In their research paper published in the journal, Memory & Cognition, Bowes and Katz say:
The research explains why we speak differently with friends and family than with strangers, and shows how we make friends and meet partners simply with the style of language we use. It provides novel evidence that metaphor plays a special role in connecting with the mental state of others.
The research boiled down to this point:
Participants were more skilled at reading the hidden emotions behind facial expressions when presented with an accompanying metaphor. When presented with a literal descriptive, participants were not as skilled at understanding facial expressions.
Another interesting experiment showed that friendships involved higher use of metaphors in conversation than non-friendships.
Metaphors are rapport power generators! Using them is proven to create greater mutual understanding and friendship.
Quick Tutorial on Metaphor
What is a linguistic metaphor (or NLP metaphor)?
A linguistic metaphor happens when you describe one thing in terms of another. For example:
Time is money. The vacation was a dream come true. The weather is like a sauna today.
Using a metaphor is a quick way to send a message that is easy to understand. Metaphors also create greater understanding between people and stronger rapport.
How can YOU use metaphor?
Let’s be flexible in what we’re calling metaphor here. We won’t split hairs among metaphor, simile, and analogy. This is English class.
First, come up with a few metaphorical expressions that you want to try out for a day. Think of the environments you’ll be in. Then, brainstorm ten simple metaphors. Use those metaphors during your day as opportunity presents.
It’s a cakewalk!
Here’s a simple dialogue with “Bob”:
Bob: Hey, what’s up?
You: Chillin’ like a villain!
Bob: Are you getting that XR22-459 report done?
You: I’m on it like white on rice!
Bob: Hey, got plans for the weekend?
You: This weekend is going to be Mardi Gras all over again!
Bob: Whoa! Cool.
Anyway, you get what I mean. It’s not rocket science.
Why do this?
To create greater camaraderie, strengthen friendships and have a good time with your language. It’s fun.
Best of all, you will be using your mind and your mouth intentionally. More than anything, this is why NLP is important. It teaches you to be conscious and deliberate in your communication. Get off autopilot! As long as your integrity is intact, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
What NOT to do:
Don’t force it. Prep your metaphors and use them naturally. Trying to force a metaphor into conversation will be….awkward.
Don’t use metaphors when literal language is a must. For example, when giving instructions that should be precise.
Don’t bust a metaphor every five minutes all day long. Please.
If you’re really curious, do this two-day personal experiment.
After getting pretty good at using metaphors, do a little test.
Day one: Use metaphors throughout the day. At the end of each interaction, give it a score on a scale of 1-10. A score of ten equals high rapport, friendship, understanding and success. A score of one equals none of the above.
Day two: Be literal all day long. Don’t use metaphors in your language at all (when you can help it). Rate each interaction on the same scale of 1-10.
Compare the average score of each day. How do they compare?
Your findings will be far from scientific, but they may give you clues about how using metaphors impacts your day.
Finally, if you’re convinced that metaphors are as powerful as the research suggests, then you’ll want to look into life metaphors.
Life metaphors are deep, unconscious filters that determine the very meaning of your life. Many of us harbor self-damaging life metaphors, unfortunately.
So often we act as if we don't have a choice in the way we experience life. The truth is that you can radically change your entire way of being in the world by simply changing your life metaphor. Imagine if you could be happier and more content, more loving towards others, more motivated and fulfilled, with a greater capacity to handle challenges. Read more...
Mike Bundrant is a retired psychotherapist, Master NLP trainer, and practicing life coach. He and his wife, Hope, founded iNLP Center in 2011. For information on coaching with Mike, please visit his coaching website AHA System.