Surplus of Meaning

Metaphors yield a surplus of meaning.” – Paul Riceour, French philosopher of linguistics

When you driving change you’re often taking people to a place they’ve never been. As it often isn’t a physical place you’re taking them, you don’t have the crutch of photography to rely on.

What can you do to paint a picture of where they’ll end up if they drive the change with you?

You could call on a good metaphor (The team members were giants, unafraid of any challenge before them) or even a great simile (Tom unleashes his energy like a young racehorse overly eager for its next race).  Now admittedly the team members aren’t actual giants and Tom isn’t a young racehorse, but that doesn’t matter.  Now, you’ve got pictures in your head that vividly describe the team and Tom.  You’ll remember those pictures.

If I’d said instead that the team members are unafraid of challenges and Tom can’t control his energy, would you have remembered as much?

It seems to me that people don’t set out on journeys, physical or intellectual, without at least two ideas with them: 1. Some sense of where their first step should land, and 2. Some picture, even only a hazy thought, of their destination.

You can provide both these necessary (though I’ll admit maybe not sufficient) things by effectively using metaphor and simile (and stories too) to bridge the gap between where they are and where they could be. And, you’ll help them remember it too.

Why not try?

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