Anne Miller — Words Matter Make What You Say Pay!
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Metaphor Minute: Wall or Dam?

The METAPHOR MINUTE Newsletter by Anne Miller

Nov 18, 2015

Wall or Dam?

Like many people, depending on the day, I am both distressed and fascinated by the current political primary races in both parties. But I do like to read the political commentaries on both sides of the political spectrum. One of my favorite commentators is David Brooks of The New York Times because his insights are always accompanied by richly resonant metaphors and analogies.

His latest article is true to form. It is about four critical choices the Republican party will have to make soon if it hopes to win the White House. Politics aside, his use of contrasting metaphors is why he is in this month’s newsletter. His use of this technique is a good example for anyone who has to distinguish between choices, products, services, technologies, or ideas for clients, colleagues, or management. (And who doesn’t?)

See how three of these sets of metaphors might inspire you in your world…

  1. “…And so the large question Republicans must ask themselves is: Are we as a party willing to champion the new America that is inexorably rising around us, or are we the receding roar of an old America that is never coming back?”

(If you are calling for change, can you position what you sell, advocate, or promote as something that champions the future, vs. the idea, product, technology, or service that is more like the receding roar of what is currently in place?)

  1. Brooks later asks how will 21st Century Americans view outsiders? “For Donald Trump, the metaphor is very clear: A wall. Outsiders are a threat and a wall will keep them out.”…. For Jeb Bush, as [Bush] wrote in his own book, “’When immigration policy is working right, it is like a hydroelectric dam: a sturdy wall whose valves allow torrents of water to pour through, creating massive amounts of dynamic energy.’ Under this metaphor the outside world is not a threat; it’s a source of creativity, dynamism and perpetual renewal.”

(Very different images with very different associations in our minds and very different implications for immigration policy! What two images can you conjure for your audiences to so clearly position your view?)

  1. The last question is: How does the Republican Party treat the distrust that is so pervasive in our society? “…for some, this distrust is to be exploited. This produces a kind of nihilism. Tear down. Oppose. Scorn. Shut down the government… The other approach is to see distrust as a problem that can be reduced with effective conservative governance…. Republicans in this camp view cynicism as a poison to be drained, not a kerosene to be lit.”

(The contrasting metaphors are used here to underscore the different party approaches. What images can you create to underscore different choices for your listener?)

The Power of Contrasting Metaphors

Contrast creates a greater understanding and appreciation of a thing in comparison to another thing. Contrasting metaphors achieve that understanding with greater resonance and staying power. Explanations slide by us. Contrasting metaphors stick.


Wishing you a lovely Thanksgiving with friends and family...

Anne Miller
Make What You Say Pay — With Metaphors.

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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. © 2015. Anne Miller. -- PERMISSION TO REPRINT -- Feel free to reprint in company newsletters or articles. Just include ©2015, Anne Miller, author, "Metaphorically Selling,"
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