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How To Make Metaphors: Tips & Best Examples [Complete Guide]

How To Make Metaphors: Tips & Best Examples [Complete Guide]

Metaphors have a tremendous effect on people: they cause change. In this article you will find a complete list with how-to’s, explanations, tips and examples for learning to tell metaphors and stories. Read along…

Contents of this page:

A few quick and fun examples of a metaphor

Let’s start with some super fast examples:

The main character of a metaphor shot a tree with a bow and arrow, and drew a circle around it: right on the bullseye! Everything was fine as it was.
– Saskia from Vidarte

Tell a story about the legendary seducer Don Juan, who was just rejected one day and felt alone. His response was: even the best can make a mistake!

What do you notice from the above two examples? They indirectly lead to a message that you want to convey. The message of the first story was: everything was already good as it was. And the message of the second story was: even the best can make a mistake!

Now it is true that there is much more to it if you want to work with metaphors. For example, the metaphors are most elegant and influential if you do not make the message explicit, but rather indirect. So read this article carefully to find all the tips.

What is a metaphor? The meaning…


A metaphor is a linguistic aid in which you transfer  a property of one concept to another concept. So there are two things going on:

  1. The subject: you don’t talk about this, but it is (actually) about this.
  2. The metaphor: you do talk about this, but it is not about this.

Why would you do that if you can also get straight to the point? That is precisely where the power of metaphors lies: unconscious influence!

Metaphors and stories influence people without realizing it . When you work with metaphors, the resistance of your audience is automatically lowered . The story is far away on a conscious level and not happening now, which can turn off critical thinking .

For the subconscious, however, the messages in your metaphor do have an effect on the now, because the subconscious makes no distinction in time. You can make use of this by using your metaphor to create a ‘parallel reality’ with which you ‘follow and lead’ the situation of your audience. We will discuss in detail how you can achieve this in the following sections.

This is how you tell a powerful narrative metaphor with a moral or healing effect (9 tips)


Now that we know the meaning of a metaphor, let’s learn how to tell a metaphor! It is essential to be able to tell well. For example, the following sentence is very descriptive, emotional, and interactive :

“I felt so small at the time, but my hands were shaking with tension. You know that feeling too, don’t you? ”

Do you want to be able to do this yourself? Below you will find the guide to get started with metaphorical language and metaphorical stories.

Tip 1 – Apply this construction

A metaphor in the form of an anecdote or story preferably has the construction of ‘The Hero’s Journey’. Do you really want to make good use of these steps? Then the comprehensible book about the 12 steps of  The Journey of the Hero is highly recommended. A practical writing guide!

Below you will find this recommended construction:

  1. Start with a question if necessary. For example,  “What does this remind you of?” “Do you know that story of …?” “What is the most beautiful clock you have ever seen?”
  2. Introduce a main character in a different time and place . “Once upon a time there was a clock in a very distant country, in a very distant past…” – The hero must therefore be ‘likable’ identifiable. Authenticity, hope, vulnerability, love, determination and desire is better for heroes than intelligence or ‘swag’. Just think of Disney films: the main characters are always outsiders.
    So if we translate to another context, such as a vlogger telling a story about himself, as a metaphor for the message the vlogger wants to convey: make yourself human and imperfect in your story. Emphasize that. Take, for example, the story of David Copperfield, about his father and grandfather who died without being able to say goodbye. The public has also experienced something like this. Everyone knows what it feels like to want a second chance with someone who is dead.
  3. Introduce a daily routine from the main character.
  4. Interruption of the routine, aka a problem. For example: a mountain has to be climbed. Bonus points if the break in the routine is a shock or surprise. You do this by building up expectation or anticipation and then violating it. Think of a man biting a dog. Also think of contrasts. Contrasts are easy and effective for surprise, humor and creativity / brainstorming for your vlog.
  5. Emotional impact on the main character. Ultimately, he has to undergo an emotional change.
  6. Determine the desired result or need. This corresponds to the real life desired outcome that the metaphor is about.
  7. Make it important. What is there to gain or lose? What is at stake? What is of value / important to the main character?
  8. Identify all obstacles. This is consistent with the real life obstacles the metaphor is about.
  9. Emotions during those obstacles.
  10. Resources: What do you need to overcome those obstacles? Which people are needed? These can also be fictional people. For example, the best mountaineer in the world. You can also choose not to explicitly name the resources, so that the listener can give his / her own interpretation. You can also secretly generate the resource live in a hypnotic voice while telling the story: ‘What a peaceful environment … so peaceful … so calm … so calm …’
  11. The outcome:  a series of events take place in which the characters of the story resolve the conflict and achieve the desired outcome. You can choose to keep this vague, as with the resources, so that the listener’s subconscious can independently make the appropriate changes.
  12. Emotions after overcoming those obstacles.
  13. Strengthen link to the listener’s situation: “Think about it.”
  14. A conclusion. What have you learned from it?

