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Making Metaphorical Magic

By Peter Jeff
The Leadership Mints Guy

Here’s an idea to help you become more persuasive. Reading time: 3:02

           Even the students who think science is boring might reconsider if they thought that those who studied astronomy were “peeping Toms at the keyhole of eternity,” as author Arthur Koestler observed.

         bowl of fruitNo wonder the most effective leaders leverage the power of a metaphor.

         Think of a metaphor as a connection or a bridge between the new and the familiar, a connection that provides a new perspective –a new meaning –that can persuade an audience to reconsider its skeptical or apathetic attitude.

           So powerful is the metaphor that no less a great thinker than Greek philosopher Aristotle said: “The greatest thing by far is to have mastered the metaphor.” And the Spanish philosopher and writer Jose Ortega y Gasset added, “The metaphor is probably the most fertile power possessed by man.”

        kodak88lWhen Kodak invented the camera, the technology was so new and different the camera could only be valued by linking the new technology of a camera to something more familiar. Kodak called its camera a “mirror with a memory.”

       They connected two dissimilar things that actually have something in common. A camera’s film is the memory and the lens is the mirror. Link the two knowns to the unknown –a camera—and a metaphor is born.

        The dictionary defines a metaphor as an implied comparison between two unlike things (example, human body and garage) that actually have something important in common (example, storage.) “Your body is a garage to park your soul,” writes author Wayne Dyer.

         Metaphors provide a frame of reference to more fully apply new concepts or ideas. That’s why the first trains were called horseless carriages. After all, people already knew the purpose and the premise of a carriage. So a carriage without a horse must roll on wheels.

             Charles Revson, the founder of Revlon, used his metaphorical thinking to expand the reach of his business. “In the factory we make cosmetics. In the store we sell hope.” Likewise Porsche pays homage to the metaphor in its advertising: “A Porsche is not a car. It is the best engineered executive toy in the world.”

       Metaphors are so powerful they can transform much like the antique dealer who says your trash is our treasure. Consider the following treasure chest of metaphors:

       Chances are your audiences would see more value: making an appointment to see a Smile Stylist rather than a dentist or  purchasing “Jewelry” for their windows rather than window accessories such as curtain rods, rings, tie-backs and swag.

      Chances are your audiences would eat more fruit if they thought they were eating God’s Candy;  exercise more if they thought of their treadmill as a Flight Simulator, or do more research if they thought of themselves as Infonauts and the library as “the delivery room for the birth of ideas.”

      And chances are members of your audiences might more readily volunteer to become the designated driver if everyone kept calling him or her “the Life of the Party.”

Today’s ImproveMINT

Use Metaphors to keep your leadership thinking in mint condition.

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