Sometimes context is lost in time. In an episode of Star Trek, a cryogenically frozen 20th century human is discovered 400 years later drifting in space. Records identify her as a “homemaker” — a term long fallen from use. “She must have done some kind of construction work,” the Enterprise crew guesses.
Other times it’s simple unfamiliarity. A text about social relativism suggests how visitors from another planet may interpret human motorists at a traffic light. “They obviously like red because they sit and watch it intently. But they fear green because when it appears, they all rush away.”
Context matters. It affects you daily. Without it, meaning is elusive. It defines how you view the world — and how others perceive you. Especially if you’re in the news or in a public dispute.
We’ve all heard the complaint of the aggrieved, “That’s not accurate. They took it out of context.”
Like a snippet of a speech that paints a very different picture than the entirety. Or a photograph selectively cropped or altered to create something far different. Or second-hand or fifth-hand information. The game of telephone is a breeding ground for things being taken out of context.
The media does it. They want to generate news and controversy (even if manufactured).
In a contentious dispute? Beware of the other side. The sleazier, more corrupt or more unhinged they can make you appear, the better. Partial truths and innuendo are their most damaging weapons. It only takes a whiff of impropriety to destabilize your reputation.
What can you do?
Your best defense: Think before you speak or act. Can it be misinterpreted? How?
But undesired things still happen. Letting them stand isn’t an option. The stain never goes away. No matter how old or dubious the accusations, it takes only a few keystrokes to retrieve them. In a battle of he-said-she-said, your side of the story must pop up in the same search. Otherwise, the other side wins by default.
“Because Reputation Is Your Most Valuable Asset”
Gillott Communications is a Strategic PR firm. We’re Fixers. Crisis & Reputation Management. Litigation. Media Relations. Crisis Prep. More than half a century of expertise working with clients to resolve issues both in and outside the media’s glare — in their professional and personal lives.
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