Often, Context is Everything | Life Series

Each of us is doing things differently these days. Some have picked up new habits, whereas others are refining or building new skills. I have improved my reading skills by finishing three books in a week. That is a record – for me :).

Read time: about 60 sec.

I have been recycling some of my favourite books, and it’s no surprise that you get to draw new connections from them each time. Below is a quick excerpt from Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People that seems to be apt in today’s time. The book was published more than three decades ago, and I read it almost two decades ago, but its wisdom seems to be timeless.

One Sunday morning, in New York City, author Stephen Covey was riding the subway when a man and his loud, boisterous children boarded. The man, taking a seat next to Covey, rested his eyes, while his children ran amok, throwing things around and grabbing people’s papers.

Irritated by the ruckus, Covey finally gave in, turned to the man, and asked him to control the children. “I guess I should do something about it,” replied the man, grimly. “We just came from the hospital where their mother died about an hour ago. I don’t know what to think, and I guess they don’t know how to handle it either.”

Covey, while well-meaning, had committed the fundamental error: our tendency to “overestimate the importance of personality, and underestimate that of context, when explaining behaviour.”

In other words, it wasn’t that the man was disinterested, but rather, he was grieving and distracted, given his wife’s recent passing.

We’re all guilty of this from time to time. And if you’re currently working from home, as many people are, you might have committed it yourself.

For instance, if a colleague doesn’t reply to an email or instant message, you might have misread their absence for annoyance or negligence. Or, if your manager is quiet on a video call, you might attribute her behaviour to dissatisfaction with your work rather than was it is: occupied. If, then, consider the external context before reacting (especially when communicating with others remotely).

Our behaviour is not always a reflection of our attitude or character. Often, context is everything.

Thank you for sharing some of your precious time with me each week. Leave a comment if you liked it.

Stay safe, stay hopeful.

Until next week.

Razak

CommonInterest

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