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Smarter change

Using metaphor in training

Using metaphor in training and presenting is useful because:

  • give people an outsider’s perspective on their own situation
  • talk with and directionalise the unconscious mind while entertaining and distracting the conscious mind
  • install strategies
  • reframe a situation
  • anchor desired states
  • future pace
  • collapse negative anchors
  • pace and lead them to a desired state

If metaphor is a false moustache, to disguise explanation and clarification, deep metaphor is a full disguise that very few people see through, and allows you even more subtlety.

John Grinder suggests when you are three metaphors deep your words go directly to the unconscious mind. People are more likely to take it in without thinking critically about it. This means you can lead much more strongly without pacing first, once you are three metaphors deep.

Creating a metaphor

To create a metaphor

  • list features of the present state (where you are now)
  • list features of the desired state (where you want to be)
  • design a metaphor/story with the same features
  • get the audience to identify with the protagonist of the story
  • pace the audience’s present situation with similar relationships between characters / figures / environment
  • tell the story which adds resources (as the protagonist grows / learns, so do the audience)
  • finish the story in a way where the protagonists resolve the present state and achieve a desired state.

Try building your own deep metaphor that will lead people to

  • learn easily, effortlessly, and enjoyably
  • listen attentively in a meeting
  • be open to new ideas
  • be open to healing conflict in the workplace
  • want to trust you.

Delivery variables for deep metaphors

To deliver a deep metaphor:

  • speak at one third of normal pace
  • use a low, soft voice
  • put the emphasis at top/bottom of breathing cycle
  • use a positive description (so people want to identify with it)
  • incorporate whatever happens
  • embed stories

Deep and shallow metaphors

Why use a shallow metaphor:

  • make something strange and new easier to understand
  • help people understand information at a conscious level

Why use a deep metaphor:

  • move the unconscious mind towards a desired state without necessarily involving the conscious mind.

Definition of a shallow metaphor:

  • more like an analogy – the heart is (like) a pump because it pumps, and that is where the similarity ends
  • e.g. the heart is a pump, the training room is a laboratory, your career is like a bicycle

Definition of a deep metaphor

  • extended comparison – similarities between two situations are extended
  • not always explicit: the mind is left to work out the meaning of the metaphor, and create its own meanings
  • invites people to make sense of the information at different levels (sometimes even at levels which the speaker did not even intend)
  • e.g. magic formula stories where metaphor is never fully explained e.g. learning as a Star Trek journey through space and time, encountering new races, species, people, examining new ways of being, boldly going etc
  • means stories need to be evaluated for their metaphoric content as well as their “point and benefit”
  • would include embedded commands, analog marking, and other Milton Model patterns to induce the desired state

Construct a shallow metaphor: define the feature of the new element you want to highlight, find another thing which has those properties

Construct a deep metaphor

  • define the features of the present and desired state (there may be several of these)
  • design a story with the same features.
  • Genie Laborde’s METAPHOR mnemonic

M atch

E lements

T hat

A pply to

P resent/Desired State

H ide them in a story

O rganised around outcomes for

R eceptive Response

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