The Buddhist meditation teacher and podcaster, Tara Brach, tells the story of a man who sees a dog near a tree in the woods. The dog is snarling and snapping viciously, and the man feels angry and afraid.
But as he comes a little closer, he notices the dog’s leg is caught in a trap, and the animal is in terrible pain. Now the man feels compassion and sorrow for the suffering dog and understands why he is snarling.
Context changes everything. Knowing the context that caused the dog to snarl changes our minds about it. As authors and thought leaders, our job is to put ideas in context. Without context, ideas lose their true value and, as the story above illustrates, they can end up being plain wrong.
Setting the context of an idea is like setting a diamond in gold. If you look for it, you will notice journalists do this—and not do this—all the time. For example, when journalists report the profits of the big banks, they usually report the dollar figure—billions. And because most of us hate the banks, we can all think to ourselves, “greedy banks”. But what if they reported the bank’s profits as a percentage of revenue; it might not sound so bad. “Banks make a five per cent profit” doesn’t sound like a headline.
Next time you write about an idea, can you add context to it that will deepen your readers’ knowledge about the subject? For example, how did the idea you are sharing evolve? Who believes in it, and who does not? Does it work for everyone?
And have you checked that your idea is true? As an expert, you know how many myths abound in your industry. They abound in every area of knowledge. Do you really know how many small businesses fail in the first year? Do you know how much it costs to find a new customer compared to retaining the ones you have, or to recruit a new employee?
When you write, put your ideas in context. In doing so, you give your readers the information they need to make decisions, build their trust, and respect their intelligence.