Too often metaphors and similes get relegated to the poets and dreamers (aka fiction-writers).  This is a shame because they are a wonderful asset for the communicator.  There are two main reasons for this:

1) By using a metaphor or a simile, you are demanding the audience’s participation, but in a subtle way.  Particularly if you avoid the cliches.  When you say “his presentation was as dry as a sheet of drywall,” you’ve encouraged your audience to create that sheet of drywall in their mind.  Now it isn’t just that you’re dumping information, you’re demanding their participation.  They have an investment in what you’re saying because it is pulling on their imagination.
2)  Corporate america seems (in my humble opinion) to be drowning in words that don’t mean what we all think they mean.  You can have a conversation with a client, colleague, or supervisor and think that you’re in agreement only to discover that the project that what they meant when they said they had an exciting challenge and an opportunity for growth for you, what they meant was “this project is underfunded, under-staffed, and has on competent leadership.  If you can pull it off, it will be a miracle.  If not, you’ll be fired.”

Metaphors and similes are hard to wiggle out of because they are concrete.  When you find the right metaphor/simile, there’s no confusion,  no doubt about what you meant when you expressed yourself.  One of my favorite people says “that’s just wrong like a soup sandwich.”  There’s no mistaking what that means.  You can’t back away from that.  It’s concrete, it’s clear, and it stays with you.

And really, what’s the point of communicating if you aren’t finding a way to stick with your audience?


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