Saturday, October 8, 2011

Word Pictures

I was just thinking how Jesus talked in parables – stories, in order to communicate at a deeper and perhaps more memorable level. Often these parables were able to trigger more intense emotions, like the workers who got paid the same whether they worked one hour or all day.

He also used symbols, like water (drink of THIS living water and you will never thirst again). 

In a similar way we can also communicate with each other by using word pictures to get our point across in a more emotionally connectable way.

What is a word picture? It is a figure of speech used to compare two things, basically a simile, so that there might be greater clarity. It is very useful particularly between men and women, who as we all know tend to speak different languages.

Here is an example of one word picture I heard in counseling (from a woman):

“When you hug me often and hold my hand I feel like a well-watered plant. But when you forget, I start shriveling up and dying.”

I can tell you that this was much more effective than the criticism. “You’re not affectionate enough!”
Another example comes from a man with a nagging wife:

“I feel like a child who is constantly being scolded by his mom for being ignorant of what he is supposed to do. I feel small and inadequate.”

He could have responded in a contemptuous manner “You’re a nag and have always been a nag” but I can tell you that his word picture was much more effective. His wife was able to feel some empathy for him and was able to come alongside him rather than become defensive or combative.

Even more dramatically I have heard clients use metaphor to get a point across. One woman declared “That was a knife to my heart, cutting it out, and then stomping on it.” Wow! But he got the point.

I must admit that it is not easy to do in the heat of a conflict. Often, it requires a good measure of that ugly word “maturity” to stop and think before responding.

I suspect that the right-brain, creative types have an easier time with this kind of communication, but wouldn’t it be worth developing this kind of tool if it could get your point across in a more receivable and kinder way?

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