The Easy Way to Get Your Point Across
Metaphor' meant in Greek 'carry something across' or 'transfer.' The classic definition is comparing two things without using the words 'like' and 'as' but lately we use it more broadly, as a vivid statement that makes a point.
Using metaphors is a master coaching skill, and useful for anyone who wants to influence or help others. It makes something very clear in a few words, and does it by going directly to the right brain where it's 'gotten' unconsciously so can't be argued with, logically. Powerful. Here are some common ones nearly everyone will know:
SPINNING GOLD OUT OF STRAW
This comes from the fairytale 'Rapunzel.' The princess had to spin gold out of straw every night, and Rapunzel helped her. It stands for something 'impossible' to do. Coaches often help clients spin gold out of straw, and the good news is we require a coaching fee, not your firstborn!
ALL WORK AND NO PLAY MAKES JACK A DULL BOY
This is familiar to most of us from childhood and refers to life balance. I never had a client come to me who said, 'Please help me learn to work more. My life is out of balance.'
One of those 'smackdown' fairytales from Hans Christian Andersen, who didn't pull his punches. It's about a little girl who absolutely had to have a pair of red dancing shoes, an obsession. Once she got them, and put them on, she couldn't get them off, and she danced herself to death. Sometimes we help our clients remove the red shoes.
IF MOHAMMED CAN - T COME TO THE MOUNTAIN, BRING THE MOUNTAIN TO MOHAMMED
An example of this is the Just Think Foundation's Media Mobile bus which brings media learning opportunity to inner-city teenagers in San Francisco. It means if they can't, or won't, come to you, take it to them. Or, do it the easy way. Be flexible. Don't get stuck on - it has to be done this way and I'm going to cram it down their throats.
YOU CAN - T MAKE A SILK PURSE OUR OF A SOW - S EAR
So don't try! Some things aren't going to happen, and the wisdom is to know what's worth your time and energy. Of course in coaching we might add, 'Unless the sow's ear wants to be a silk purse,' because amazing things can happen when someone wants to change and gets good, consistent guidance in doing so.
WHEN IN ROME, DO AS THE ROMANS DO
This is a wonderful Emotional Intelligence expression. It means blending with the culture you're in, and being willing to do things differently. Because the Roman Empire did this, it was able to extend as far as it did, and last as long as it did. When they conquered another country, they were interested in taxes. They didn't try and impose their culture or religion on the conquered people. They did bring their exceptional administrative skills, and did important things like build roads. Why rebel?
DON - T MAKE A MOUNTAIN OUT OF A MOLEHILL
Another excellent metaphor for keeping perspective, and using your Emotional Intelligence. It reminds us to watch our attitude and self-talk, and not make things worse than they already are by exaggerating, fantasizing, catastrophizing 'making a mountain out of a molehill.
NECESSITY IS THE MOTHER OF INVENTION
This is a great motivational and inspirational one. It's a call-to-arms, and the opposite of playing the 'victim.' 'Well, you have a difficulty here and that's great motivation for inventing, creating the solution. Let's go!' A very coaching, forward-orienting statement.
WHEN ALL YOU HAVE IS A HAMMER, EVERYTHING LOOKS LIKE A NAIL
A great short-cut way to say you have to have a variety of tools'which in coaching generally means points of view and ability to generate solutions, as there's always more than one. Reminds me of Einstein's 'you can't solve a problem on the same plane where it was created.' Always be adding new tools to your tool-box, and this is how many people refer to learning Emotional Intelligence.
BETTER THE DEVIL YOU KNOW THAN THE DEVIL YOU DON - T
This explains a self-limiting mindset, for instance when a couple is miserable and stays together because they think it might be even worse with someone else. What an attitude! It's fear of the unknown combined with a pessimistic attitude, and an obstacle to many clients. This is a life without positive possibilities. Thank goodness for coaching!
About the Author
Susan Dunn, MA Psychology, Emotional Intelligence Coach, I help people become better communicators and develop their emotional intelligence through coaching, Internet courses and ebooks. Susan is the author of "Nonverbal Communication."