Tip 2 – Make the metaphor ‘isomorphic’ by creating a ‘parallel reality’

An isomorphic story is a story that is very precisely about the listener. You incorporate following & leading , the current situation of your listener, the desired situation, obstacles and resources in the metaphor. This is mainly used by advanced NLP practitioners.

Also adopt the audience’s posture as it is in the current and desired situation. To find out what that posture looks like, you can first let your listener associate in the current and desired situation.

  • For example, tell a story about the ‘previous client’.
  • An entrepreneur can tell his employees myths about the employees who worked for them here to outline the corporate culture.
  • Try to make stories isomorphic as much as possible with analogies and metaphors. For example, the object, such as a grenade, can talk and says it does not want to be a grenade but an uplifting, peaceful object.
  • Indirect feedback loop: Also use mind reading  and literal live pacing :
    The eyes of the audience get tired: the eyes of the main character also get tired. The same goes for scratching the head, yawning, etc.
    But also a thought. For example: he thinks hypnosis is not working / feels alarmed, etc.
  • If your client is a mother with nagging children, tell a story about a gardener with two roses stuck together.

Tip 3 – ‘Learning metaphor’ tips

  • Let the metaphor be more difficult than the real problem.
  • Use words of healing / encouragement during your metaphor,
  • Never explain metaphors. That is a waste of the mysterious, powerful, unconscious aspect of a metaphor. And if you receive one, never ask for it. We don’t want any interference from the conscious brain. Consider using a fake, nonsensical, funny “moral of the story” as a distraction.

Tip 4 – Use sensory rich language and imagery

Stimulate all senses by using all elements from the list of VAKOG (these are ‘predicates’)  . “It was dead still, and I asked him that, and he laughed, and with a twinkle in his eye, he told me …” “I leaned forward … I looked into her eyes, and she looked into my eyes, and she leaned forward. It was as if time stood still for a moment. ”

  • When it is quiet in the story, you are also quiet for a while.
  • Use words like: shouting, whispering, dialects, emotions, muscles, glasses, rays, glow, traits, habits, etc.
  • Use imagery  to suck people into your story. Information is more strongly transferred to the brains of your audience with imagery.

Tip 5 – Use different observation positions

  • First Position: And then my mom told me to comb my hair.
  • Second position: imitate your mother. “Tom, comb your hair.”
    You can also do this for objects, such as a chair, with which you can score some laughs: “Oh no! Here come two buttocks again! ”
  • Third position: you continue to tell the story from a distance.

Tip 6 – This makes it easier to tell the metaphor

  • Make an object talk. Then you quickly get inspiration for a learning metaphor.
  • Improvisation: make associations to objects and activities related to the story. You make it easy for yourself by visualizing a magic box where you get things out of. You can literally look into it. Your subconscious does the work and you just need to list what comes out.
  • Experience the story in the first person as you tell or memorize your metaphor! This storytelling technique is called: ‘A strange new world’. Imagine a world that no one has seen yet. You can turn all the way around in advance. ‘Stream’ everything you experience live by telling it. Also describe the elements from the ‘VAKOG’ list: what do you see, hear, feel, jerk and taste? The plot did not exist beforehand, but arises. The same goes for emotions. They also arise.
  • All you have to keep in mind is a word, idea, lesson or state. Keeping this in mind will prevent you from blocking yourself. It then simply guides you further. For example, if your main characters arrive at a witch, you listen to what the witch is saying, and you keep an eye on the theme ‘courage’, after which you can automatically come up with a situation that requires courage: The witch says: “You just got up. time for dinner. ” “What’s for food?” “You.”
  • Keep it simple. In fact, the simplicity is the whole point of metaphors and stories!

