Ever heard the phrase “it’s the little things that matter most”? Of course you have, unless you’ve lived under a rock your entire life; no judgments here. Is it true? Yes, yes it is. That’s not to say big moments don’t matter but it’s often the little moments that add up and create big moments. So why then, as human beings, are we stuck in a vicious cycle of oversimplifying the complexities of life? We can say criminals are evil but that’s an easy answer that doesn’t add up. If I volunteer on the weekends, I’m perceived as a good person. As flattering as that is, that’s a generalization. So what makes everything add up, where you can say, “oh, now that makes a lot of sense”? Well, my friends, it’s context. We are not always good and we are not always evil. Context explains why “good” people do “bad” things and “bad” people do “good” things.
Why Context Matters:
Context matters because it allows us to make better sense of the world. Instead of saying someone did something out of “character”, we can analyze and break down what they did and why they did it. When we make generalizations, we are left scratching our heads. If I’m perceived as a good person people will dismiss when I do something out of line, or worse, change their view of who I am with this one instance. If, for example, I call someone a “bad” name, rather than trying to understand the context and what lead to the name calling, they can simply say I’m a “bad” person. And due to personal bias, once they make this new assumption, they will look for anything that will reaffirm their new belief that I am a “bad” person. Yet, flip the story around. Let’s say I compliment that person and reaffirm their world views. Then I am a “good” person. So, simple. Just be a “good” person. This would work in a perfect world. Yet what as human beings do we tend to do? We focus on the negative. We are hard-wired to do so. Everyone wants to feel as though they have worth and we seek this through the approval of our peers. Humans are social creatures, so it makes sense. In a perfect world, we would be 100% intrinsically motivated and not care what others thought of us, but once again, we do not live in a perfect world. So back to my previous example. We can have a thousand positive interactions with an individual yet it only takes one moment to destroy a relationship. Does this seem logical? No, yet we do it all the time. We hold grudges and we put up walls. So an understanding of context in a sense can overwrite what we are hard-wired to do and make forgiving others much easier.
Asking the right questions:
A question we don’t ask enough is why. Such a simple question yet so powerful. Why is a question of trying to understand context. It encourages discussion and facilitates results. It not only helps you understand the situation better but shows appreciation of the other party. Ask why enough times and you have an answer. Instead of “good” or “bad” we get “Oh, I never saw it that way” or “Oh, that makes a lot of sense”. That’s the power of understanding context. It’s understanding. Context encourages us to break down labels and try to understand the other person on a situation-by-situation basis. “Heat of the moment” now makes a lot more sense. So go ahead, ask the question “why” and let the results speak for themselves.