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Context is Key to Effective Communication


Context is Key to Effective Communication

Jacob Lehman shares an article on efficiency versus memorability and why context is vitally important in communicating ideas quickly.

In fast-paced, demanding work environments, there’s a lot of pressure to communicate concisely (and even quickly). While I certainly wouldn’t argue for wasting time or monopolizing the time of our colleagues (or customers), I believe that the additional time that it takes to communicate memorably is often more than compensated for by the benefits we gain in not needing to repeat ourselves later, and our audience retains the information we want to communicate.

Consider the fairy tale below, which I wrote while my daughter was napping last weekend:

The Tale of Agnes of Concumbria

The kingdom of Concumbria was a small but happy one, blessed with beautiful waterfalls, hikable mountains, and soil that grew the most lovely flowers of all varieties. Its ruling family prospered from the cultivation and sale of exotic plants, and the kingdom thrived for many years, until the monks of the Camellian order set up their abbey next to the king’s garden. The monks were peaceful, but had one absolute rule: they believed that flowers were a divine gift and could not be owned by humans. Moreover, they viewed it as their calling to liberate any flowers claimed by mortal hands, and distribute them freely in bouquets to the pilgrims who came to their monastery. As a result, the king’s master gardener would plant, water, and weed, but just as the blossoms reached a state of perfection the monks would sneak in overnight and steal every one. The king was furious, and had a ten-foot wall built around the garden, but the monks would not be deterred, and climbed over it. He tried stationing guards, but the monks used their knowledge of botany to create a soporific mist that put the guards to sleep before they entered and took the flowers. In desperation, the king turned to his subjects and offered to make anyone who could stop the monks’ ravages his heir. Strong men tried standing guard, clever people designed traps and dug moats, but the monks’ abilities and determination were unstoppable. Finally, Agnes the orphan offered to try. The poorest resident of Concumbria, her only possession was a single sheep, long past its milking years. The courtiers laughed at her and the king initially refused, for how could she succeed where the greatest warriors and minds of the kingdom had failed? But as the last autumn crocuses were about to bloom, and the royal coffers were depleted, at last he relented. Agnes took her sheep and went out into the garden, and somehow, the next day, every flower was still in place. The next night was the same, and by the end of a week, the garden was full of the most beautiful blossoms of all sorts. The king was true to his word and adopted Agnes as his daughter, growing to love her dearly for her kindness and wit. “But tell me,” he asked one day, as they were strolling through their garden (which was now more magnificent than ever) “why was no one else able to match your feat?” “It’s simple, father. Only a ewe can prevent florist friars.


Key points include:

  • The importance of sheep
  • Duping florist friars
  • Orphan archetypes


Read the full article, Efficiency v. Memorability, on Linkedin.