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A metaphor is a figure of speech based on a comparison.
By using metaphors we make three connections:

  1. A connection of the present situation and the desired situation. Both the problem and the target situation is discussed. That gives on the other hand recognition and provides direction for the solution.
  2. A connection between the speaker and the listener. By telling a story (metaphor) the listener connects with the narrator. This often does not happens when the other person gives pure advice. People can shut down from opinions ("stop interfering!").
  3. A connection between the situation of the listener and the metaphor. All Change, Learning and Behaviour is unconscious, so the metaphor comes through to us unconsciously as a message. It can suddenly happen that a listener consciously gets the message from the metaphor and connects it to their own situation. In that case, the metaphor worked as an insight.

Unconscious communication

Through stories and metaphors people are led to ideas and past experiences outside of the direct comprehension of the reason. The special feature of stories and metaphors is that they can convey messages without the consciousness of the listener counteracting.

In other words, a story or metaphor provides a framework for someone whereby he can see his reality through a different eye.

How do metaphors work?

Wibe Veenbaas explains in his Dutch book Op verhaal komen "Op verhaal komen" how metaphors can function.

  1. As continuation of object language (common language) stalled argument.
  2. A way to get the stalled thinking pattern (lack of understanding) up and going. The listener gets handed new ways of thinking through parallel association patterns.
  3. To discuss sensitive topics.
  4. To create a grip in view of large and complex abstractions.
  5. To provide memory support in learning processes.
  6. To attract complete and receptive (receptive) attention.
  7. As an example model for creative behaviour to bring the listener to creative associate
  8. Through analogy (comparative situation) structuring of a change process.
  9. To offer a group a common framework in which a certain (difficult) topic can be discussed.

Ingredients for a good metaphor

  1. Rapport. Make sure there is rapport, this enhances the connection between the narrator and the listener and thus makes the other connections possible.
  2. Representational systems. Use all representational systems. A beautiful form is the KAVAK-loop. Start the metaphor in the Kinesthetic system, then the Auditory tonal system, followed by the Visual system. Reverse the closure of the metaphor. Make use of predicates.
  3. Voice. Play with volume, timbre, tempo and pitch. Apply a variation in your voice, highlight important parts, repeat some words and build in an occasional pause.
  4. Physiology. Use your body, hands and facial expressions to include a metaphor force. Standing transmits other information than when sitting, walking presses movement, standing still breaks that pattern, etc.
  5. Milton Patterns. Milton patterns work hypnotic and are great to use for giving people messages along with a metaphor.


The Magic of Methaphor - Nick Owen
More books about methaphors.

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