As I got out of the shower this morning, I searched high and low for a bottle of lotion. I had to laugh when I realized I was avoiding the only lotion I had left. I was avoiding it because of the name and the time of day. No, no, no....I can't put on Sleep lotion when I need to be energized and ready for the day, can I? The Sleep lotion will make me sleepy, right?
Before engaging in communication with another person we don't know well, maybe it would be a good idea to know if they are more figurative or more literal. You know how they have a quiz for everything now? Just step into the Facebook vortex and you will be bombarded with quizzes like "Which Brady Bunch character are you most like?" or "Which animal from Lion King would you be like if you lived in animation?"
Here is my quiz for: Are you more figurative or more literal?
1. Analogies make me ______________
a. happy as they provide clarity for tough concepts
b. CRAZY---just say what you want to say
2. Respond to this statement.
"Teaching is like swimming because when we are really struggling, it often feels like drowning."
a. I agree, and when teaching is at a high level, it's like lifeguarding. You can help others who are struggling.
b. Ummmmm....swimming is in the water. You don't teach in the water.
3. Respond to this statement.
"Knee surgery has gotten much easier. The recovery is not anything like dealing with Ebola, for instance."
a. I know! I have heard I won't be laid up for nearly as long as I had originally thought.
b. Ummm....of course knee surgery isn't like having Ebola. After all, Ebola is a communicable disease.
Let's just agree that if you answered "b" for each of these, you might just be a little more literal than the people who answered "a". In the past few weeks, I have literally heard every one of those "b" responses. I wanted to laugh and say, "Analogies are just that---a comparison between two things, typically on the basis of their structure and for the purpose of explanation or clarification.They aren't meant to BE the thing---they are comparisons!!" Then I realize I am giving way too much power to the beast (figuratively speaking).
I think the important thing to note is we need to be aware of our audience. If we are speaking to someone who is quite literal, analogies and figurative language just don't work. Eyes might glaze over as the literal person tries to think of all the reasons that analogy does not match the comparison, point by point.
But....for those folks who are figurative, analogies and other figurative language can "hit the spot" and you will often hear comments like "I've never heard it said quite like that before." For instance, I heard someone say yesterday, "You simply can't save face and your rear end at the same time." For some reason, it just hit me how profound that is. But I don't really believe I need to think about that statement in literal terms.....ewwww!
Just for today, perhaps we can take stock in who our audience is before we decide to do all figurative or all literal examples. It might just help us in our communication with others.