When I attended 85 Broads member Jane Newton’s Wall Street Women’s Forum negotiation skills seminar on October 26 (“Negotiate Like The Big Boys”), I had the opportunity to chat with author, speaker and seminar leader, Anne Miller. I’ve already posted an article “Count Your Chips: Prepare, Pause then Negotiate” on Anne’s seminar, and here, with Anne’s kind permission, I’m posting a follow-up article, written by Anne:
How well you communicate is determined not by how well we say things, but by how well we are understood. Andy Grove, former Chairman and CEO, Intel
In a world drowning in information, no one should lead, sell, or influence without a command of metaphors – images created with words.
When Warren Buffet called the 2008 crash “an economic Pearl Harbor,” the phrase was repeated everywhere on the Street. He captured its scale, surprise, panic, horror, and loss all in that one image.
In a passionate award acceptance speech, defending the industry, Heidi Miller clinched her argument saying, “I think we should all stand tall and be proud… Tell yourselves you’re the survivors in 2009.” Strength, pride, tenacity—inspiring listeners with a single image.
KeyCorp’s Vice Chairman Beth Mooney, obliged the media’s love for colorful sound bites when The Plain Dealer asked her to comment on the recession and the recovery. “But the current struggle,” she said,” is one of regaining our footing, versus holding on for dear life.” Control, calm, and hope, not chaos—reassurance and direction captured in a metaphor.
Weapon of Instant Understanding
Metaphor is a rhetorical tool as old as Aristotle (“To be master of metaphor is everything”), as modern as the Internet (think desktop, trash bins, spam) and ubiquitous on Wall Street (bears, bulls, spiders, poison pills, white knights). Metaphors (and analogies and stories used metaphorically) are simply images in words. They paint pictures in listeners’ minds. As a presentation and sales specialist who has trained and coached thousands of business people over the last twenty-five years, I have seen even the most mundane topics transformed into magical messages with thoughtfully crafted metaphors.
Once a possible afterthought if you were giving a speech, or describing your service, metaphor today is an essential tool for savvy communicators.
Rise Above the Flood
Your constituencies — clients, employees, colleagues, the public, the press, Wall Street — confront a sea of messages, one that deluges them daily via email, inter-office memos, television, radio, their telephone or PDA, and the Internet. They are overwhelmed by these bids for their attention, and tend to tune most of them out, if only for survival. For investment bankers and asset managers, straight up to the President of the United States, the challenge is the same: getting other people to pay attention, understand, get on board, and act on new proposals and ideas.
There are endless applications for using metaphoric language. A metaphor can be a source of competitive advantage. It can melt resistance. It can close deals. It can wow an audience. It can defuse delicate situations. It can clarify complexity. And that’s just for starters.
We Are Wired for Metaphors
Metaphors are effective because they engage the right brain, which responds instantly not only to images, but also to feelings, experiences, and associations. The left brain responds to logic, data, and organization. The left brain “hears” the information and rationally processes it. The right brain “sees” the information and responds to it at the emotional level. Together, they form an interior C-Suite decision-making committee.
We make left-brain/right-brain decisions all the time. When you took your present job, your left brain weighed the pros and cons of salary, location, type of work, and opportunity for career advancement. Your right brain got a feeling about the people and the culture and told you the job “felt right” and so you took it. When you selected your accountant, your broker, your neighborhood, or your partner, your left brain weighed the facts and your right brain sealed the deal – or broke it, if, despite the logical facts on paper, your “gut” said no. It is often argued that the right brain trumps the left in making decisions (which also contributes to bad marital decisions, but that is a different story).
Become a “Metaphorian”
There are no limits as to who benefits from the use of metaphor. It is the invaluable tool of the new hire, the veteran manager, the rain-maker, the senior executive, and the CEO. It can be deployed effectively in large-cap companies, small entrepreneurial ventures, and non-profits, across a table, behind a lectern, or in the Boardroom, not to mention at the neighborhood bar or on the private golf course.
Ignore the need to engage on the visual language level in the 21st century at your peril. Without the strategic use of metaphors and analogies, communicating in high stakes situations is like trying to race a Ferrari without gas—you just won’t get anywhere fast.
Based on the book Make What You Say Pay! The Language That Opens Minds, Closes Deals, & Wows Crowds by Anne Miller, Sales & Presentations Speaker, Seminar Leader, & Coach. (Available on [amazon.com])) For more information on this and other topics: [annemiller.com]
Connector. Advisor. Project Solver.
Kelly Hoey is newly appointed VP, Community Engagement for Shift Worldwide. Shift Worldwide is a full-service virtual events production company that provides a customizable virtual communications platform and combines it with a suite of production services to help clients produce bulletproof, drama-free online discussions and recordings known as vPanels™ (virtual panel discussions) and vClips. Shift enables its clients to bring thought leaders together for one-of-a-kind discussions that allow attendees to see, learn and interact with experts from all over the world from the comfort of their own computer. A natural connector, she brings to Shift (and its clients) strategic insights and critical understanding on how to engage professional networks.
Kelly is also past-President of 85 Broads, LLC, working with Founder and CEO, Janet Hanson, where she focused on strategic partnerships and “conventional” as well as innovative ways to connect and promote the achievements of members of this global network.
Prior to joining 85 Broads in October 2009, Kelly was Manager of Alumni Programmes at White & Case LLP. In this global role, Kelly was responsible for designing and implementing the firm’s alumni relations outreach and engagement strategy (including the firm’s strategy for use of online networking tools such as Facebook, Linkedin, LegalOnRamp). From 2004 to 2008, Kelly was the Manager of Professional, Americas at White & Case, overseeing and initiating a number of talent development initiatives for the firm, ranging from Women’s Initiative programming and retreats, new/lateral associate integration, upward review and annual performance review process, business and client skills development training, trial advocacy curriculum and the introduction of coaching and coaching-based programming.
Before entering law firm management, Kelly was a corporate attorney focusing on structured finance, banking and insolvency law. She is an alum of Sidley, Osler Hoskin and Miller Thomson. Kelly is a graduate of The University of British Columbia Law School, articled in Ontario, Canada and is admitted to the New York State Bar as well as to The Law Society of Upper Canada and Law Society of British Columbia.
Kelly is vice-chair of the Board of inMotion (inmotiononline.org) a New York City based not-for-profit which provides legal assistance to women and children in domestic crisis. She is also a member of the Honorary Advisory Board for Pace Law School’s New Direction Program and on the Advisory Board for WILEF (Women in Law Empowerment Forum).
Connect with Kelly via Twitter (@jkhoey) or Linkedin ([linkedin.com]).