Tip 7 – Use these technical, advanced tips

  • Ask questions as you share your metaphors. For example: “Have you ever tried to travel a long distance on a mountain?”
  • Use the qualities of your voice. For example, use lots of breaks . This also applies to presentations and coaching conversations. Also play with your volume , for example by whispering sometimes. Also play with raising and lowering your voice.
  • Also, let your body be supportive of the state of mind you want to convey with your metaphor. Your body must also feel that.
  • Also use rhyme and puns in your stories .
  • This tip is essential: because you are telling a story, the audience has turned off their critical thinking skills. Make smart use of this by incorporating embedded assignments (subliminal influence)  and subliminal priming into your story. These are commands that your listener will pick up unconsciously.
  • With a story, you are basically bypassing the critical factor, but you can add extra such amnesia techniques .
  • At the peak of your story (while the resources are being brought up), you can also immediately install an anchor for later use. You can even put an anchor in front of the hurdles earlier in the story, allowing you to ‘collapse’ them as you overcome them. So you are simultaneously anchoring and telling a metaphor.
  • To let the listeners sink even deeper into your story, you can incorporate the countdown from 10 to 1 into your story. “And then the phone rang … once … twice … three times … four times … five times … six times … seven times …” “And he rang the steps down the stairs … step 10 … step 9 … 8 … 7 … “
  • Do foreshadowing . Give hints about what’s to come.
  • Use whatever you have to keep the conscious brain out of play. You achieve this, for example, through selective restriction (giving objects human qualities). We used the example before: “What is the most beautiful clock you have ever seen?” Selective restriction is part of the milton model.
  • Process the experiences of your audience . They must be able to identify themselves in order to allow them to absorb more: You are saying: I am you. I have the same frustrations and problems as you.
  • Leave a lot at stake. That makes it more exciting and more difficult. And the more difficult the problem overcome, the more powerful the metaphor. Don’t go through life like that, but tell stories like that.
  • The story is successful when you say ‘aha’ together with the listener, because then there is empathy : you put yourself in a person and his story. The audience should experience your eureka moment for themselves.
  • What does the public want. What are they interested in? So not interesting but interested.
  • Always let go of your story in whatever applications you use it for. Allow others to contribute and allow interaction . This happens anyway, so don’t mind.
  • Provide a certain openness or place holes in the story.
  • Multiplier: the audience must be able to pass it on (this is important in marketing).
  • Also name as many characters as possible . This makes it more real and easier to listen. If necessary, describe more about these characters, such as their origins, background story, and appearance.
  • Use hypnosis  in your metaphor so that the subconscious mind is more open to the messages that come later in the metaphor. For example, if a telephone is used in the story, take that opportunity for hypnosis: ‘The telephone rang 1 time … 2 times … 3 times …’ And at a later point: ‘The phone rang 1 time. .. 2 times … 3 times … 4 times … 5 times …. ‘
  • Also start in the middle of the story . Then simply fill in all the previous information: ‘So there I was … Face to face with …
  • Tell your story or metaphor in the present tense . None: “There I was, alone in the mysterious garden” But: “There I am, alone in the mysterious garden”.

Tip 8 – Build a ‘nested loop’ to wrap your suggestion (nested metaphors)

Start a story / metaphor and stop at the peak . You now have a ‘cliffhanger’. Then you move on to the beginning of a new story . You can do that abruptly or with a nice transition. In this way open three to five stories / metaphors and always stop at the peak. You now have three to five unfinished metaphors.

This looks like this:

  1. Start metaphor 1. Stop at the peak / cliffhanger.
  2. Start metaphor 2. Stop at the peak / cliffhanger.
  3. Start metaphor 3. Stop at the peak / cliffhanger.

After the cliffhanger of metaphor 3, you place the resources in the form of direct hypnotic suggestion (s) . These are your lessons, encouragements and the resources you want to share with your audience.

Now that you’ve given the hypnotic commands and suggestions, end all stories in reverse. It looks like this:

  1. Close metaphor 3.
  2. Close metaphor 2.
  3. Close metaphor 1.

The direct suggestion is forgotten by the conscious through all those layers in the story and by the amnesia effect that this entails. Our brain remembers the beginning and end of stories the best. Everything that happens in the middle of it has been unconsciously included without resistance, because “it was just a story so I don’t have to be critical and resist the suggestions.”

So the beginning and the end of metaphor 1 causes the rest to be forgotten: all the positive suggestions and resources you shared in between. The story is therefore considered more important, the learning process is not closed and the subconscious is occupied, freeing the way for suggestions.

More tips for nested loops:

  • Create different times and locations for the different stories. Because you go to a different time and space, memory loss occurs for the conscious brain. Just think about all the times you walked into another room to get something, and once you got there, you forgot what you were going to go into that room for.
  • Let the stories flow smoothly or abruptly: soft loop or hard loop. For example, the transition might go like this, “I remember meeting John for the first time … He told me he met someone who said to him … But I’ll get to that later.” Or do an even more abrupt stop, where you’re in the middle And that reminds me of something else …
  • In each story of the nested loop, possibly treat a different emotion or state (for a rollercoaster of emotions), such as fascination, relaxation, pleasure, attention, etc.
  • Use each loop (story) to tackle a part of the whole at a time, for example to remove obstacles one by one in that person.
  • Also make the transition abrupt, for example when breaking a sentence: “The best thing about relaxing is … Do you know when you ever drive, that you suddenly notice that you are in a focused away and you no longer hear the radio? “

Nested loops are also great for visualizations and hypnosis . Below is a small example of simple nested loops that use location as a variable:

Loop 1: We descend through our pillows … through the subsurface underneath … further into the earth … through the magma … to the core of the earth …

Loop 2: In the middle of the earth we find a beautiful valley … with a narrow path. Let’s walk that path … on and on …

Walk 3: And the path ends at a magical mountain … Let’s climb that mountain … higher and higher … until we get to the top and find a beautiful throne that invites us to sit on it and relax …

Intervention: Now – on the throne – an intervention can take place, such as a positive message, hypnotic suggestions, a conversation with your younger self, or some other formal or informal therapeutic technique.

Loop 3: You descend to the foot of the mountain …

Loop 2: You walk back on the path in the beautiful valley …

Walk 1: You ascend back up to the surface of the earth … through the ground … through your pillow … and into your body. All the way back.

