Figurative Language, Figurative Fun

In a world where only the poets and advertisers grasp the power of figurative language, may teachers and leaders never forget: One of your greatest tools in communication is the use of metaphor.

It was Aristotle who wrote:

“Ordinary words convey only what we know already, it is from metaphor that we can best get hold of something fresh” (Rhetoric, 1410b).

He also stated:

“But the greatest thing by far is to be a master of metaphor. That alone cannot be learned, it is the token of genius. For the right use of metaphor means a perception of the similarity in dissimilar things” (Poetics, 1459a).

For the primary interest in the use of metaphor is to make a comparison, creating an experiential reflection. It is about creating a conceptual bridge of RESEMBLANCE (though it exists in a creative tension with dissimilarity).

When you find the appropriate metaphor to communicate your message, you will not only connect with their intellect (left brain), but you will invite their imagination (right brain). It is then your message will actually take life within the listener, enabling greater, more effective transformative results.

Consider how you use metaphor in the way you lead and teach, developing new techniques to utilize this priceless literary device. But as you apply metaphor with great thought and care, allow there to be room for metaphoric play and experimentation as well:

(Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, 1991)

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~ by Dave Smith on March 3, 2009.

3 Responses to “Figurative Language, Figurative Fun”

  1. Pastor Joe Coffee does a fantastic job with metaphor. I amazed sometimes at how well I remember his examples even years later. This week he used electricity and the sparks of two jumper cables to describe God’s holiness. I heard him first service and I think he got surprised by how much they sparked, it seemed to throw him off a bit in his explanation.
    I was intrigued by it, and wished he would have developed it more. I have never seen a metaphor for holiness, but the electricity was certaintly thought-provoking and memorable.

  2. Are you serious? [Could not agree more]

  3. I have heard Joe speak only once. But I vividly remember after the first two minutes saying to myself, “Yea, this guy has a strong gift in communication.”

    Thanks for sharing Molly.

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