Why Does Metaphor Matter?

I’m a passionate enthusiast for metaphor (as regular readers may have noticed). There’s a reason for that.

Metaphor matters because it’s the native language of the unconscious mind… and it’s the unconscious mind which determines the bulk of human behaviour.

Traditionally the unconscious or subconscious mind has been seen as a dark, mysterious place, scene of all kinds of inexplicable goings-on. It’s like a foreign country.

Imagine what can happen once you understand – and speak – the native language.

The unconscious mind will probably still be a foreign country. The local customs may vary from those you’re used to. The cars might even be on the wrong side of the road!

But now you can read the road signs. You have the ability to know what’s directing people’s behaviour. You can grasp what’s going on, what’s really important to them, and find effective, win-win ways to fit your plans with theirs.

And you can influence their behaviour more directly, more precisely, when you can speak the language.

Instead of doing your best Basil Fawlty impression, shouting more and more loudly in your own words, you can simply ask for what you want and expect to be understood! That doesn’t mean you’ll always get what you want, of course. But it’s an important step.

  • P.S. After I posted this yesterday, my friend Newport pointed out that using the “wrong” language could have very serious consequences, way beyond misunderstandings. His personal story highlighted the dangers of speaking German on a YCL trip to the Dalmatian coast of Yugoslavia back in the 1960s. He ordered a beer and a cheese sandwich in his grandmother’s language, since nobody spoke any English. And every word was understood – but he was lucky to get out of the bar alive!

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