Life’s Little Lessons

Context is important, but how many times do we miss the opportunity to ask just a couple questions to make sure we’re thinking about our conversation in the same context?

breadMy husband and I went to Panera Bread for a loaf of their Sesame Semolina bread. Our local grocery store no longer stocks the kind we like, so we figured Panera should have really good semolina bread. When we got to the counter there was one loaf remaining, which we ordered. The cashier asked if we wanted it sliced and how.

My husband immediately said “thin” and I immediately said “thick.” The lady behind us chuckled, and the cashier looked like she was thinking “oh no.”

We looked at each other, and both of us acquiesced, telling her to go with what he/I said. She looked more confused and held up her thumb to ask if this was about the right thickness. We both said “sure.”

I was quite excited to have my turkey sandwich on Panera’s wonderful sesame semolina bread. When I grabbed the first piece, I thought – wow, this is thick. Two pieces of bread dwarfed the turkey, but I finished it up. The bread was tasty, but way too thick.

Rather than admit my error to my husband, I reflected internally on what I meant when I said “thick.” I remembered recently getting a loaf of whole grain bread from our local grocery, and only after opening it did I see the label “thin sliced.” It sure was. The mayo oozed through the bread, and it promptly fell apart. I thought, “huh – didn’t know that was something I needed to look for when buying bread.” I became alert to the thickness differences in bread.

But my context, you see, was known only to me. AND, the cashier’s context was embedded in the machine she used to cut it, which had no relation to either my husband’s or my context.

Perhaps I should have, instead of jumping to a conclusion, asked to see just how “thin” and “thick” the machine cut the bread. Had I seen “thick,” I would have chosen differently.

How many times do we allow our own context to drive our response, instead of more carefully understanding the question that is being asked? I bet it’s a pretty common practice and, with just a couple good questions, we might be able to provide a much better, much more contextual response.

I didn’t want to tell my husband I was wrong. Don’t say anything. 😉

And try checking out your own context, along with others’, before giving your response to a question. It just might end up being good for everyone.

2 thoughts on “Life’s Little Lessons

  1. Thank you again, Carol, this is crucial when communicating with internationals, where English is not their first language, and I found this often when I’ve studied worked in Mexico, Colombia and Chile. So many times, it is subjective, what is thick to me is not to you, etc.

  2. Hi Deb – You’re right – it is so important to realize that, whether language or other differences, we have the responsibility to make sure those communicating with us are being heard as they want to be heard. Thanks for your comment.

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