When we talk about any situation, problem, or idea, we automatically make certain assumptions without really even thinking about them.

The first involves the domain of the problem: the set of conditions under which our specific situation takes place. Sometimes, the domain seems obvious from the issue itself: for example, a solution to a chess match takes place within the domain of the rules of chess. Many times, however, the domain is assumed but not necessarily clearly stated.

The second involves the definitions related to the problem. When we talk about "chess", do we mean western chess, "Chinese" "chess", or some other form that may or may not be widely known? If I say the word "red", do you and I agree on what, exactly, "red" is - which shade, hue, or brightness it incorporates? Definitions are where people generally have the most issues in communication: without common definitions, we can't communicate at all.

Both of these factors combine into a common issue: accurate communication can only take place between equals. If we have different education levels, different life experiences, different goals, or different standards, we can't assume either our domain or definitions are equivalent. Therefore, we must make sure to standardize definitions and domains as the first part of the discussion. This is why, in contracts, one of the first things you'll read is a terms list; also, for many scientific papers, you'll see a list of definitions or scope at the start of the paper.

In general, we don't need to define everything in every-day conversation: whether what I call "red" you call "pink" doesn't really matter for most discussions (unless we're painting something): in situations where relative differences matter more than details, we can get away without exact definitions. If we're going to talk about specifics, however, we must make sure our definitions and domain are similar; otherwise, we're introducing a chance for errors.

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