A powerful metaphor can change the way we think. That’s been known for many years – by politicians, religious leaders, entertainers, advertisers, teachers and more.
Here’s a personal example. Recently, I’ve enjoyed some very useful new insights thanks to a metaphor from Jonathan Haidt in his fascinating book The Happiness Hypothesis. Haidt likens the mind to a rider on an elephant. The rider is the conscious part of the mind – the small fraction of our being that we are aware of – and the elephant is everything else.
It’s also well known that a powerful metaphor can be used to communicate complex ideas quickly and easily.
That’s because it makes sense not only to the rider (the conscious mind) but also to the elephant (the unconscious). The elephant isn’t always great with abstract words, but it loves metaphors and understands them easily.
Riders, elephants and information
This works very well for information the person is consciously aware of, such as the name of the capital of Afghanistan or the recipe for apple pie.
At the same time, your elephant is communicating with theirs, and picking up all kinds of subtle clues to things like their social status and emotional state: the kind of things animals love to notice about each other.
It’s as if the riders and elephants are speaking different languages, and the two conversations are going on in parallel.
That’s fine as far as it goes. But what happens when you need some of the information the elephant has, but the rider isn’t aware of? For example:
- what motivates the person most powerfully?
- why do they continue with habits they know are unhealthy, such as smoking and overeating?
- what do they really want from a new system, a new partner, or a new job?
That’s where X-Ray Listening comes in. A trained X-Ray Listener is like an Elephant Whisperer.
Once you can understand Elephantese, new kinds of communication become possible. You can:
- hear and understand your own elephant
- interview and understand another person’s elephant.
It’s not only fascinating, but extremely useful. For example, the new insights and understandings about other people can be used to develop systems, products or services that work perfectly for them. If you want to coach someone to change, helping them to understand their elephant can make the process almost effortless.
And what if you want to change yourself? I’m personally delighted to be able to say that X-Ray Listening works there, too. It’s great to have your elephant on board when you want to:
- lose weight
- stop smoking
- get more exercise
- sleep better
- attract the perfect partner
- get promoted
- be less anxious
- change limiting beliefs
- …and so on.
Internal conflicts, and the constant frustration of getting in your own way, can be dramatically reduced. And when such situations do arise, it’s possible to take real action to change them.
In fact, when you and your elephant really understand each other and work together as the perfect team, life’s a joy.