With every interaction you have with another human, you’re plunging them into a mystery.
You begin with a statement, and now the other person has this puzzle to solve: “Where is this coming from?”
Remember, in order for you to take the initiative to talk to another human, a whole lot of things had to happen. All of those events, questions, thoughts, and feelings that strung together to inspire you to go talk to Bob from Accounting or your Aunt Susan or whoever? You witnessed and experienced them. The other person did not.
So the other person has no idea what’s happening, they don’t know the context. And when humans don’t know something, they assume.
These assumptions are often uncharitable!
Masting the art of “providing context” is mastering the art of effective communication. If you want a little extra practice, consider asking yourself a few questions just before you start a new interaction with someone else. Imagine they ask you, right away, “Why are you asking/telling me this?” How would you respond? Build that explanation into your original statement and you’ll save a lot of time and effort.
A second practice question involves assuming resistance. What if they say: “I don’t have time to help you with this. Why should it be my priority?” Give that one a lot of thought, and build your response in as well. This one is extra good because it also helps filter out conversations that don’t value the other person’s time!
Try these exercises this week, and watch your interactions grow in effectiveness. Don’t let them just drop out of the blue.