Anne Miller — Words Matter Make What You Say Pay!
Presentation & Sales Specialist
Author | Speaker | Coach
Words Matter – Make What You Say Pay!


Metaphor Minute: At the Very Heart Of It




April 28, 2011

At the Very Heart of It

Take a guess how often people use metaphors in their daily conversation. The surprising answer is every ten to twenty-five words, according to research mentioned in I Is An Other, a new book by James Geary. Geary's book takes a much deeper more linguistic oriented dive (oops! there’s one) into the world of metaphor than my more business-focused books "Metaphorically Selling" or "Make What You Say Pay!" do, but for those more curious about language and thought, you will be richly rewarded. His book amply demonstrates that "metaphors are not rhetorical frills (that’s two) at the edge of how we think... They are at the very heart of it (there's three)."

If you don't have time for the book, catch (four) David Brooks' article on it in The New York Times. As a reader of "The Metaphor Minute," you will appreciate Brooks' point, "If much of our thinking is shaped and driven by metaphor, then the skilled thinker will be able to recognize patterns, blend patterns, apprehend the relationships and pursue unexpected likenesses."

Pursuing the Unexpected

Lynn Hutzel-Visel, VP Institutional Trust, Comerica Bank did just that after reading an article in World magazine that compared the West’s historical treatment of Egypt to that of a parent who continuously looks the other way when his fractious teenager repeatedly acts out ,only to one day wake up and find himself with a seriously destructive child on his hands.

"I used [this] analogy recently in a sales presentation," recounts Lynn. "My client was stuck in a state of inertia about whether to buy our services or not. He thought he could just continue going along with the small setbacks he had been experiencing. He did not want to face the consequences of not moving ahead. Remembering the article, I said to him, "Yet there comes a time, as it does with any parent who ignores the ultimate effect of permissiveness, when it all tends to blow up in your face." Perhaps he had children and could identify with the analogy or perhaps, he simply saw the truth of the reference. Whatever it was, the comparison changed his perception of the issue and he decided to move forward."

New patterns. Fresh perspectives. Changed outcomes.

A SVP of sales at a digital advertising company asked me at our recent presentations follow-up session how he could up his game (there’s five) when it came to coining (six) metaphors in business. My advice:

  • Get your antennae up! (seven). Notice how people in the media use metaphors and adapt what you hear to your world

  • Get the “It’s just like...” habit and you will find them springing (eight) into your mind

  • See how often images in advertising are used metaphorically to convey the ad’s message: mountains for challenges, chains for strength, umbrellas for protection. Put these pictures in your mental files (nine) and retrieve (ten) them at the right moment.

Brooks wrote metaphors are “poetry for everyday life.” I would add, for anyone who sells, influences, or leads, they can be the hidden gold (eleven) in everyday business life.

Make what you say pay — with metaphors.

Anne Miller

In Case You Missed It...
Geary did a wonderful talk on Metaphorically Speaking beginning with that marvel of metaphor himself: Elvis Presley.  Catch it at TED.


New book by branding expert Bill Schley: "The Micro-Script Rules." Filled with many examples, Bill's premise is that to be memorable, "5 words are better than 5000." My favorite part is his endorsement of metaphor as the ultimate way to communicate to someone. Check it out. It is short. It is insightful and It can help you figure out how to describe what you do in very few words to make an indelible mark on buyers.

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"The Metaphor Minute" is a brief monthly note with examples from business, media, or politics that illustrate the power of metaphors and analogies to make a point, solve a problem, and get results. Use these stories to stimulate high pay-off metaphoric thinking in your business. © 2009. Anne Miller. -- PERMISSION TO REPRINT -- Feel free to reprint in company newsletters or articles. Just include ©2011, Anne Miller, author, "Metaphorically Selling,"

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