Share the Reason
  • Explaining the rationale behind a request or recommendation
  • Equipping others with the purpose of an assignment and the significance of information
  • Giving the details, sharing the context and removing the mystery behind our words and actions

HARRINGTON COMMENTARY

It is important to understand the context of decisions and actions. Whenever possible (and appropriate), we should share with others our rationale for the steps we are taking. This helps them support our current efforts, and prepares them for their own decision making and independent steps in the future.

I’ll illustrate the importance of sharing context with a real incident. Here’s the basic scenario:

One night, several years ago in Los Angeles, I spent the evening with a prostitute.

Let’s stop and look at the facts. If I don’t share any other information with you, what might you assume about this situation? How might it impact your view of me? How is this information likely to impact your opinion of me and your future interactions with me?

Seriously, before you read any further, think about it. I have just told you that I spent an evening with a prostitute. How do you respond to that? What conclusions are jumping into your mind?

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Let me share with you the context of this story. I was in an airport several years ago and a woman asked me for directions to her departure gate. As I spoke to her, it became evident to me that she was distraught and generally not well. She wasn’t understanding the directions that I gave her and I offered to walk her to the gate. As I did, we spoke and it became clear to me that this woman was in a very difficult situation. She hadn’t eaten in several days and I offered to buy her a meal in the food court. As I watched her eat a sandwich, she began to cry and share with me the details of her life situation. I spoke with her; I prayed with her; and I did my best to point her in the direction of resources that could help her change the course of her very troubled life. I walked her to the gate and she got on the plane and I’ve never seen or heard from her again. I don’t know her name, but she gave me a photo of her and her daughter. I’ve carried that photo in my backpack every day since. It serves as a reminder to me that each person with whom I interact is a real individual, and I should be sensitive to the moments that I’m given with them.

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Now, please consider this statement again:

One night, several years ago in Los Angeles, I spent the evening with a prostitute.

Do you respond to it differently because of the additional information that I have provided you? Assuming you do, you should understand that it is the context of the statement that has changed, not the statement itself. The facts remain the same; but, hopefully, your comprehension of them is different.

I share this personal story with you to illustrate the significance of context, of sharing the details and removing the mystery behind our words and actions. Sharing the reason may not always be as dramatic as this story, but it is important to do. Here are a few practical applications:

  • When you give a work assignment, explain the goal of the work, not just the steps to be completed.
  • When you train someone, give them some of the reasons for their actions.
  • When you pass along advice, offer some of the rationale or factors behind your suggestion.
  • When you give performance feedback, pass along the details of what made the work so good (or not so good).

It takes more thought, effort, and time to Share the Reason – and you should do it. It will help equip others for future success and guard them against incorrect assumptions.

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Additional reading>> Situations Matter: Understanding How Context Transforms Your World by Sam Sommers.

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Key Words and Phrases

Offer a rationale; Explain; Give details; Clarify; Describe; Put in plain words; Make clear; Enlighten.

Opposite Terms

Mystery; In the dark; Secrecy; Ambiguity.

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