Infectious metaphors

As I mentioned recently, the habit of thinking in metaphor is so central to our everyday experience that we barely notice it. But the metaphors we use in our thinking have a huge impact on how we live our lives.

Our metaphors influence our actions

Do you think of life a constant battle? Are you constantly struggling to stay on top? If so, it’s likely you’ll behave very differently from someone who thinks that life is just a game: it’s great fun to win, but it’s also fun to play.

As well as influencing us our actions on a ‘macro’ scale, helping to decide how we live our lives, the metaphors in our thinking affect our actions at all kinds of levels. For example, for you, the internet is like… what? And what difference does that make to how you respond to this post? (Feel free to comment below!)

Our metaphors influence other people

The metaphors we use in our thinking spill out unconsciously in our language (and also in our body language).

They’re infectious – it’s likely you’ll share metaphors with members of your family; with your friends; with your colleagues; with people in your culture.

For example, while most people in the west tend to think of the past as behind them and the future in front, some specific groups have time organised the other way, with the past in front of them. Imagine what that does to their behaviour!

I’ve been reading Connected, The Amazing Power of Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives, which spells out the impact of the people around us on our behaviour. Our friends and friends-of-friends can make us fat, or make us happier, for example.

It seems likely that the metaphors we use in our thinking, and which spill out in our language, form one of the most important ways in which “transmission” of ideas – and of corresponding behaviour – takes place.

And what’s most exciting about that is that with a small amount of training and practice, we can learn to notice (and potentially to change) those metaphoric vectors. I wonder what happens next?

6 Comments

  • Paul Goulart

    23/03/2011

    Hi Judy;

    I have always heard that knowledge is power, as probably most people believe too. However, I now believe, because of your Intelligent Influence, that this is not actual truth.

    So what is the actual truth? Applied Knowledge is real Power and you feed it to all that follow your applied knowledge, bit by small bit. It gives us all the opportunity to chew each bit up and savor the wisdom from the your well served Intelligence Influence. You are truly ‘One of a Kind’.

    Warmest regards,

    Paul

  • Roger

    23/03/2011

    As to “infectious metaphors”(which is a lovely metaphor), I suppose you might mean that these metaphors invade our brains and create in mental infection. However, it occurred to me that vaccinations do the same thing and bring about protection from infections. Perhaps therapists and coaches are really inoculatists. 🙂

  • Judy

    23/03/2011

    Paul, many thanks for your kind words.
    And Roger, many thanks for an interesting idea. Am I right in thinking that a vaccination is a small dose of a disease vector, which provokes and antibody response in the person? I hope I’ve got that right – it’s reminding me that we don’t just “compare”, we also “contrast”: we don’t just find things “like” others but also “unlike”.

  • trine

    23/03/2011

    hey Judy,
    Today I went to a pitch,this one is at an innovation centre,there is the audience and here is the speaker, a winner of Dragons Den,really, this one got picked to pitch. I’m in the room,imagine for real,its happening,here I am…a dream comes true,Im right now, pitching for money, talking for futures, money for futures, right there now,The gaze is so full I’m surrounded, wrapped attention, surrounds fully in it. Talking futures now money. Dream realised.

  • Judy

    24/03/2011

    Wow! That’s fabulous Trine, well done!
    And what happens next?

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