Illustration for article titled How To Use Metaphors To Keep People Alert and EngagedPhoto: Labylullaby (Shutterstock)

Whether you’re addressing a group of people at work or having a one-on-one conversation with a friend, you face the challenge of using the phone (and everything on it) to compete for their attention. And beyond that, the question arises whether they actually keep something you told them.

So how can you communicate in a way that makes people want to be careful? According to Dr. Eva Krockow, a decision-making psychologist at the University of Leicester, can help using metaphors. She addressed this topic in an article for Psychology Today. Here’s what to know.

Why metaphors can be so effective

While metaphors can add a little flavor to your everyday conversations, they are especially useful when communicating a more complex concept. Here is Krockow to explain how and why it works:

Research shows that complicated messages that contain technical language or require background knowledge often fail to reach audiences with different backgrounds. Such complicated messages can be enhanced by metaphors that compare abstract subjects to familiar objects or subjects. It has been shown that comparisons make difficult topics more accessible and interesting, thereby improving the understanding and memorability of the news content.

Use of metaphors as a means of communication

To explain the usefulness of metaphors, Krockow provides an example that Dr. Nirav Shah, Director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, used on August 25, 2020 to describe the spread of COVID-19:

“We are dealing with a huge glitter tube. You open a glitter tube in your basement and two weeks later you’re in the attic. All you find is glitter and you have no idea how it got there. “

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If you’re in the unfortunate position of being in regular contact with glitter, you’ll know exactly what he’s talking about the moment you read (or hear) Shah’s description of the COVID transmission. And even if you’re not regularly exposed to glitter, you are comfortable with the job. This gives users a scenario that allows them to easily visualize and immediately understand the connection to the message (in this case, how SARS-CoV-2 is spreading).