Tip 9 – Use the ‘magic 3’ for easy telling: Action, Color, Emotion!

At any point in your story you can decide if you want to use one of these three elements. Let’s take some examples.

  • Action: ‘Anneke stormed into the door of the board of directors, hit the table with her fist and shouted: …’
    Please note: you do not use in action: ‘She thought then …’
  • Color: ‘Her face turned red, the vein on her forehead was about to burst, the table made an awfully loud noise when her fist hit the surface …’
  • Emotion: ‘She felt the anger in her fist and at the same time the fear in her throat. Or no, she felt it all over her body, she was so panicked! ‘

Metaphors are a powerful influencing tool


Thus, by using metaphors, you can express messages and motivations powerfully, effectively reach the subconscious and steer a desired direction. This makes the listener inclined to cooperate without realizing it.

Fairytales are a good example: as soon as we hear “Once upon a time”, we switch to story mode. We no longer need to activate our critical factor – a defense mechanism to discuss or to question things – because ‘it’s just a story’. Your unconscious will think, “Oh, I’m going to open myself up and just like in my childhood I’m going to absorb everything and listen to everything instead of being critical.” Giants, trolls, bankers who are honest … It doesn’t matter what you say.

For example, you can use metaphors to sketch a business connection or goal: “Look, I finance half. Our feet, tongues, hearts, and purses are all going in the same direction. So I’m in the same position as you. We are either going to cry together or laugh together. Let’s laugh together. It’s going to be good. ”A teacher can do storytelling instead of just dumping data on his students.

Symbolism in Stories – List of Examples

metaphors and stories

Incorporate symbolism into your stories by thinking creatively. In addition, there are a number of universal metaphors that you can use.

Maybe you were looking for examples of metaphors. Then here you will find examples of symbolism in stories:

  • A journey represents life. Success, failure, and healing occur along the way.
    – there are always good times
    – there are always bad times
    – there are always difficult times
    – there are always easy times
  • Mountains are big and difficult challenges. You can slip, even when descending.
    There is success. There is a peak. There is glory. There is a sense of accomplishment.
  • Hills are less challenging. They prepare you to climb the mountains that are yet to come.
  • Waterfalls are beautiful, overwhelming, very powerful. You are powerless against it.
    You can’t stop it. You have to find another way.
  • River: every river on the earth eventually ends up in the sea. It does not know at any point in its journey how it will get there, it only knows that it will continue to flow, and eventually gravity will steer / guide it in the right direction. The river does not have to think about it, it is in its nature. It is in your nature to feel those {sources} …
  • Weeds: it is useless to prune it. They must be removed root and all.
  • Flowers: make us feel welcome, they make us feel good.
  • Sun: optimism. It warms us. It is the source of all life.
  • Moon: in the dark it illuminates us.
  • Stars: wonder.
  • Wind: it can warm or cool us, it is the power of change. It can blow away trees, it can also be pleasant and just bring some leaves. It could be a tailwind and it could be a headwind.
  • Snow: beautiful, white. But difficult and slowing, but with the right aids such as skis you go much faster than normal.
  • Storm: very difficult to deal with, but when you are safely sheltered it is beautiful.
  • Rain: no life without rain. It makes travel difficult but it is necessary for plant growth. It is also necessary for us to drink water. Too much causes flooding.
  • Leaves: change color, provide shade, even smell good.
  • A metaphor from Voltaire: we must cultivate our garden. See your thinking, your emotions and your soul as a beautiful ultimate garden. A beautiful nutritious harvest is obtained by sowing seeds of warmth, love and appreciation instead of seeds of disappointment, anger and fear. A weed is a call to action to pick it. ”
  • You tell about a child who came to you with his parents. The child was allowed to stay and the parents had to wait outside. This symbolizes acknowledging the child in the client opposite you. This one can speak freely now.

You can create a ‘superficial’ or ‘deep’ metaphor

What is the difference between a superficial and a deep metaphor?

Imagine: Someone has difficulty with criticism. You are going to come up with a metaphor for this person. Below is an example of a superficial and deep metaphor for this case:

  • Superficial metaphor: a child in a country very far away – named Pietje – was playing in the sandbox with a friend. Then suddenly someone came to the children and they were criticized. For a moment they felt bad, but Pietje overcame it and could decide for himself how he went further. And they decided to move on with their lives.
  • Deep metaphor: I will tell you a story about a fruit tree. The fruit tree felt very small and in the first year got rotten fruits that were eaten by insects. The fruit tree didn’t feel so good because of that. In the years that followed, it got more stable roots, it got bigger and it got tasty fruits. Sometimes the fruit was still less good, but the tree understood that it was worthy, despite that. The tree also knew that when the wind came, it could move with the wind because it was flexible and at the same time had enough roots so that it could move with the wind and so that it could come to rest and calm again.

Both types of metaphors are effective. However, the superficial metaphor is much more direct and requires less creativity – from both the inventor and the listener.

