Great Example of Making a Message “Stick” Using Analogy

Whenever you find your ideas are not landing, the problem is probably because they are not concrete enough. That is, people cannot imagine what your ideas look like.

The answer to this problem: analogy.

Here’s a great example I just discovered recently. What if you’re talking to a group and want them to understand the difference between sympathy and empathy? You could explain it verbally using this description from

Sympathy is literally ‘feeling with’ – compassion for or commiseration with another person. Empathy, by contrast, is literally ‘feeling into’ – the ability to project one’s personality into another person and more fully understand that person. You feel empathy when you’ve “been there”, and sympathy when you haven’t.

Not that helpful, actually. But put that idea into visuals, using an analogy, and the idea comes to life. In general, whenever you find your ideas aren’t “sticking”, an analogy is probably the solution.


About the author: Bruce Gabrielle is author of Speaking PowerPoint: the New Language of Business, showing a 12-step method for creating clearer and more persuasive PowerPoint slides for boardroom presentations. Subscribe to this blog or join my LinkedIn group to get new posts sent to your inbox.

One thought on “Great Example of Making a Message “Stick” Using Analogy

  1. Great example Bruce, thanks for sharing. Brené Brown is an amazing communicator.

    (It’s interesting that her empathy example included the words “I know what it’s like” (at 1’10”). I think some counsellors suggest avoiding that, because it focuses on the carer and can invalidate the sufferer’s own experience. Then again, it does forge a connection, as she says. Maybe I should check my sources!)

    Recently I wrote about how to make a talk “sticky”, so I mentioned concreteness and mnemonic devices. I didn’t include analogies though, so it looks like they’d be good to add!

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