If you cut the legs of a table, is still a table, or just a plank of wood?

I’m having parallel discussions and learning experiences lately around perception, understanding and communication. Even brought up the famous Aristotle example of the logic puzzle about the table in a conversation yesterday. It’s funny how profound the knowledge we had thousands of years ago is still some of the very best advice today. The gist is that when you’re having a conversation, one of you might see the table as a plank of wood, where you still a table. That disconnect can result in all sorts of misunderstandings.

How do you avoid this kind of go left to go right misfire?

Summarizing what other, smarter people have told me is that first, you should seek to understand. By playing back what you think you know to the other person, they have the ability to then validate, yes, it’s a plank of wood. Or a table. At which point, you can then agree that yes, while it’s a plank of wood, it used to be a table and build the rapport necessary for an open dialogue and honest exchange of ideas. If you aren’t both on the same page, singing the same tune, there’s a lot of potential for things to go off the rails.

Another tip I’ve seen, heard and read lately. Practice. Just like Malcom Gladwell’s ten thousand hour theory, you won’t become an excellent communicator by just reading, listening and observing. Participate. It’ll do wonders for your life, at work and at home.