A deep metaphor is of course more graceful than a superficial metaphor. Do you want to have a group of arguing managers work together in harmony? A superficial metaphor would be to talk about a different group of managers.

A deep metaphor would be to tell about an orchestra or a group of instruments that were not playing in harmony at first, but when conductor John appeared, everyone played in the same speed, frequency, color, rhythm and focus.

5 Examples of beautiful metaphors


Example 1: The Rabbit and Me – Just a story based on the tips of this article

Let’s see if we can apply all the tips now:

I was walking through the woods when suddenly a little bunny jumped in front of me and said, “Please mister, don’t let the dog eat me!” I decided I can’t make this little beast suffer so I picked it up and I said, “Don’t worry little friend, I’m protecting you.”

Suddenly the dog came running. It is a little Chihuahua and I look at it, I smile and I say, “Hey, if you want to get my friend you have to pass me first.” The poor little dog turned and ran away so fast! Then I went home with my rabbit and now we are best friends.

Can you recognize the structure in the example above?

  1. In the example above, a routine is started: I was walking through the forest.
  2. Then the routine is broken: a rabbit appeared and jumped open for me.
  3. Then someone needs to be changed emotionally. In this case it was me: I said I would take care of the rabbit and I chased the dog away.
  4. The reward, or the result: we have become friends.

Example 2: The Hawk’s Nest – A metaphor to give to your students during training

The following metaphor – coined by Michael Carroll – serves as an excellent overarching metaphor for a complete training that you give. You welcome your students, who are still in their comfort zone, you stretch them outside their comfort zone and you send them forward into the world again.

You can implicitly put this feeling in a metaphor, without having to state it explicitly. This example contains the format of the previous example and it contains powerful embedded messages for the audience. You start the metaphor on the first day of your training:

Once upon a time there was a hawk’s nest… High in a tree… By a clear blue river… Like blue silk under the sky…
With a base of sturdy branches… Comfortable… Safe… A wonderful comfort zone for the little ones… in the nest… Lovely… Here… . Now…. {Breathe and check if the audience is breathing along}

And one of the young ones was sitting comfortably there … Wonderfully high above the trees, and the leaves of the trees sway back and forth, as if they even sheltered the young from the sun …

And in that nest the young are well cared for: sweet, deliciously juicy insects slide from Daddy’s beak into the young’s beak. A different kind of insect every time … They are served a rich bouquet of insects.

And the day would come when the young hawks would leave the comfortable nest. And the young hawks have serious doubts… How should they fly! They have never flown before!

And the parents are removing more and more branches from the nest … They are removing more and more comfort …

Then a few days of training follow, and suddenly the metaphor is picked up again:

And fearing that Father-hawk would be disappointed in them … Told them they didn’t want to …: ‘I don’t dare to fly …’ It’s been told … They looked their father in the eye … And the father looked in the eyes of the young ones … And he leaned forward … and it was dead still … And it was as if time stood still for a moment … And Jun father laughed, and with a twinkle in his eye he whispered to them:

‘I believe in myself, and I believe in you, and together we’re going to catch this hare! I believe in myself, and I believe in you (notice the  subliminal messages ), and together we are going to catch this hare! I believe in myself, and I believe in you, and together we are going to catch this hare! It is natural for you. You find it easy. I believe in myself, and I believe in you, and together we are going to catch this hare! ‘

Like a blossom the Hawk’s face lit up, and his heart opened:

I can and I will!

And the day came when the mommy and daddy hawks take their babies to the edge … of the nest … one by one … And mommy hawk pushes the baby hawks … And they fall ….

Then there are a number of training days … And in the last half hour of the last training day you complete the metaphor.

And the young bird fell …

And the young hawk knew …

I believe in myself, and I believe in you, and together we are going to catch this hare! I believe in myself, and I believe in you, and together we are going to catch this hare! I believe in myself, and I believe in you, and together we are going to catch this hare! It is natural for you. You find it easy. I believe in myself, and I believe in you, and together we are going to catch this hare! I can and I will!

And he still falls…. Spreads its wings…. And flies…. fluttering from the edge… as an accomplished kite… Into the wide world… The nest is deserted… Forward!

– Metaphor created by Michael Carroll

Example 3: The Drum – A random story from the Sufi tradition

Once upon a time there was a little boy who beat his drum all day long and loved every second of it. He never stopped. In desperation, the neighboring Sufis called to pacify him.
The first said, “You will pierce your eardrums if you continue.” That fell on deaf ears.
The second said, “It is a sacred activity, only for special occasions.”
The third gave earplugs to all other neighbors.
The fourth gave the boy a book.
The fifth gave the neighbors a book with a method for managing anger through biofeedback.
The sixth had the boy do meditation exercises to calm him down “reality is mere imagination.”
None of them worked.
Finally a real Sufi came and looked at the situation for a moment, handed the boy a hammer and a chisel and said, “What could be INSIDE the drum?”
– Sufi story, found in the book: NLP For Dummies

Example 4: The Horse – A Metaphor of Milton Erickson

Once during his childhood a horse came to Milton Erickson’s house and Erickson sat down to return it to its owner, but instead of going everywhere to ask if the horse belonged to someone, he let the horse itself. find way. When the horse’s owners asked how he knew, he said, “I didn’t know: the horse knew! All I did was keep him on the road. ” In this story, the horse symbolizes the subconscious.

