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Context Informs Conversation in Many Situations:
Be A Contextual Communicator
By Craig Harrison


Eavesdropping on conversations between air traffic controllers and pilot is fascinating. In dispassionate tones controllers and pilots convey complex messages in an average of 4-6 second bursts.

Controller: Tower to United 3-1-Niner heavy,
descend to 1200, turn West to 270,
maintain speed 190.

Pilot: United 3-Niner, Copy.
Descending to 1200, turning west-270,
speed still 190. Out.

Using acommon language of abbreviations and conventions, planes identify themselves and confirm air speed, direction, altitude and other details in just a matter of seconds. And both parties are in synch.

Similar conversations occur in emergency rooms of hospitals, where emergency technicians, nurses and doctors convey complex, vital information in an efficient and focused manner while tending to often-critically ill patients.

In these and other conversations the circumstances dictate a set of language conventions. In some environments emotion is kept to a minimum.  Brevity is valued. Succinctness is required.

Yet in other contexts, such as talking with children or quelling ruffled customers, adjectives, empathy and compassion are often the order of the day.

Question: What are the contexts for conversations you’re having? Are you aware of them? Are you in control of them? Or are you at their whim?

Conversations are a function of time, place, participants and mood. Match your conversations to their contexts. Conversely, match the context to the messages you wish to convey.

Protocals for Places

We all know not to yell “fire” in a crowded theatre, or to yell ANYthing in a library or hospital recovery room.  We also learn to speak loudly and confidently in town hall meetings, when beckoning a cab in Manhattan, or trying to get someone’s attention from across a crowded room.

TIP: When you have serious discussions create a time and place without distractions where you can pick your words carefully, listen intently and not be distracted or otherwise affected by external elements.

TIP: When conveying information is paramount (as opposed to conveying sentiment), focus on the order of disclosure, the efficient delivery of information, and beware of emotionally charged language that distracts or triggers emotional responses.

TIP: When broaching sensitive subjects, be mindful of your listener and his/her reaction to your words. Account for their likely reaction and factor that into your equation.

TIP: Become a student of protocols. Learn the etiquette for environments you hold conversations in. Use good judgment, discretion and common sense to show reverence for the places you hold conversations in.

You wouldn’t curse in a church, nor would you likely recite prayers aloud in a saloon. You wouldn’t tell jokes at a funeral, nor would you terminate a relationship while at an amusement park. (Would you? Well, if the relationship itself were a roller coaster ride...)

The most successful communication is that in which the message matches its milieu. Become a contextual communicator by matching your lexicon and style of delivery with your surroundings.



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