Analogies, Similes, and Anecdotes
Estimated Lesson Time: 3 minutes
“Success is a butterfly, beautiful and flowing.”
“Leadership is like a bear, always protecting its young.”
What do these two statements mean? Did some great philosopher say these immortal words? The truth is, they are gibberish and I, just now, made them up. However, the chances are you read them as mystical puzzles, and if asked, you would search your mind for the underlying meaning. I did not mean to trick you; I was just proving a point that we are all guilty of interpreting analogies, similes, and anecdotes as truth rather than what they often are: just catchy phrases that sound good.
Lawyers use these powerful tools very often in court to make a point and win a jury to their way of thinking. Debaters use these tools as well because they know the power of such statements. Authors use these tools to reinforce their point. These are very powerful tools used for both persuasion and manipulation. Use them for persuasion, but never let yourself be manipulated by them.
Analogies, similes, and anecdotes all have one major thing in common: they are not meant to be taken literally. Here are the definitions of these figures of speech and some examples.
Analogy - Similarity in some respects between things that are otherwise dissimilar. Example: “Success is a journey, not a destination.”
Simile - A figure of speech in which two essentially unlike things are compared, often in a phrase introduced by “like” or “as.” Example: “The future is like heaven, everyone exalts it, but no one wants to go there now.” - James A. Baldwin
Anecdote - A short account of an interesting or humorous incident. Example: “My father did that once and got fired for it.”
Any statement that does not have a literal meaning is up for interpretation. Acceptance of such statements without really understanding the meaning is like being brainwashed and should be avoided. Statements such as, “Money is the root of all evil” or “It is lonely at the top” have gained much popularity over the years and are automatically accepted as truths by many, much to their own financial detriment. Who said these things? What did they mean? Some of these statements are thousands of years old and have been translated so many times that the intended meaning has been lost long ago. Other statements have been made by bitter individuals from whom none of us should be taking advice. In some cases, the time and circumstances surrounding such statements are beyond our comprehension. It is possible that the statement may have been true only for the speaker of the “immortal” words, but not anyone else.
Similes and analogies are great for avoiding jargon to explain something to someone to help them to understand. Anecdotes are great for making or reinforcing a point. You can adopt these techniques to be a more effective communicator. More important, now that you understand these techniques, use your common sense when encountering one of these parts of speech and do not automatically believe everything you read or hear.
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Some discussion questions (some may not apply to this lesson):
- Have you implemented this idea in your life? How has it been working for you?
- Do you have any interesting stories related to this lesson? Do tell!
- What do you admire most about this person? (success biography days)