Backdoor to the Brain: Using Magical Metaphors to Transform Communication
Backdoor to the Brain: Using Magical Metaphors to Transform Communication

By: Marilyn O'Hearne, MSW, MCC

“Imagine a Tarzan like vine dropping down from heaven that will take you from the brown, barren mountain you have described to the lush, green mountain, where you want to be.  What is that vine?” I asked the coaching client.

“Oh, I know!  It is something already available I had forgotten about!  I had not included it in the list of ideas I had come up with and asked you to help me prioritize,” she said.

Our brains resist ideas that can lead to disruptive change-“danger, danger!” the alarms go off. Metaphors serve as a “back door to the brain”, bypassing the “danger” signals around change, by linking the familiar with the unfamiliar. 

A coach not trained in or experienced with metaphor might have missed this  and instead stayed with their long list of “to-dos” to get them from their current to their desired state of prosperity. The results are not the same!

This solution, which the client came up with, filled her with hope. It was something already within her reach, an inspiring single solution rather than an exhaustive list of action items.

How do you tap into this magic?

  1. Listen for metaphors.  Research shows they occur every 6 minutes in our conversations!
  2. Use the other person’s metaphor, as I did in this example, and pair it with a powerful question, for powerful results!

Marilyn O'Hearne is a Master Certified Coach with the International Coach Federation. Marilyn's coaching clients report breakthrough increased PEP (Performance, Effectiveness, and Profitability, and/or Peace, Energy, and Prosperity). For 30+ years, she has facilitated development through coaching, counseling, training, writing (Renewing Your Spirit workbook, etc); teaching at universities, ILCT, and in Brazil. Marilyn’s gentle strength ("the Velvet Hammer") provides a secure foundation while challenging clients (primarily leaders and those in transition) to be their best. Visit her website for more information.

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