The mastery of metaphor

During a recent evaluation process to determine the right school for our three children, we were left with a very tough decision between two quality schools.

My wife Kellie and I did more than our fair share of due diligence, attending multiple school tours and interviews. In addition, bending the ears of as many people we knew that had some experience or an opinion to draw from regarding both schools.

In saying all that, it was one particular conversation we had with a friend that was deeply thought-provoking. Towards the end of this conversation, Kellie’s friend said “look, both schools are fantastic, you can’t go wrong with either, but here’s the difference: Doctors come from college, but surgeons come from grammar”.

And there it was, a simple yet elegant metaphor that was instantly burned into my mental evaluation process. So much so, I began asking friends and contacts if they had heard this comparison before. Their response was always – no, but agreed with the appraisal.

You can draw your own conclusion as to what that precise metaphor means, as it may contain different meanings for different people.

Of course, this wasn’t the dominant contributing factor in selecting this particular school, but I must admit, I just couldn’t shake it – such is the power of a metaphor.

What is a metaphor? defines a metaphor as:

  1. a figure of speech in which a term or phrase is applied to something to which it is not literally applicable in order to suggest a resemblance.
  2. something used, or regarded as being used, to represent something else; emblem; symbol.

A metaphor paints a picture or puts a particular subject in a different light. It also encourages the recipient to think more deeply about the subject and determine their own meaning.
In sales, simplifying and breaking down your message to its core essence helps different types of people connect with and understand its meaning. This type of communication is truly masterful, no, not for the average.

We are heavily influenced by social proof and the varying opinions of others. Much like story telling, when you introduce a compelling metaphor — you can creatively amplify your point and deepen its meaning – ultimately creating deeper buy-in.  

In the case of our poetic friend – her metaphor was timely and extraordinarily helpful.

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4 years ago

While your dictionary definition of metaphor is correct, the phrase you’ve used as an example is not actually a metaphor. There’s no resemblance drawn at all. It’s literally just a saying. Sorry. (Yes, I’m an editor; it’s my job to know this stuff.)