Example 5: Gary Player – A metaphor about hard work

That reminds me of sports interviewers: You may have seen on TV that there are those difficult, difficult commentators and interviewers who want to put the athletes down: they make life difficult because it is good TV.

Gary Player was a South African golfer, world class. He was in a big game and he knew he was under pressure, and unfortunately… He made a big mistake: one of his shots ended up in the bunker (that sand part). That is very bad for golfers at his level. And from there he shot … He looked, and the ball went hard, went far, and finally rolled into the hole in one go. So he recovered.

After the game, that annoying commentator wanted to make it difficult for him again, and said: You were lucky there, didn’t you, on that shot? Well… What was Gary’s answer…

Now the metaphor could be truncated to allow direct suggestions / lessons to be given. That could be, for example: have a good preparation, have a lot of practice. That gives you the luxury and confidence to flow and improvise. Then the metaphor is closed again:

From the sand, Gary shot in the hole in one go. So he recovered. The commenter said, you were lucky there, right? To which Gary replied: The more I practice that shot, the luckier I get.

– Metaphor coined by Michael Carroll

Other forms of metaphors

metaphors and stories

In addition to the forms and elements of metaphors discussed in this article, such as imagery and story construction, you can also incorporate the following in your metaphor or use it as a stand-alone metaphor:

  • Symbolism.
  • An anecdote.
  • A traditional metaphor in which you, often in one sentence, make a comparison with something. “You are like a leaf because you smell nice and fresh, you protect us and you keep changing color.”
  • A traditional metaphor in which you make an equivalence. “You are a radiant sun.”
  • Isomorphic metaphor: a story that relates to the situation of the client in which some elements (current situation, desired situation, resources and challenges) are very much parallel with reality.
  • An XYZ construction: Tiger Woods is the Michael Jordan of golf.
  • Experience a metaphor: Erickson had a client who wanted to get rid of his drinking addiction buy a cactus plant and look at it for a period of time.
  • A proverb.

Exercise – The metaphor game

How powerful would it be if you could make the use of metaphors a real habit? Therefore, play this game as often as possible, for example at the table while eating.

  1. Pick a goal. For example to be able to write more easily.
  2. Person A says: “Writing a book can be compared to …”
  3. Person B looks for a metaphor and says, “An apple.”
  4. Person C connects the metaphor and says, “Because you can sink your teeth into it.”

Connect the subjects together. For example: men and computers. Metaphor: men are like computers. To get their attention, you have to turn them on. They are supposed to solve your problems, but half the time they are the problem themselves.

Keep finding the funny or special resemblance (women are like cars, bars are like work, etc.)

Variation for two people:

  1. A says: Life is like …
  2. B adds: A rose bush.
  3. A finds the connection by saying: That’s true, because … you have to watch out for the thorns.

Life is like a circus because it is full of clowns.

Life is like a river, because sometimes you have to go against the current.

Variation: general-specific:

  1. A says something general. Life / family / marriage / men / entrepreneurship / sports … is like …
    It is easy to make a metaphor with something general.
  2. And B says something specific: For example: a rose garden, a river …
  3. A finds the connection: That’s true, because … you have to watch out for the thorns.

Variation: Utilization of Personal Metaphors:

  1. A says something that is quite important to him / her. “I love soccer.”
  2. B chooses a different context, such as a business meeting.
  3. C makes a metaphor for that business context, using what is important to person A (football). “A business meeting is like football. All players must be attuned to each other.”

Exercise – Metaphor play as an icebreaker

Find someone you don’t know yet. Tell that person that you are doing a homework assignment to learn how to use metaphors. The assignment is:

Introduce yourself through a metaphor.

For example:

  • I am like a car, because I often need steering.
  • I am like the sun because I always shine.

Utilization / Adoption of Metaphors – Use this powerful NLP tip

metaphor and stories

In principle , you are working with metaphors, and in particular with metaphors of other people . You adopt the metaphor that already belongs to someone else! One of the most elegant things you can do is use the concept of utilization in conjunction with metaphors.

Use metaphors that are in tune with your audience. For example, you can base them on their identity, interests or metaphors. You ‘utilize’ these things. So make sure you somehow find out what they are first. You can also adopt the metaphors used by the client.

You can also use the syntax of someone’s phrase or metaphor. Use the same structure as the structure of the problem or limiting thought:

“Life is like …”
“I once heard a poet say: Life is like …”

First, divert to other random topic for the indirect way. Then you can offer the solution as a metaphor. Even after that, you immediately divert attention again. Should the other ask, “What was that just now?” Then you say, “Oh yes that, what did I say about that again?” Then the client will explain it themselves and you confirm him / her in this.

