A metaphor is a representation used for explaining a concept in terms of some other concept. Usually it helps us understand something that is not commonly known in terms of something that we are familiar with. A metaphor is therefore a denotation in terms of some other item. For example, when we say, “Her face was as pink as a rose”, it indicates how rosy her face looked. Since we know how a rose looks, we can relate to it and better understand the nature of the face. A metaphor also gives a different perspective of a behavior or a situation. Metaphors are powerful tools used in Neuro-linguistic programming for effective communication.
Simple and Complex Metaphors
In Neuro-linguistic programming, metaphors include analogies, similes, jokes, stories, parables and allegories. Metaphors can be used to improve communication as well as solve problems. As per Neuro-linguistic courses, a metaphor usually gives brevity to the conversation, and can create graphic and memorable images in the mind. A metaphor can motivate or demotivate a person since it leaves a lasting image in the mind. If used properly, it can help achieve an effective communication or outcome.
There are several simple metaphors or similes, but most of them have become clichés. This is because they were formulated long time back, and are no longer significant or hold true. For example, the metaphor ‘As white as a sheet’ originated at the time when only white sheets were available all over the world. In present times, this statement will not have the same metaphorical power, and younger generations will not be able to relate to them or grasp their meaning. Such metaphors or clichés are not acceptable to those unaware of its significance. Therefore, it is advisable to use such metaphors only after considering the audience, and concentrating on the desired outcome.
Neuro-linguistic programming also includes complex metaphors such as stories, allegories and analogies. This type of metaphor stimulates the mind of the listener by including stories that have depth of meaning and character. These metaphors are not meant for conveying specific information, but rather opening the mind of the listener and opening new doors. These metaphors access the unconscious mind and can uncover hidden issues. Since a story usually engages the mind in downtime mode, the conscious mind is not alert, and undesirable rationalization or criticism can be avoided. These techniques can be learnt using Neuro-linguistic training.
In several Neuro-linguistic courses, metaphors are used for inducing a trance or communicating with a person in a trance. In Neuro-linguistic training, metaphors can be used to instigate creativity and solve knotty problems. They are used in everyday conversations for conveying an idea without offending someone or instilling hostility.
As per Neuro-linguistic programming, metaphors can stimulate the right side of the brain. They initiate holistic thinking, and stimulate the imagination by using visual and sensory images. You can visualize, hear and feel the metaphor, and thus help become an important link in the Neuro-linguistic mental map. By using these sensory rich words, we can better understand an idea or concept. Our unconscious mind usually makes a link between any new information and the extensive database stored within. Metaphors act as a catalyst for making this Neuro-linguistic connection.
Many renowned preachers and teachers have used simple stories as a means for delivering profound truths. Expert Neuro-linguistic communicators, leaders and negotiators have used metaphors for inspiring, influencing and motivating people. Story telling is an important way of learning in some cultures, and metaphors have inspired several inventions as well. Using metaphors is an art, and can be learnt using Neuro-linguistic training.
Usage of Metaphors in Communication
There are several techniques given in Neuro-linguistic courses for using metaphors in communication. These Neuro-linguistic methods are:
1) Simplifying As per Neuro-linguistic programming, a single metaphor can convey profound meaning by being both efficient and effective communication tool. That means the metaphor is brief, precise and generates the desired outcome. A metaphor is simplifying when it uses a familiar concept to convey the meaning and create an internal link. These simplifying metaphors act as a bridge between complex elements and are used by several Neuro-linguistic communicators.
2) Depersonalizing Metaphors can be used to avoid directly offending or embarrassing someone in a conversation, but conveying the intended meaning. This can be done by using a hypothetical situation or a story, where no personal comments are made. Thus, the appropriate message can be extracted by the audience without feeling criticized or pointed at. Since the instinctive defense mechanism is not active in a story, it is easier to show a different point of view to a person who would not have normally accepted any change.
3) Stimulating Creativity As per Neuro-linguistic courses, metaphors are associated with the right brain. Metaphors can access the unconscious mind and therefore help bring out the creative juices of a person. By titillating the creative side, a person can be more open to different solutions and his inner resources can help solve any problems. These metaphors are mainly used to plant an idea or nurture a hidden attribute of the mind. These metaphors can bring about extraordinary innovation and creativity, and were commonly used by Einstein for entering the creative mode.
4) Enlightening As per Neuro-linguistic training, the metaphors we use in our language indicate what we are. For example, some people might use metaphors on money. These people usually are money minded or business oriented. By listening to the metaphors that we or others use, we can come to know the values behind them. This information can be then used to establish rapport and communicate effectively using matching techniques.
5) Matching This technique can be used to initially match the values of the other person using a story, and then introduce a new concept or way of doing things by changing the ending. In this case, you are pacing someone’s experience using a metaphor, and then leading them to accept a new option.
6) Personalizing As per Neuro-linguistic courses, this technique is particularly useful in organizations. An organization as a whole can have the image of being an impersonal, unemotional entity. In such a case, it is required to personalize the metaphors and appeal to the human sentiments, rather than talk in terms of legal and non-personal language. Metaphors are usually used to put life in the organization and represent the company’s mission and culture.
7) Getting attention Metaphors are used to attract attention and retain the level of concentration. Our mind likes to listen to stories, anecdotes, fables adorned with visual effects and sensory language. We find ourselves engrossed and rarely get bored with these types of metaphors. If you carefully observe a charismatic and entertaining speaker, you will find that his speech is filled with metaphors. The information conveyed in this way will also stay longer in memory.
8) Overcoming resistance As per Neuro-linguistic training, metaphors are excellent ways of avoiding conflicts or resistance. You can convey a problem in terms of a story, and ask the person with the problem to end it. Since no direct finger pointing is involved, the answer can come out in the form of the ending.
9) Creating vivid memories Metaphors create a visual, audio and kinesthetic image in our internal minds. They bring life to the communication, and we are able to see, hear and feel the idea being transferred. This results in registering the idea firmly in our brains and remembering it long after the conversation.
10) Insight and introspection Metaphor is also an introspection tool for self-development. By accessing the right brain, you can tap into the unconscious mind and find answers to questions on yourself. You can also gain insight about the other person, by identifying the metaphors used.
11) Identifying problems Metaphors can help to locate problems. The solution of a problem is not as important as identifying the problem itself. By using metaphors in the form of stories or anecdotes, hidden problems can surface. When you become consciously aware of a problem, you can then find the solution.
12) Generating emotion Metaphors touch our emotions and feelings using sensory systems. A short story filled with genuine feelings can make us laugh or cry, something that a non-metaphorical piece cannot achieve. Our behavior is based on our emotions, and is used to make decisions and take actions. Effective communicators therefore know the importance of using the human imagination and engaging the heart instead of the brain.
All metaphors will usually have an effect on a person. However, the effect might not always be the desirable one. Good communicators know how to use the metaphors precisely in order to get the intended outcome. It is imperative to use the best metaphor depending on the situation to tackle a person or problem at hand. Using metaphors, you can access the internal maps of the person, and extract solutions from the unconscious mind. Metaphors bring out our creative sides, and keep us enthralled and interested in a conversation. By using the right collection of metaphors, it is possible to achieve wonderful results and become an efficient communicator.