The Stock Market, Balloons, Southern Charm and Metaphor
I was reading a book about the stock market recently. It brought to mind hypnosis. Hypnosis? Sometimes when I teach how to communicate with the unconscious mind using metaphor, people ask me if you can use metaphor in a business context. The answer is an emphatic “Yes you can!”[video_player type=”url” url1=”” url2=”” width=”560″ height=”315″ align=”center” margin_top=”0″ margin_bottom=”20″]aHR0cDovL2QzZ3JsdXZ6ZWtlNDd3LmNsb3VkZnJvbnQubmV0L21ldGFwaG9yLm1wNA==[/video_player]
A metaphor is a story whose meaning also fits another situation. For instance the expression “You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours,” usually isn’t a literal request for back scratching. It’s a metaphor for people helping each other. “Burning the candle at both ends” means working too hard. Metaphor is like shorthand for the mind. A simple metaphor or one-line simile can effectively get across an idea that otherwise takes a long time to communicate. In business, counseling or personal relationships, this kind of condensed, meaning packed communication is key.
Think about how much richer a metaphor is than simply stating the facts. When politicians want to have an impact on audiences they tell a story about how a particular policy affects an individual. Think about the differences…
“Cutting retirement benefits in the way my opponent suggests will cost the average person $137 in benefits per month.”
“Mary Smith uses her retirement payment to feed her three kids, Bobby, Sue and Johnny. If we implement my opponent’s plan she won’t be able to feed one of them. Can you imagine Mary coming home to her three hungry kids, sitting down at the dinner table and telling Johnny, ‘You can’t eat today son, mommy can’t afford it?'”
Which of those will have the greater impact on the greater number of people?
Balloons and Other Wisdom
A friend, (a Mental Health Counselor) recently used a metaphor with a couple of family members who were not communicating with each other. She had them put all their anger and resentment toward each other in balloons and popped the balloons! The metaphor of the balloons holding the anger and then popping did the trick. Within the space of a few minutes these folks were crying, hugging and talking openly with each other.
But back to the stock market…
Here are some metaphors that I picked up in the course of a few minutes watching the financial channels and surfing the web…
- Bull market and bear market (upward and downward trending markets, respectively).
- Bulls go up the stairs and bears go out the window (a metaphor explaining that stock prices rise slowly and drop quickly).
- Bulls get rich and bears get rich but pigs get slaughtered (a metaphor explaining that you can make money in up or down markets but greediness can result in losses in any situation).
- A “dead cat bounce” graphically describes a slight rise in a stock price after a tremendous drop.
- If you bought stocks and the stocks went up, they must be good -right? Well, “a rising tide lifts all boats.” That’s a metaphor that tells you that in an upwardly trending market many stocks go up, whether or not they are good long term investments.
- “Catch a falling knife” describes the process of trying to buy a quickly falling stock right before or as it’s reaching it’s low price. As the metaphor implies, it can be a dangerous practice.
- Jonathan Swift, the author of Gulliver’s Travels, first used the term “bubble” in relation to the South Sea Crude Oil collapse of 1720. In 2000, we started to hear about the “tech-bubble” and the “dotcom bubble.” A bubble bursting is certainly an apt description of what happened to many tech stock prices in the following period.
Southern Expressions as Metaphor
“As nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs” paints a more vivid picture than “he’s nervous,” doesn’t it? “The man’s engine is runnin’, but ain’t nobody driving” really gets the idea across of someone who is “a few bricks shy of a full load” or “only has one oar in the water.” “Shutting the barn door after the horse has done gone” means trying to solve a problem too late in the process.
The truth is that metaphor is an incredibly powerful and rich way to communicate ideas. Metaphors engage the conscious mind and the unconscious mind at the same time. They get a logical message across while at the same time activating your imagination and emotions. Engaging the mind at all levels allows you to transmit ultra-compelling communications deep into the mind to make them permanently powerful.
That’s why people routinely communicate with metaphor. And one of my beliefs is that it is respectful to people who communicate to you in metaphor, to communicate back to them in metaphor. If you want to be effective and you deal with people at all, you should master metaphor. If you want to be a master communicator in any field, skill with metaphor is essential. But how?
Free, 7-part Email Mini-Course on Metaphor
- What is a Metaphor?
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- How to Construct Metaphors
- A Real Life Metaphor Story – and the Results
- Building Effective Metaphors (Parallel Realities)
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