The concept of context in perspective taking

Gardening is my new hobby and I really enjoy the blossoming of beautiful flowers in my balcony.  As I bought some new plants home before the Easter holiday, I started to do thorough research for the care taking of these species.  In my interactions with different people regarding the care taking of my new plants, I frequently asked how often should I water them.  The answers were usually diverse and I had no clues which were more accurate.  After researching for the correct way of watering, I realised that I asked the wrong question: “How often should I water the plant?”  In fact, the amount of water needed for a specific day depends on many factors, such as the temperature, sunlight, humidity, need for water of the specific species.  Therefore, the amount of water needed depends on the context instead of only the species.  After realising this, my enjoyment of gardening increased because it is a complicated and interesting activity that requires constant observation and analysis.

This interesting insight into gardening reflected the importance of considering the context of a phenomenon or a situation before we come up with a conclusion in our interpretation.  For instance, if I kept watering my roses daily with the same amount of water without considering the humidity and sunlight of the day, since roses do not need much water, the roots of the roses might be ruined by too much water in the soil.  Without considering the context, the humidity and the sunlight, the conclusion of the need for same amount of water daily for the roses is not accurate.

The need for a fixed and coherent interpretation of a phenomenon or a situation is our human nature.  For example, if we think one of our friends is kind, it may bother us if we observe him or her exhibiting some unkind behaviors.  The unkind behaviors of our friend may challenge our habitual perspective of this person.  However, if we consider the context of the situation carefully, we may realise that the individual whom our friend treated unkindly actually did something very nasty to our friend.  With this context in our consderation, this unusually unkind behavior is understandable.  This kind of contextual interpretation is important for us to take the perspectives of other people in a more realistic way.  In this way, we prevent ourselves to think or interpret in a dichotomous way.

This type of contextual interpretation also helps us to be more detached to the superficial explanation of our behaviors.  For instance, we may feel guilty for not behaving consistently in different situations.  For those with issue in eating, he or she may stick to a rigid eating habit, such as avoiding to eat carbohydrates totally to prevent weight gain.  He or she may feel very guilty if having eaten cakes in one’s friend’s birthday.  This makes him or her to induce purgeing after the intake of the birthday cake.    He or she may also attach this cake eating behavior to one’s lack of discipline as a person.  If this person consider the context of the cake eating behavior, that is, it is the birthday of his or her friend.  He or she may not attach the behavior to one’s lack of discipline.  In fact, it is an important flexibility in socializing for him or her to let go of the diet plan for one occasion in one’s friend’s birthday. 

In this complicated world with lots of chaos and uncertainties, we need to cultivate flexibility in our thinking for interpreting different phenomenon and situations.  By considering the context of each phenomenon and situation, we can be more objective in our perspective taking.

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