Anne Miller — Words Matter Make What You Say Pay!
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Words Matter – Make What You Say Pay!


Metaphor Minute: Moses & the Mayflower

The METAPHOR MINUTE Newsletter by Anne Miller

September 19, 2013

Moses & The Mayflower

What do you do when your premises, expertise or credibility are challenged because the challenger, for whatever reason, is skeptical of your position? Most people want to respond with a “Yes, but…” comeback. That response feels good, but rarely works. It only causes your skeptic to dig in his heels deeper.

The fact is, you can’t change people’s minds. Only they can change their minds. But a carefully constructed analogy can change the way they see a situation which then leads them to the desired shift in thinking.

What Was the Name of the Captain of the Mayflower?

Put the politics aside in the following story and look at this exchange as a very clever example of how one man changed the mind of another with that technique.

In 1954, when Ben Gurion was Prime Minister, he traveled to the USA to meet with President Eisenhower to request his assistance and support in the early and difficult days of the State of Israel.

John Foster Dulles who was the then secretary of state confronted Ben Gurion and challenged him as follows:

"Tell me, Mr. Prime Minister - who do you and your state represent? Does it represent the Jews of Poland, perhaps Yemen, Romania, Morocco, Iraq, Russia or perhaps Brazil? After 2000 years of exile can you honestly speak about a single nation, a single culture? Can you speak about a single heritage or perhaps a single Jewish tradition?" [Emphasis mine]

Ben Gurion answered him as follows:

"Look, Mr. Secretary of State - approximately 300 years ago the Mayflower set sail from England and on it were the first settlers who settled in what would become the largest democratic superpower known as the United States of America. Now, do me a favor - go out into the streets and find 10 American children and ask them the following:

What was the name of the Captain of the Mayflower?
How long did the voyage take?
What did the people who were on the ship eat?
What were the conditions of sailing during the voyage?

I'm sure you would agree with me that there is a good chance that you won't get a good answer to these questions.

Now in contrast - not 300 but more than 3000 years ago, the Jews left the land of Egypt.

I would kindly request from you Mr. Secretary that on one of your trips around the world, try and meet 10 Jewish children in different countries. And ask them:

What was the name of the leader who took the Jews out of Egypt?
How long did it take them before they got to the land of Israel?
What did they eat during the period when they were wandering in the desert?
And what happened to the sea when they encountered it?

Once you get the answers to these questions, please carefully reconsider the question that you have just asked me!"

Twist the Mental Kaleidoscope

Statesman, manager, marketer, tech expert, operations executive, financial pro, salesperson, CEO--when it comes to persuasion, help others to see your point by changing the picture in their minds.

  1. Identify anticipated objections and concerns from your listener
  2. Think about your listener. What is his frame of reference? What are his experiences? What can he relate to that can become the source for your analogy?
  3. Create your analogy.
  4. Relate the analogy to the situation
  5. Let the analogy to sink in and change the way your challenger sees the situation. This shift makes it easy for him to change his mind so that you can achieve your desired outcome.

Make What You Say Pay — With Metaphors.
Anne Miller

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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. © 2013. Anne Miller. -- PERMISSION TO REPRINT -- Feel free to reprint in company newsletters or articles. Just include ©2013, Anne Miller, author, "Metaphorically Selling,"
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