How Metaphors Can Help You Practice Effective Communication
When we think about communication, be it personal or professional, we often focus on asking the right questions or providing adequate answers. But the thing is, there’s one step in between those two. And that’s the art of listening and understanding.
The reality of things is that we don’t always necessarily operate on the same wavelengths as our conversation partners. And while we may be ready to listen, comprehension is an entirely different topic.
The Flaw of Perception
You see, misunderstandings in communication are as common as they are due to a single reason: differences in perception.
One of the things that makes us uniquely human – our personality, cognitive capacity, and creativity – is also the thing that’s creating divides between us.
These misunderstandings don’t necessarily happen because we don’t listen. Or even because we ask the wrong questions. Instead, they happen when we are unable to connect or perceive the experiences our conversational partner is describing.
Metaphors: the Content of Our Unconscious
In his paper titled Exploring metaphor use and its insight into sense making with executive coaching clients, Nigel Emson focuses on bridging the gaps of different consciousnesses. He studies the way participants use metaphors in communication, focusing primarily on the coaching process.
In his research, these metaphors are used for conceptualizing thoughts, understanding experiences, expressing internal values, managing, and rationalizing expectations. Most importantly, he discusses how the use of metaphors in coaching serves to “draw aspects of clients’ unconscious sense making into their conscious awareness thereby facilitating an increase in self-awareness and also an opportunity to explore taken for granted assumptions.”
But what about gaining insights into others’ experiences?
Asking the Right Questions
One of the most challenging parts of facilitating growth is letting go of our expectations.
Ultimately, the answers we expect to receive or the questions we plan on asking do not matter. There are other, more important things we must focus on. And one of those is allowing our conversational partner’s individual experience to come to light.
So, when asking questions that are to support improvement, realization, or learning, we must learn how to catch nuances in the answers. Furthermore, we need to find ways to interpret metaphors without imposing our own meanings on them.
In some situations, employees or mentees won’t have the appropriate framework prepared to give us the answers we seek. In these cases, leaders must find ways to offer help.
Prompts, images, or even pre-developed metaphorical situations can facilitate the process of sharing and understanding. Moreover, they can allow better communication between individuals, all the while ensuring that they are on the same wavelength.
Some of the simplest examples of how metaphors can facilitate a better understanding between two people come from our everyday lives. We may be talking about a new and exciting experience and describe it as an adventure. Or, we may describe a difficult choice we’ve had to make and refer to it as a fork in the road.
The success of using metaphor in coaching lies not in the words themselves, but the images and situations they’re connected with. For example, someone may not have had an experience where they didn’t know how to proceed, but they are very likely to understand the concept of being lost in a maze and not knowing which way to go to get to the destination.
Use Metaphors to Drive Growth With ViBuCo
Knowing the importance of metaphors, both for personal and professional growth, my idea was to develop a platform that would allow leaders and business owners to take growth into their own hands.
Created as a self-coaching platform, Virtual Business Coaching is a set of valuable resources. And, you can use it for a variety of purposes. Is your goal is to develop a better product for your clients? Do you want to make sure you understand coworkers as well as possible? Do you wish to achieve the best possible results with your team?
Combining textual and visual cues, ViBuCo offers several ways in which you can encourage fruitful communication. Even if only with yourself.
It’s the ideal solution for building the foundations of important relationships – with clients or team members. Use it as an ice-breaker, or as a handy tool in the advanced stages of collaboration.
Best of all, it is available 24/7 and is the more affordable alternative to one-on-one coaching sessions with an experienced business coach.
ViBuCo is now open for registration, and you can sign up by clicking here.