Listening to the Story

Happy New Year!

If I were to make a resolution in helping clients in any context – it would probably be to listen more and talk less.

And one of the things it would be worth listening to is the metaphor. One of my English professors many years ago decried the fall of the metaphor in favour of the simile in poetry, but metaphors are alive and well in everyday speech.

A provocative take on this is provided by Andy Austin in his work in Metaphors of Movement. He observes that we use them in several ways – to describe feelings, to provide context, to analyze our situations. These are mini stories, that like all metaphors, capture a huge amount of information in a single frame. They can also provide clues to what is wrong with our approach – particularly in how we are trying to solve a problem, or in our expectations of how to deal with it.

An amusing example is the business leader who comments that he has spent two years planning and building a business – and it is not taking off. Austin’s comment is that something so solidly built is actually not likely to take off. Wings won’t help. It’s solid and intended to stay put.

Brick Wall

So listening to the metaphor – and especially listening for the discrepancy between two of them can provide some insight into where we might be getting it wrong.