The power of metaphors

We use metaphors because words can only reach so deep. Once we reach that point we need a way to reach the unconscious level. Stories can let you connect with people in a way that a logical argument never can.

Your brain is able to make connections. When we hear something unfamiliar we are able to think this reminds of another thing we know. This is why we are able to understand metaphors it is because we are able to see the patterns. Using metaphors you are able to come up with new meanings, new thoughts and solve problems in ways you had not considered before.

All good stories follow the same pattern. There is a hero. They go on a journey, along which they have to overcome difficulties. In the end there is a resolution. Stories can be told as a form of entertainment but they are much more than this. They can introduce new ideas or illustrate a point the speaker wishes to make. You can take a complex and simplify it so that anybody can understand it. You can challenge people and you can comfort people. Stories can reach people and hold their attention in a way that pure facts cannot.

If you look at an effective public speaker like Steve Jobs you will note that when he presents to a group he will use a story. One of the most famous examples of this is the presentation Steve Jobs gave when he introduced the new iPhone which you can find on YouTube. He begins the speech by referring to other great historical innovations and then links these to the iPhone. He does not simply recite a series of facts about the new product.

Stories have been historically a way of passing down information. They are a way for past generations to connect with the present and the future. We acquire ideals of industry and thrift from tales of our grandparents enduring the depression. We then carry these metaphors on in our lives.

So what exactly is a metaphor? Put simply a metaphor is drawing a parallel between two things which are usually unrelated. It is a way of describing a situation by making reference to a different one. It provides new light, and new way of looking things. We can use metaphors to shape peoples experiences and perceptions.

Sometimes people are more comfortable describing a situation in metaphor than a literal description. For example when a political leader is describing a country he the throws of depression, he might not talk about soaring unemployment or factory closures. He might instead talk about “having to sail through rough seas.”

Metaphors can also be of two types. These are direct metaphors and indirect metaphors. A direct metaphor would be of the type where there is a direct link between the two situations were the parallel is drawn. With and indirect metaphor the comparison is less obvious.

One great way to learn how to tell good metaphorical stories is to write your own story down. Tell the story of your own life with yourself as the hero. Explain the journey that you have been on, the difficulties that you have overcome. And what is the resolution of your story? Where have you arrived at?

Metaphorical Stories are a mightier weapon than we may at first think. People’s ability to lead is based on their ability to convince, to persuade, to make people see things from a different direction. If you can master the art of story telling you will be on the road to greatness.

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