“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 my coaching client, using her magical metaphor.

“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 at least 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!

Note: If I had switched to a metaphor that was meaningful for me, like an ocean crossing, it would not have had the same effect as using the coaching client’s metaphor. This supports the principle of considering your audience before you speak, including cultural differences, which we explored in another Direct Communication blog.

I want to hear from you, your stories of communication transformation with metaphors!

Have a magical week, and stay tuned for more CQ wisdom!

To our success-we are in this together!

Marilyn O’Hearne, MA, MCC

Culturally Intelligent Executive, Leadership, Team and Mentor Coaching; Supervision



PS Leaders, ready to practice magic in your workplace? Apply for an #unlockpotential strategy session with me.

Coaches-sign up now to confidently advance your credentialing (99+% success rate!) and coaching-before our next Culturally Intelligent Mentor Coaching + Certificate program cohort fills! (Exceeds ICF mentor coaching requirements, with up to 30 hours Coach Education and the opportunity to earn the Culturally Intelligent Coaching™ Certificate, identified as crucial for success by 90% of leaders in 68 countries as well as the ICF!)

Update of August 20, 2015 blog