Communicating Through Mini-metaphor

Tale of the Day:

One of my favorite mini-metaphors

“But the fear keeps me safe!” “I can’t let go of the anger or I might get hurt.”

This is the kind of thing I hear again and again from clients experiencing anxiety, anger, fear or other emotions causing stress, sleep loss, or compromising their relationships, careers, and life in general. The side effects of the anxiety, fear, or anger often cause more harm than good (through health costs such as high blood pressure and lack of sleep, distraction from the true dangers of life, blah blah blah…). If I just tell them all this, it may be true, but it won’t help them. They already know this; it’s why they came to see me in the first place.

Here’s where it’s very useful to have some mini-metaphors in your back pocket that you can use to communicate in a different channel than rational thought. After all, words don’t change people, experience does. Nothing beats experiential learning. A mini-metaphor can evoke an experience for someone that will set the stage nicely before doing the NLP or coaching change-work you’ve decided upon.

So when I hear, “But it keeps me safe!” “I can’t let it go or I might get hurt!” I tell the fire alarm mini-metaphor that I learned from my aunt Tamara Andreas:

“Do you have a fire alarm in your house?” I ask.


“And I bet that helps you sleep more soundly, knowing you’ll be woken up if there’s a fire.”

“Yeah, I guess it does.”

“Now imagine that the fire alarm was set in such a way that it went off constantly, blaring day and night. What would it be like to live in that house?”

“That would be awful.”

“You wouldn’t even know when there was a fire, would you?”

“No, I’d just be stressed out all the time.”

“You wouldn’t get much sleep, and if a fire did start, you wouldn’t have any specific warning and you’d have to deal with it without decent sleep for months.”

“Yeah, you’re right.”

“Sometimes these parts of us that are trying to keep us safe are like fire alarms that are going off constantly. Of course the solution is not to get rid of the fire alarm. Instead we just want to make sure it’s set up properly so it will warn us when we really need to be warned. When we have it set up that way, then we can relax and sleep through the night knowing we have that protection quietly guarding our safety.”

Tool of the Day:
Creating mini-metaphors

1)   Think of a concept you want to get across to someone.

2)   Brainstorm possible simple mini-metaphors from day-to-day common experience that exemplify the concept. While brainstorming you may want to look up and to the right to help access the creative part of your brain.*

3) Try using your mini-metaphor to communicate your concept rather than rational argument. If it works, keep it around for future use. A good metaphor can communicate much more in much fewer words. Let me know what metaphors you find most useful.

Set up a session with Mark at or call 303-810-9611 for a free 15-minute consult.

*Though there are exceptions, this will help most people access the creative part of their brain.

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