When working as a consultant, an important aspect that we talk about is the fact that you’ll be dealing with different clients in unique situations regularly. Effective communication is key when you’re entering into an organization where you are the outsider. You have a goal, you have projects and objectives that need to be completed, but you’re coming in as a new face with a fresh take. It can be difficult to get your point across or to make sure that everyone is aligned.
One of the most successful tools I’ve found is the use of analogies to quickly and efficiently convey your meaning. You may be in an unfamiliar situation with unfamiliar people and you can use an analogy as a common set up of things that people generally know about. There are certain situations and scenarios that most people have experienced or that most people have knowledge of. Take car sales for instance. Nearly everyone has been through that experience. Everyone can relate. If you’re in a meeting and you present a concept using an analogy that people can relate to, you’re more likely to have people on the same page as you.
As uniting as a good analogy can be, a bad analogy is just as polarizing. It’s not a good idea to use an analogy that no one can identify with. When you were hiking Mt. Everest for instance. You look around the room and say, “We’ve all been there, right?” No. Most people have not actually been hiking on Mt. Everest. No, they cannot relate.
When you’re using bad analogies, you’re not bridging the gap. So think about, and flesh out, the thoughts before you say them out loud. Can people see themselves in this scenario? Is this something that most people have experienced? How can I use a common, everyday life experience to convey meaning and get my thoughts across quickly?
An analogy is really just breaking down what you’re trying to say by drawing comparisons to a relatable subject. This can be a tool that makes a successful consultant. What have your experiences been in the past getting alignment using analogies? What are some of the best analogies you’ve heard in a business scenario? What are some of the worst? Do you think they have a significant impact? Comment below!