Simon Terry

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We need shared context

If you are struggling to get your message across it might not be the message, it might be the context.

You are an expert.  You might be an universally recognised expert, have some special qualifications or you just might be the person who best understands your job, your customers or a problem.  That better understanding of some context, however narrow, makes you an expert.

Any form of work or collaboration will require you to use your expertise. That expertise can also be a barrier to communication and collaboration.  Your challenge is that others don’t share your unique context.  

Unless you share a context, others won’t be able to understand what you are doing or what you want to share.  If we don’t share enough context, we can’t see things, trust or understand what experts tell us.

Here’s a simple example.  Start working with a new group of people and you will find people are speaking incomprehensible new acronyms or using buzz phrases you don’t know. The group knows their history and you don’t. That group has a context and you are not part of it. Until you learn enough of their context and share enough of your own, you won’t be able to follow conversations or contribute.  The friction and surprises will undermine your confidence and potentially your trust in the group.

So how do you make sure others share your context & your expertise?

  • Work aloud: Sharing what you are seeing and doing with your connections enables them to pick up your context.  You don’t need to push it on them, but they can pull what you share when needed
  • Ask questions: The questions that you ask will be some new ones and obvious ones.  The fact that you are asking will enable you to explain a little of your context in response.
  • Be curious and generous: There is no right or wrong context.  Explore the context others have. Ask them to tell your their stories and share your own in reply.  Learn more in the process about what you may not have seen and also how your expertise can help others

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