30 Jan “Don’t Let Me Down!”
Tale of Change:
Using Metaphors of Movement conversationally
“I don’t want to let him down,” Ryan told me with a concerned look on his face.
Ryan had been telling me he wanted to apologize less. He frequently got feedback from others that he often apologized for things that weren’t even his responsibility. And recently he’d had another experience of this with a business partner.
“I just don’t want to let him down,” he repeated.
We use idioms like this all the time—metaphorical phrases like, “I’m stuck in a rut,” “I’m trying to stay afloat,” or “It’s an uphill struggle.” Ryan was using this idiomatic expression without giving it a second thought—just as we all do. But after learning Metaphors of Movement with Andy Austin, (click here by Jan. 31st to save $100 on the Masterclass this April 27-30) when I hear an idiom like this it has a whole new meaning. I’m continually amazed by the insight and understanding a simple idiom can give into someone else’s experience of their problem.
Without even using the full Metaphors of Movement process, I just pictured Ryan’s idiomatic expression literally, and began reflecting back to him what was literally true of that picture. So when he says, “I just don’t want to let him down,” I know that Ryan is doing the opposite—holding his partner in an elevated position.
“So you want to support him,” I said. “You want to give him your full support.”
“So that means you put him above you. Because if you’re not letting someone down, you’re holding them up. And how else could you do that without putting them above you?”
“I guess so,” Ryan looked a bit puzzled as he took in this new perspective.
“The only problem is it’s going to be a lot of work to support him in this way, and while it’s clear that you look up to him, if he’s going to notice you at all, he’s going to look down on you. Or maybe he only notices you when you let him down.
“And this takes a lot of energy for you to hold him in this position, and I don’t care how strong you are, eventually you’re going to tire and you’re going to let him down. And he’s going to blame you even though you were the one supporting him the whole time!”
“Woah, I never realized that.”
“The thing that bothers me is this. Though it’s true that you’re giving him your full support and putting him above you, at the same time you’re holding him up. He’s completely reliant upon you for his support, and as long as you support him in this way you’re keeping him up in the air where he can’t take any steps of his own. So if you want to move forward together without letting him down, the full burden of this responsibility is on you.”
“Wow, yes. I’ve been taking this all on myself.”
“Yes. And I wonder how long you’ve been putting him up to this? Keeping him up in the air where he can’t take any steps of his own. You see, this is a position where he absolutely needs you. And if he looks down on you for it, maybe that’s a small price to pay?”
“Oh man, I never noticed this before. So what do I do?”
“Well every time you hold him above yourself, you know you’re eventually going to tire and let him down, because it’s a lot of work to fully support another person. The thing is, if you let him down, he’ll be much more grounded and able to take steps of his own. From that position you can see eye-to-eye, and now instead of supporting him, you’ll have your hands free to support the project you’re working on. And if he wants to help support the project too, and you both want to take this in the same direction, you can both take steps of your own to do that together.”
“I like that a lot better.”
“And at any point if either of you wants to go in a different direction, you can do that too. It’s always an option to part ways without anyone being let down, though the project would then be left to one or the other of you to carry alone. Who knows, there may come a time when one or both of you decide this project isn’t worth supporting anymore, or that you’d rather support something else. But if you support projects, rather than people, then you can decide to stop supporting a project for a period of time, or switch projects, without letting anyone down. And it can be nice to give people the freedom to stand up for themselves and take steps of their own.”
“That makes so much sense. I don’t want to put him above me anymore, it’s too much work. But what if we’re working together and I do something and he still thinks I let him down?”
“Well, I’m guessing you don’t actually carry him around with you everywhere you go, right?”
“No, definitely not!”
“So imagine he comes up to you, and he’s always been walking around on his own two feet, and he points a finger at you and says, “You let me down!”
“Haha! I’ll just look at his feet and see that they’ve always been on the ground! This is great; I like this!”
Using idioms in this way is just one of the things you’ll learn to do in the Metaphors of Movement training. I just taught this material last weekend, and in addition to having a lot of fun, many participants came to insights that might have been difficult to face if delivered in “left brain language,” but in the land of metaphor, where our experience can be matched and understood so completely, it is often a relief or even funny to get these insights. You’ll learn much more if you decide to join us for the Metaphors of Movement Masterclass this April with Andrew Austin (the developer of this material).
Tool of Change:
Communicating with idioms
When we recognize idiomatic expressions that come up in a conversation, such as “you let me down,” “I feel stuck,” or “I’m on edge,” we can respond back in a way that matches these idioms to:
- Demonstrate our understanding of the person’s experience and develop deep rapport. When we match someone’s idioms rather than just the left brain meaning of all the other words in the sentence, people feel deeply understood. Ryan was much more engaged when I fed back what was true about his idiom, rather than just reflecting back how he wanted to apologize less.
- Gain insight about, and highlight, dynamics of the person’s experience that they themselves often haven’t realized consciously. In reflecting back the all the presuppositions of the idiom, Ryan gained many new understandings about the dynamics of the interaction with his partner that weren’t working.
And when we notice idioms of our own we can also take a moment to “see the picture,” and gain insights about what’s happening in our own experience. This can lead to a very different understanding of why an approach that seemed reasonable on the surface, might actually make very little sense.
Learning to recognize and match these idioms, though challenging at first, is actually much easier than you might think, as long as you practice. You can begin by listening for common idioms in everyday language (both other people’s and your own). Then literally picture the idiom and notice what is true of that literal picture, and all it’s implications. When you start reflecting back, see if you can reflect back in idioms as well. Here are some to play with as a starting point, and there are plenty more out there. Feel free to leave your ideas in the comments below:
- “It’s like I’m banging my head against a brick wall.”
- “I’m always getting stabbed in the back.”
- “I’m really in the hole.”
Of course the easiest way to learn this is to be part of a live training group, where we all practice this together. If you want to go far beyond this simple exercise, you can learn how to uncover the full metaphorical picture that these idioms are pointing to—unconscious metaphorical experiences that are not usually verbalized. You can register for Andy Austin’s Metaphors of Movement Masterclass on or before Jan. 31st, and save $100. (Once you register, you’ll receive a confirmation email with a 50% discount code to purchase the online streaming program, “Metaphors in my Attic,” which will give you the Metaphors of Movement level I background needed before attending the Masterclass). If you’ve already taken MoM level I with myself or Andy, then as a gift from Andy you’ll get a 50% discount code to use towards a Metaphors of Movement Skype session with Andy Austin.
I’ve been waiting for years for this Masterclass (since we needed enough people trained in level I to be able to host him for this). Now it’s finally happening, and we don’t know if or when we’ll be able to have him back to teach this Masterclass again. If you don’t want to miss this material, I strongly encourage you to sign up for this one.
I hope to see you in April!