Here’s an experiment. Read the following paragraph once:
With hocked gems financing him, our hero bravely defied all scornful laughter that tried to prevent his scheme. “Your eyes deceive,” he had said. “An egg, not a table, correctly typifies this unexplored planet.” Now three sturdy sisters sought proof. Forging along, sometimes through calm vastness, yet more often very turbulent peaks and valleys, days became weeks as many doubters spread fearful rumors about the edge. At last from nowhere welcome winged creatures appeared, signifying momentous success.
Did that paragraph make any sense?
This little passage, from Robert Ornstein’s book “The Right Mind,” is actually about the first voyage of Christopher Columbus. Go back and read the paragraph again with this in mind. Makes more sense now, doesn’t it?
You’ve just experienced the power of context. Your brain searches for it constantly. And while it searches, you won’t be paying attention to anything else. Your mind will drift while it works to fill in the blanks—whether it fills in those blanks correctly or not.
When it comes to workplace communications, lack of context is just one of the ways the brain can get thrown off course, and when it happens in email, it can lead to misunderstandings, frustrations or even conflict.