Let’s look at some examples of this adoption principle:

  • When you are talking to a cat lover, you make up a metaphor about a cat nest in which, for example, one kitten is always left out.
  • If you’re talking to a golfer, use the metaphor of a ‘hole in one.’
  • When presenting something to a group of mothers, compare your subject to pregnancy.
  • Weight of the world on my back: put the world off.
  • “I just keep bumping into it.” “Just make a hole in it, go over it, go under it or open a door and go through it.
  • “I’m in the dark.” “What happens when you turn on the light?”
  • If you know who the favorite sports hero of your conversation partner is, formulate your message or belief in the spirit of his favorite sports hero, for example about a characteristic or something that he has experienced in his career, to get your conversation partner out of his dip.
  • When Erickson visited a mental institution, a rebellious client thought he was Jesus. Erickson accepted that and looked for a solution from there to get him to work on something constructive: Jesus’ father was a carpenter, so the client will accept to make himself useful as a carpenter.
  • “It feels like a huge burden, a kind of backpack that I have been carrying all my life.” “What if you let go of the backpack? What if you put it in a rack and send it to the sun? And after that happens, tell me what happens when you walk around outside? And how does {the problem} feel now?
  • “I look like a tiger trapped in its cage.” “You are a tiger out of its cage.”
  • “If you were to make an image of it, what kind of image do you see in front of you?” “An elastic under tension.” “Can you relax that elastic? What happens then?”
  • You already saw it in the above examples, and now we are going to work with it more explicitly: you can also let go of submodalities on the metaphor of the other. “I keep running into a wall.” “What happens if you move away from the wall? And if you give it your favorite color? And if you let it shrink to a threshold? Step over it and back.”
  • “Is this the hot seat?” “This is the cool, relaxed seat that everyone can relax in.”
  • Someone finds his seat: “Sometimes it can be very simple to find your place in the world, can’t it?”
  • “I’ll just take off my vest.” Indeed, there are several layers that you can pull off and let go. You have the choice.

So what you shouldn’t do is, “I scored a home run at work” if your audience isn’t into baseball.

Exercise – In practice

In the next activity, meeting or context in which you become involved, you will use a metaphor that can be derived from an object, feeling or sound in that situation.

For example:

  • There is some fruit on the table during a meeting: “If we follow through with the plan, we can reap the benefits later”, picking up the fruit.
  • There are still sandwiches from lunch. “We can reap much-needed results later.”
  • During a coaching session with a client who wants more self-confidence, there is a knock on the door: “And while you relax even more, you know that self-confidence is at the door”.

From now on, take every opportunity to use a metaphor based on the context you are currently dealing with.

Exercise – Using a metaphor to provide insight to another

You can give this exercise as a gift to another person. You can also do it for an organization.

  1. Let someone else tell you about his / her problematic situation.
  2. Explore the problem and encourage the other to create a metaphor for this situation. Help by saying, for example, “If your problem was a vehicle , what vehicle would it be?” Think of a category other than vehicle yourself. That’s just an example. Or: “What can you compare the problem to?” Or fill in: ‘So the problem feels like a … (by filling in the other)?’
  3. While staying within the chosen metaphor, you aim for possible solutions. How do you get from the current situation to the desired situation in the metaphor?
  4. Ask the other person how he / she experienced working with the metaphor.
  5. Tip: have someone watch and give you feedback: what did you do to steer the metaphor, how did you ensure that you stay within the metaphor and what was the effect on the other? Otherwise, take the third perception position to give yourself feedback and set a goal for the next time you start working with metaphors.

Exercise – Using a metaphor to give someone feedback

Giving feedback is a wonderful gift and is essential for growth. Give feedback to someone else by, in addition to using the feedback model , give feedback on the basis of a metaphor. In the metaphor you process the current situation, the desired situation, the positive intention and the road to the desired situation. You come up with the metaphor and then you tell it as a story to the other.

In any case, books are a very good source of inspiration for metaphors. Here you will find an overview with top 10 book lists. To your success!

About The Author


Hello! Thanks for reading these articles. My intention is to make happiness as simple and clear as posssible. By the way, excuse my English. I am not a native English speaker since I live in Amsterdam. Much appreciated if you use the comments to make suggestions on my grammar. See ya in another blogpost!


  1. L. Panahi

    Thank you Rubin! This is a fantastic and very useful guide!

  2. Rian

    Super tips for making a metaphor. But I have to make one for a fellow student. She is extremely perfectionist and can never relinquish control. As a result, she prepares herself extremely for everything. Afterwards she can barely enjoy the achieved success, because a next appointment is lurking again. She suffers from it and is exhausted. I would like to be helped.

    • Rubin Alaie

      I think aloud for a moment.

      You may be able to create three stories, one is a parallel reality about perfectionism, the second story is a parallel reality about relinquishing control, and the third story is a parallel reality about being able to enjoy successes without necessarily going back get started right away with another appointment.

