Your environment affects how you think and feel. Do you have to squint or shield your eyes? Cup your hand behind your ear? Move away from a smell? This is known as "environmental context" and something you should keep in mind when choosing a location to deliver an important message, whether it's for a large audience, a board meeting or a one-on-one. It's simply more pleasant...to be in a pleasant place.
In fact, humans respond to their environment so much, there is a whole category of improv theater called “environment work,” or "object work." Playing broken furniture, making loud noises, miming heat or cold, or otherwise creating an air of environmental hijinks can have a huge impact on the direction of the scene. That’s because people can relate to being distracted, confused or simply unable to process the incoming stimuli. Therein lies the funny!
In this modern comedy gem watch Niles Crane, of the TV show "Frasier," get pushed, pulled and waylaid by his increasingly chaotic surroundings.
And of course, in the workplace any extreme or even mildly annoying environment can quickly lead to frustration, confusion or lack of productivity.
The idea that your surroundings affect your sense of calm is not new. Feng shui, the Chinese philosophy of “harmonizing everyone with the surrounding environment” originated over 4000 years ago. A less spiritual westernized version became popular in the US in the early 2000's and with many people it continues to influence everything from the design of new buildings to backyard gardens.
Although there is little evidence to suggest there are lines of energy flowing through your living room, it’s easy to understand that the addition of a few plants can provide a more welcoming feel, or too many chairs might make you feel cramped. Feng shui translates literally to “wind-water,” both elements known to produce a calming, contemplative effect. That’s an excellent principle to adopt when trying to communicate effectively.
Environmental context is a fancy term for "pay attention to what’s around you." There may be a more conducive place to have a thoughtful conversation.