments and opinions into context. In another completely random – and yet surprisingly related – moment, I was on Amazon.com looking for a book. I was reading reviews and there was one review that was really negative. It stood out from the other good to great reviews. So I checked out the person’s other reviews. She hated everything she read. That allowed me to put the review into context, and in this case, discount her opinion because, for me, she lost credibility. It’s important to keep the comments and discussions in context as well. Don’t take them at face value; make sure you understand the context of the information and of the person making the statements. It might change what you think about a specific topic, subject or issue.

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