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


Metaphor Minute: Ice Cream, Dogs, Cars?


Dec 7, 2016

Ice Cream, Dogs, Cars?

How would you describe a smartphone to someone living in the 1950’s? to someone in the 1600’s? That’s an exercise you do in an improv course for corporations run by Improv Inc., from Chicago’s famous comedy factory Second City.( Fast Company Magazine )

They divide participants into groups of three and give them 60 seconds each to explain what a smartphone does--without using any props. The first person describes it to someone in 2016. The second describes it to someone in the 1950s and the third to someone in the 1600s. The exercise forces the describers to really think about what the other person will need to understand exactly what a smart phone is. “It really forces you to be empathetic to their point of view.”

Which is exactly what any metaphor maker has to do to influence listeners.

When They Are Too Upset to Hear

Deborah Bier wrote me with such a challenge that she faces in a very sensitive situation. Deborah is the Director of Special Populations at ComForCare Senior Services. She created their DementiaWise program of best practices.

When people hear a diagnosis of dementia for a loved one, they frequently panic, assume the worst, and think Alzheimers (!). In fact, that assumption can be a mistake.

Dementia is a syndrome, not a disease. It is a group of symptoms that affects mental cognitive tasks such as memory and can be due to a number of conditions. These panicked family members are frightened and confused and often don’t “hear” her technical explanation. She needs to give them more. She explains,

“I am a much in demand speaker, but I feel that I need to start speaking differently to families than I have been. I'm missing their needs in some way. I'm very sensitive to their emotional experience as caregivers, but I'm intuiting that they're getting lost with the basic facts they really do need (much of what they already know is incorrect). I'm also trying to bring a positive perspective to them -- when using improved care methods, they and their loved ones will have better lives. Care will be easier. They will be better emotionally connected and satisfied.”
“But if they're feeling too overwhelmed and scared, they can't hear this. I thought metaphors might route right around their fears and the stuff they think they know to help them entertain the possibility of a new view.”

“Dementia is collection of illnesses that involves cognitive impairment. Alzheimer's is only one of those illnesses -- the most frequently diagnosed and the one we hear about the most. It is important to understand that all Alzheimer's disease is dementia, but not all dementia is Alzheimer's.
(Emphasis mine)

“What I came up with, said Deborah, “that seems to really help families separate Alzheimers from Dementia is the following: It's like ice cream. All chocolate ice cream (Alzheimer’s) is ice cream (Dementia), but not all ice cream is chocolate."

I also offer: "All poodles are dogs, but not all dogs are poodles. All Fords are cars, but not all cars are Fords." Between dogs, cars and ice cream, I think no one is confused any longer.”

Second City, Deborah, & You

Deborah and the Second City understand the power of empathy and the importance of knowing your audience when it comes to creating deep, meaningful communication.

Let’s switch their insights to your world:

  • What different audiences do you address (functions, levels of sophistication, knowledge, experience)? Do you develop different metaphors for each of these audiences for maximum understanding and resonance?

  • What distinctions do you attempt to communicate about your services, products or ideas? What metaphor or analogy do you use to sharpen those differences for your listeners to get you the results you want more quickly?

Einstein said, “If I can’t see it, I don’t understand it.” Metaphors are your best tool for helping listeners “see” what you are saying.

Wishing you a fun filled, peaceful Holiday Season. The Metaphor Minute will see you in the New Year!

Anne Miller
Make What You Say Pay! — with Metaphors

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"Anne and I recently worked together on a speech I gave at a large conference. She helped me turn a series of somewhat interesting points into an expertly crafted, compelling and actionable story. Together, we built a storyline with attention-grabbing headlines. We worked and re-worked the language, making sure every word was important. Finally, Anne coached me on the delivery. The result was so exciting - I've never been so well received in a speech before. Thank you, Anne!" Kate Griffin, Vice President,

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Links I Like:

Great Resources:

"The best arguments
dazzle with metaphor"

Gerry Spence,
Media Commentator & Lawyer

The Original “Metaphorically Selling” that spawned a movement, now with 25 New Stories.  Available in print, ebook & (new) audiobook formats.
Click here

7 Signs You Need A Metaphor (Visual Language)

  1. Your listener is not paying attention
  2. Your listener is stuck on an objection
  3. Your listener is confused
  4. Your listener sees no difference between you and your competition
  5. You want to drive home a point vividly and memorably
  6. You have to wiggle out of a difficult situation
  7. You want to wow or motivate a larger audience

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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. © 2016. Anne Miller. -- PERMISSION TO REPRINT -- Feel free to reprint in company newsletters or articles. Just include ©2016, Anne Miller, author, "Metaphorically Selling,"
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