Do you need to affect with tales? Select good metaphors

February 24, 2021 9 min read

This article was translated from our Spanish edition using AI technologies. Errors can occur due to this process.

The opinions expressed by the entrepreneur’s contributors are their own.

  • Your business storytelling will improve when you master metaphors and use them to your advantage.
  • Sketches, analogies and allegories bring various advantages to your presentations.
  • Learn when it is most useful to use them and some tips to help you generate them.

Although there are different languages ​​in the world, the phenomenon of metaphors is universal. Everywhere and everywhere, from the epic Gilgamesh to the holy books or social media, humanity has conveyed complex ideas through simple meanings. Mastering this storytelling resource can help you do better business.

What is a metaphor?

First, let’s talk about language tools. And especially of rhetorical figures. Metaphors are ways of making comparisons and similarities between things of different kinds. For example: we can equate a person’s behavior with that of an artifact when we say that someone “becomes more than a fan”. Of course, nobody is a fan, but if the person has been going from one place to another for a long time, this mental picture tells us more than a thousand words.

Metaphors help the recipients of our communication to be on the same mental level and to understand the message more clearly. Metaphorically one could say that they help “bring us all to the same page in the book”.

Business metaphors and storytelling

In an unconscious, if not innocent way, business language has been filled with metaphors, portraits, analogies and allegories over the past hundred years. This was done because it allows communication to be made more efficient: by storing words, we also save time and resources.

How many times have you heard of the elevator? In itself, the concept is already an analogy. And it is understood much faster than the statement of its definition: “Everything you can tell your boss about your project while the elevator is running.”

You’ve also heard of “data mining”. Another analogy. Everyone knows that data comes from observations and calculations, but never from mining in the strictest sense. Here, too, a mental picture is worth a thousand words.

Types of metaphors

According to American specialist Doug Rose, we can talk about three types of metaphorical figures that are common in the business world:

The appearance, which is defined as a “comparison between two objects or actions”, is made with a sentence such as “more (_____) than (______)” or “than (______) than (______)”. Think of the previous example: “A person who becomes more than a fan.” This is a quick tool for thinking and speaking. Help break the ice or reconnect with your audience. Sometimes it can be used as a joke (or even a malicious criticism). The analogy, which is defined as “a lengthy comparison between two different objects or actions that are similar in more than one sense”. The aim of the analogy is to show two compared elements (one simple and one complex) that have many things in common. And by explaining the simple, you discover the complex. For example, sometimes high performing professional teams are compared to soccer teams in several ways. First, all of its members play a role. Second, the goal of both teams is to win the competition. Third, all members must play in a coordinated manner. Fourth, there is always a “crack” or two in any team … and we could go on indefinitely. However, if you want to train a high performing professional team, it may be worth telling them about what is happening on a football team. Everyone will understand their role in the company and play it better.

The allegory, defined as “a fictional story, poem or portrait that brings us a message or an hour of life”. In this area I put, among other things, the parables of Jesus of Nazareth in the New Testament or the fables of the Greek Aesop or the reflections of Paulo Coelho. Lyric and poetry are widely used in this resource. There are really very beautiful allegories. The famous book “Who took my cheese? Could be an example. When to use a metaphor

Whether in internal or external communication, interpersonal or collective, there are many opportunities in professional life where metaphors can give you an advantage. I share two very valuable moments for myself: reshaping complex problems and communicating feelings and emotions.

Update: Imagine you are launching a new product. You have discovered a need that no one else has seen and you find yourself able to satisfy it. There is one problem, however: this need is not immediate and will not be apparent for a few years. So there is currently no way to demonstrate it with data. And that has consequences: you don’t get your investors to support you because they don’t see the need as you see it.

If you are faced with a complex problem that you cannot argue with data and that is also difficult to communicate with, then you can develop a realignment. As Nadia Goodman explained on, the technique of rephrasing (or refocusing) is to create a new perspective on a problem that is more convenient for you to observe, analyze, and explain. For example, reframing can help you find an analogy that everyone uses to understand you.

Do you want an example? When Steve Jobs launched the first Apple iPod in 2001, he could have explained his idea with slang and complex words. He could have said, “We plugged in a lot of chips and cables so people would have a cool device,” or “We believe there will be so many people out there who will buy the product if we can give it to them for so many dollars a piece to sell.” . “

But he avoided all of that. Instead, he preferred a metaphor to grab the attention of his audience: “What if we get everyone to put the entire disco (CDs, records, cassettes …) in their pockets?” Today the concept seems obvious to us, but 20 years ago it was something revolutionary: pure analogy.

Communicate feelings: More and more companies want to be excellent in their processes. They strive to put people at the center of their business, taking into account the expectations of everyone involved. But in order to do this, they must first have a good understanding of how all these people feel and thus be in resonance with these feelings. And that’s difficult.

Personally, I think feelings are one of the most complex things to talk about in life. When I say “anger,” “sadness,” or “joy,” you’ll know what I’m talking about. You know, yes, but you don’t feel it. Instead, I can use metaphors to increase the impact of what I am trying to tell you.

For example: I once had a boss who was always grumpy. I could describe it to you in two ways, a long and a short:

  • In detail: “My boss was a person who felt a lot of anger inside, but cared a lot about his outer forms. So your first impression on him was always favorable. But when you treated him daily, you saw that he was a bitter person. “(42 words)
  • In short: “My boss was like a snow-capped volcano. ”(9 words)
  • The second way is much shorter and creates a more lasting image in your head. Therefore, it is more efficient: with much less, you achieve much more. Companies that want to excel could benefit from fostering a culture of metaphors that helps them better convey and understand the emotions of their internal or external audience.

Four tips to help you master your metaphors

If you want to improve your business storytelling with metaphors, we recommend that you follow these four tips:

First: Read and listen. A lot of. Read from others. Especially by writers and authors who use that rhetoric that makes you feel connected to their message. And listen to people who speak well and who make you feel better about yourself.

Second: Observe the things that happen to you and the situations that surround you. If something reminds you of something else, think why. You might be faced with an interesting metaphor.

Third: Take notes of your readings, listening, and observations. Lots. Don’t forget to always have a notebook with you. This is where you collect the ideas that went so well in your head. If you have any doubts about whether you want to keep listening or score, score! Anything you don’t write down once it resonates with you will be a forgetfulness.

Fourth: work out. A lot of. Over the months, your notebook will be full of metaphors. Analyze them, group them, meditate on them, and finally apply them in your formal, informal, verbal and written communication. If they are successful, save them. If not, find others. You learn a new descriptive power. And your business storytelling will improve a lot.

Comments are closed.