How to Supercharge Your Communications with Simple Metaphors
Do you sometimes struggle to convince your audience? Are your powers of persuasion weaker than you would like? Are you sometimes frustrated by your team's lack of energy?
Imagine you’re taking a break on a tropical island.
You’re strolling along the sandy beach in the twilight. Small surf is lapping over your bare feet.
The soft sounds of the sea are competing with the cries of the young hawkers shouting in their native language and gesticulating with windmilling arms. They are trying to persuade you to dine at one of the restaurants scattered amidst the palm trees.
The thatch-roofed restaurants all look interesting. Colored lights twinkle along the edge of roofs overhang verandas. Waiters in long white robes smile invitingly. The rattan-covered chairs and batik tablecloths speak of exotic dishes to be enjoyed within.
You are wondering how you will decide which restaurant to choose for your evening meal when one young hawker suddenly shouts out, “Gordon Ramsay” and makes inviting hand signals towards his restaurant.
This young entrepreneur has injected a note of recognizable quality simply by mentioning the famous chef. Even though you realize that there is little likelihood that the great man ever ate or even cooked in such a place you are persuaded.
What persuades you is the emotional connection with the byword for quality. The hawker has used a metaphor with which you can identify.
Know your audience
The communication skill that the young hawker leveraged was to recognize that you come from a country where televisions proliferate and you are therefore likely to be aware of the chef’s reputation.
He broke into your world.
The skill of using metaphors and suggestions to enhance communication is to know enough about your audience to recognize what they like, admire, enjoy, or respect.
If your audience likes sports, create a bridge of empathy by talking to them about sports. If they like video games, talk about video games. If they like music, talk to them about music.
This manager made powerful use of a metaphor
The company sells business language courses online in 107 different countries.
A young designer in the marketing department had designed sales pages for the company website that were working really well.
The company was keen to roll out the sales pages in all countries. The young designer wanted to do all the implementation himself to make sure it was done correctly.
The head of the design department recognized that it was not practical for one person to do all the work in many different languages. He asked the young designer to train a team to implement the designs, but the designer became very upset that he might lose control.
The head of marketing (HM) discovered that the young designer (D) was a keen football player who played every weekend.
This is the conversation they had:
HM: “In your football team, does the manager play in all positions?”
D: “No, of course not he’s the manager.”
HM: “So, what you’re saying is that one person cannot do all the work?”
D: “Yes, football’s a team game. We each have our own role. We each play in the position that we’re best suited to.”
HM: “So, even though the way you play is the manager’s idea and he does not play, you are all able to implement his plans?”
D: “Yes, that’s how it works.”
HM: “Do you think that is an efficient system? I mean, is it in the best interests of the team?”
D: ”Yes, of course. We each have to play our role in the way the manager decides is best for the team.”
HM: “I would like to ask you a different question now. Given that you’ve just designed these highly successful sales pages for our website, do you think you’re a talented designer?”
D: “Yes, I’m proud of the work I’ve done and the way it works.”
HM: “I agree that you are an exceptionally talented designer and I believe that is where you make your most valuable contribution to the team.” The HM smiled. “So, using a footballing analogy, would you play a center-forward who scores lots of goals as a goalkeeper?”
D: “No, that would be wasteful.”
HM: “I agree. And that’s why I would like you to work on this new design project rather than waste your talent training others to do a job you already know how to do.” He smiled again. “Does that make sense to you?”
D: “Yes.” He smiles happily.
Effective communicators know the interests, ambitions, likes, hobbies, abilities, and aptitudes of their team members and their customers.
To improve your communications learn about the interests of your audiences.