The Power of Metaphors

The best communicators use metaphors all the time. Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, great communicators use metaphors in their speeches. George W. Bush used metaphors extensively in his speeches. For example, “Every nation [… ] now has a decision to make. Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists”, conveying the meaning about role relationships, and “we [America] are the brightest beacon for freedom and opportunity in the world”, representing reality through conceptional metaphors, signifying here the position of the United States in the world.

Metaphors are a great way to help people understand abstract concepts, create a sense of familiarity, trigger emotions, draw attention and motivate action.

Let’s look at the use of metaphors in detail

Metaphors Can Put Abstract Concepts in Concrete Terms
Both in writing (websites, blogs, articles, books) and in speech (discourses, videos, presentations), metaphors are a great tool to help people better understand abstract or unfamiliar content. By comparing abstract information to concrete concepts, it becomes easier for people to understand the information you desire to get across. For example, the metaphor “the days ahead” expresses time as a path into physical space, or the metaphor “giving my time” expresses something that can be handled and offered as a gift. Different abstract conceptual metaphors are usually used when the speaker is trying to get a point of view across. One might associate “the days ahead” with leadership, whereas the phrase “giving my time” carries stronger connotations of bargaining.

Metaphors Create Familiarity
We love to be familiar with things. If we are not familiar with something, we try our best to make sense of whatever we’re looking at or listening to. Familiarity is very important. It creates a sense of connection, comfort, and tolerance. Familiarity allows people to integrate whatever it is you’re presenting into the framework of their reality. Companies use metaphors in their names to create familiarity. For example “Reliable Plumbing Co” conveys trust, and we all like trust. “Sun First Solar Energy Co” conveys a sense responsibility as we are all familiar with the importance of using renewable energy. what is a metaphor

Metaphors Can Trigger Emotions
Using metaphors to trigger emotions is very popular with sales people. Emotions not only can make your idea appealing and more effective, but also more pleasurable and memorable. The most common emotions triggered by metaphors are anger, love, fear, happiness, sadness. For example, “drink this fruit juice and you will be in heaven” will convey a sense of joy and pleasure.

Metaphors Can Motivate to Take Action
A very interesting aspect of metaphors is that they can influence people to take actions. Metaphors are used to change an attitude about something. When you give a person a metaphor, you not only change the attitude of that person, but you also change his or her behavior. If you give the right metaphor, you can trigger that person to take immediate action. For example, if you want to sell a weight loss product and you are speaking to a room full of overweight people and you tell them that your product tastes good and by drinking just a couple of ounces a day, they will lose 30 lbs in 15 days, the likelihood that many will jump at you wanting to buy that product is pretty small. Instead, if you tell them you used to be 70 lbs overweight, your back always hurt, you could no longer wear your best clothes, you were ashamed and afraid to walk out the door for fear of being looked at and ridiculed, and so forth, but then one day you came across this product and because you had nothing else to lose, you decided to give it a try anyway and drink it! And in a matter of a couple of weeks, everything changed, you felt great again, your confidence came back, you started dating again, going to the gym, meeting people, being your old, nice, good looking self! The crowd feels for you and they are in.


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