      You start all three stories without closing them. So they always go up to 80% for the end before moving on to the next story. Here you deal with the current situation and the associated pain, emotions and challenges.

      After you are at 80% of Story 3, you suddenly name the resources in a hypnotic way: you give them as Hypnotic suggestions. With your language you can do that in a way that makes it seem that you are addressing the main characters of the stories, but ‘secretly’ you are giving suggestions to your listener.

      You then end Story 3 using the resources, then end Story 2 using the resources, and then Story 1.

      Then divert attention from the story so that the suggestions can act unconsciously.

  3. Diane

    Well, the fellow student I have to make a metaphor for has the same characteristics as mentioned above. For we must use an object to convey it. Right here I am stuck. Which object would suit these properties perfectly?

    • Rubin Alaie

      Okay, these are the properties:
      – Perfectionist
      – Can never relinquish control.
      – As a result, she prepares herself extremely for everything.

      The first step is in any case not to choose an object that has these properties, because otherwise you will give unconscious suggestions with the metaphor where these properties are.

      You want the opposite, so for example the following properties:
      – Satisfaction
      – Handing over control
      – Knowing that you can already do it, self-confidence in your abilities so you don’t have to prepare as much: you just have to show up and bring yourself.

      Object that fits here:
      The marble …

      (Habit 1) Everyone loves to look at a marble … Somehow marbles get your attention … Even if it has scratches … Right if it has scratches to sit! The marble is not perfect … Children were allowed to tap it on the sidewalk.

      (Feature 2) The marble can be moved … It relinquishes control … To the children who tap it with concentration … And then the control is again in the hands of another child, who won it …

      (Property 3) And that child, Teun, I also want to tell you something about that … I know Teun as someone who can really enjoy it when he has won a marble. After he wins it, he picks it up, thanks his opponent, goes home and says to himself … Teun … You can enjoy your results, you know you can, you have confidence … (embedded assignment to your fellow student).

  4. Martine

    Wonderful tips and useful links linked about this matter. Can I use it well when writing metaphorically about my client.
    It would be nice if the various typos are filtered out.

    • Rubin Alaie

      Many thanks for your comment Martine!

  5. Zora

    Ruben! What a fantastic job you do. Unlike others here who are annoyed by the spelling mistakes, it really hurts me! (By the way, this is not a cut above the rest. I’m just very happy that I came across this article :))
    Because … this is what I’ve been looking for all this time !!

    You are talking about objects. The example above, about the kinker. Did you happen to write an article about which objects you can use during a coaching session?

    I hope to hear from you!


    • Anonymous

      Oops! Rubin is the name …

      And if my question is not clear enough yet. I mean an article with the topic, for example, ” objects ” and which physical objects you can use to support a coaching session!

      And if there is no article on this, is there a book that you recommend me where this offer comes?

  6. Wouter

    Gosh, now I end up here by chance and what a rich article to read is here. This is what I’ve been looking for for a while. Nicely structured and lots of tips and information to get completely lost and end up somewhere in a completely different corner of the internet.
    Here I will start more often. Thank you! It’s great that you share so much information, something that in my opinion is not done enough in the NLP world.

    • Rubin Alaie

      Thank you so much for reading, Wouter

  7. ing

    ha rubin,

    beautiful and very useful site … I was curious if you would like to think along with me? i give training at a university to highly educated people and subject is giving feedback and communication …. i wanted to start my 2nd day with a story with metaphor in it … feedback from the first day is a need for clarity in team, how give feedback, lots of theory please … can you do something with this?

    • Rubin Alaie

      Hi 🙂 Of course. What do you want me to think about?

      Do you want to know how you react to the feedback from the group?

      Or do you want ideas for what could be a possible metaphor for giving feedback and communicating?

      If the group indicates that it wants a lot of theory, you should not use a metaphor. This makes sense, because it is a university and the scientific method requires deduction, that is, concrete, limited information within a framework without fantasizing about what a metaphor could mean.

      There is nothing wrong with that. It’s just a straightforward approach.

      A metaphor provides induction (infinite possibilities and fantasy) and you would so shouldn’t use if I understand the group’s feedback properly.

      But if you still want to tell a metaphor, I would just tell you a simple superficial metaphor of a ‘previous group’ that had a very unclear team (obstacle). Plenty of confusion in that organization … Fortunately, the group was very enthusiastic (resource) and in the end they wanted to learn even more about clear communication and feedback. Share how they took in all the information and applied it in the months that followed.

      If you want a deep metaphor, you can tell about an orchestra playing out of harmony until a conductor came and they learned to interact in 2 days …. {fill in all your learning points here such as listening, following & leading, giving sensory specific feedback, etc.}

  8. Rohit

    One of the best articles and writeups I have read about metaphors and storytelling. Kuddos to you for putting this stuff out there. Is there a structured training to create my own metaphors and storytelling for creating hypnotic changes.