3 Questions: Shared Context

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What Is a Shared Context?

A shared context is one where the individual or group of people you are with have the same understanding of the words that are being used. An example is “the end of business.” Does this mean 4:30 PM? 8 PM? Some other time? Unless we define it and come to some agreement with the individual or the group, we are not sharing a context.

How Is a Shared Context Helpful?

A shared context is helpful because it can mitigate many misunderstandings. When people do not share the same context, they do not have the same expectations from the words that are used. This can lead to misunderstandings that can negatively impact the project. In addition, misunderstandings can lead to damaged relationships creating future problems.

How Do I Create a Shared Context?

Creating a shared context starts by assuming that you don’t have one to begin with. This is one of the more difficult problems to overcome. We want to believe that the words we use have the meaning that we think they have. Any concept or word that you find important is one where you need to examine with the person or group what they believe it means.

Creating context is not about who is right or who is wrong. It is about coming to an agreement for the concept or word for that particular situation or project. An example would be that everyone agrees “end of business” means 5 PM. Better yet, everyone comes to agreement to use a specific time like “5 PM” instead of “end of business.”