The Importance Of Context

In order to understand each other, we need to be able to put what the other person says or does into context. Today my son told me that his football team had lost, and by a few goals, which sounds like a definite loss, but when I was then told that their goalkeeper was away, and the opposition goalkeeper is the best in the league, the score seemed like a moral victory.

I have heard many times about people being upset by something that was said in a text, but because of the nature of a text, it is easy to misinterpret it. So few words are said and there is no body language or facial expression to give the words a context.

In an article entitled ‘How to remember words when learning a language,’ by Sam Gendreau, tells us

It is my belief that context is at the very foundation of vocabulary acquisition, and without it you will really make your life harder and things will be a pain in the neck to remember.

According to dictionary.reference.com, the word context can mean one of two things.

1. the parts of a written or spoken statement that precede or follow a specific word or passage, usually influencing its meaning or effect.
2. the set of circumstances or facts that surround a particular event, situation, etc.

Either way it means roughly the same thing.

If you are going to understand me, or I am going to understand you, we need to know each other. Many times in the past I have said of someone, ‘I just don’t understand how they can do that, or say that,’ and then later learned something about their past and thought, ‘so that is why that person thinks like that.’

Even when I’m writing blogs there is the potential for someone to misjudge me because I don’t put what I’m saying in any context. I have had people take offence because of something that I have left out which would have explained what I really meant – in context.

Or as Kenneth Noland, the American abstract painter put it,

For me context is the key – from that comes the understanding of everything.

If there’s something that we don’t understand, whether it is major new information, or a personal text that we feel inclined to take offence at, perhaps we need to stop and think and try to put it in context. After all, everything that we say or do happens within a context.