Think of leaves… Did you think of autumn leaves at the peak of their fall colors just before they begin to leave their branches and drift to the ground? Perhaps you thought of the crispy brown fall leaves as they crunch under foot while you rake them into piles to be bagged and hauled away. Or maybe you thought of the bright young green leaves of spring as they bud on the branches and unfurl in the light of a golden sun.
When you ask people to think of an item — no matter how mundane an everyday item it might be — there is an endless variation of that item that their minds could be envisioning.
Just because you told somebody to think of leaves doesn’t mean you’re on the same page and thinking of the same type of leaf.
You may have been thinking of the leaves from a maple tree, but the person you’re speaking with could be picturing a fresh leaf of romaine lettuce from the salad they had for lunch. You may be envisioning the delicate leaves of a flower, but your audience may be thinking of the leaves of a palm tree gently waving in a tropical breeze.
When making a comparison or using a metaphor to explain a concept, it is important to make sure that both you and the person you’re speaking to are on the same page — and not leafing through an entirely different page of the book.