Here’s why “light” is good and “dark” is bad: understanding metaphors

Metaphor and Everyday Life, more than any other book I’ve read, explains how our brain processes reality and, in fact, lives its experience of the world. Above all, it explains what for me is the most important concept of all, namely that the body, our body, has a very special language that we can study to communicate more effectively with our interlocutor and with ourselves. In short, the body knows, and Lakoff, therefore, from this point of view, rather than teaching us, reminds us. It reminds us how we speak when we feel good, it reminds us how we speak when we feel bad, it explains how the brain expresses itself linguistically and therefore suggests the most revolutionary idea of ​​all: by correcting language, we can correct the body, exactly as it happens when correcting the body also the language is corrected accordingly. One of my most quoted phrases is “the words you use tell where you come from, the words you choose tell where you want to go”.

That is: stay as you say, stay as you say, stay. The words you use say where you come from, that is: as you say, you are. Who taught you to place, for example, in the metaphorical space around you, good experiences and positive emotions “up” and bad experiences and negative emotions “down”? Who taught you to say, when you are well, that you are “up in the dumps” and, conversely, when you are less well, that you are “down in the dumps”? Tall is good looking, short is ugly (which is also probably why taller people are considered smarter and usually make more money than short people).

Who taught you to use the “hot” metaphor to talk about good emotional relationships and the “cold” metaphor to talk about less good emotional relationships? “What a warm welcome,” you say. “I found that guy a little chilly,” she says. And we could go on for another hundred pages, but I would take away the pleasure of discovering what metaphors say about us without us knowing it. “Light” is good and “dark” is bad (“finally I have clear ideas” vs “I am in the dark about everything”), “near” is good and “far” is bad (“I feel you close” vs “you I feel distant”) and so on. The way you speak, that is, declares the way you are and, obviously, this gives you an ability to interpret the inner world of others that has no equal.

Thanks to the study of metaphors, for example, you will discover that if your colleague or client tells you that he does not want to “waste time”, he is using a metaphorical frame connected with money and that, on the basis of this information, you can use suitable metaphors and create an empathetic bond with him that transcends any emotional intelligence approach you can imagine: nothing in the world, in fact, creates more empathy, for example, than a language and a way of speaking similar to ours. What can you do with this information? You can, for example, be careful how you speak. You can, for example, understand how the minds of your interlocutors work. You can, for example, adapt your language to theirs, without distorting the contents but simply adopting metaphorical strategies that are linear with those they offer you.

(…) The words you choose, as I said, tell where you want to go: as you say, stay. What does it mean? It means that by choosing particular words and specific metaphors, you have the power to influence both your mood, your reality, and the perception of your interlocutors. Whether it’s a chat with your child, a company meeting or a post, knowing that certain chemical mixes correspond to certain metaphors, you have the ability to predict what kind of reaction your interlocutors will have. That is: if you know that, in extreme exemplification, height-related metaphors are linked to specific feel-good hormones, you can use them to produce those types of hormones in your readers or listeners. For example, during the next meeting, I might begin by saying, “I’m here to raise your already high standards,” knowing that “raise” and “high” will certainly produce a very definite reaction.

This translates into a very simple principle: the metaphors you use will make you and the people who listen to you fit in one way or another. And this, especially in the post-Covid-19 era, is an invaluable power. (…) Lakoff’s book made me discover that with words you can really do everything, from controlling the elements that are under the domain of your responsibility to managing all the others. I hope you enjoy this journey to discover the world of linguistic intelligence, and I hope above all that Lakoff’s work, so important and so topical, will be as helpful to you as it has been for me.

Here’s why “light” is good and “dark” is bad: understanding metaphors