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Metaphors for NLP & Teaching

40. The Cinderella Communication Complex

Before we begin, I’d like to tell you a story because stories are wonderful for teaching, and wonderful for learning. In fact, research has shown that people learn 25% more when they relax before learning. And when I was growing up, my uncle used to tell me stories all the time, down by the sea, where the wind and the salt water would sometimes get in your eyes and make you blink. And blink again with the freshness and new feeling. Now he felt that stories were at the heart of communication, and he said that his grandfather told him the same stories. And his grandfather would always begin a story by saying, “Let your eyes grow sleepy now as you listen to this story that comes to us from a far off place now.”
And to really understand this story, you might want to really imagine it and the best way to do that is to just step into the relaxed feeling of letting your mind really flow with the story. So as you really enjoy that feeling, you might like to take the chance to relax even more so you can let your unconscious imagine the story really well and let yourself remember it at an even deeper level.

You know the story of Cinderella, don’t you. How it came to be that the Prince found Cinderella by placing the glass slipper on the foot of every woman in the city. And they lived happily ever after.
Or did they live happily ever after?
They got married in the winter, you know, and those first couple of months were wonderful as they gazed into each others eyes, listened to beautiful music together, held hands on their long walks, and talked late into the night.

When Spring came, they were discussing what to do for on one of the few free evenings that they didn’t have an official royal function.
So on this free night, the Prince said: “Cinderella, let’s go out to meet everyone and have some drinks under the cherry blossoms. There’ll be a great atmosphere down there tonight.” Later we’ll go dancing at the Undecided Fairy club and we’ll have a real ball.”
“Really?,” said Cinderella, doubtfully. “Actually, I was just hoping that we could just sit in and read this evening. I’m feeling a little tired. We could take a walk through the blossoms tomorrow – just the two of us. It’ll be lovely and peaceful then.”
“Hey, we’re going to have a great time,” he said. Come on, Cindy. What you really need is a good night out to energize you.”
And they just couldn’t seem to agree. So they had an argument, their first if the truth be told, and the truth is always told in fairy tales.

Spring drew to a close and the weather became warmer and warmer. And by summer, things were again fine between the loving couple. The weather was just glorious, so the King asked the Prince and Princess to host a great beach party for all the children of the country.
“Oh great”, said Cinderella. “We’ll have to order lots of buckets and spades. Let’s get the order in today to make sure that they arrive in plenty of time. And transportation – we’ll hire a team of buses to get them all down to the beach. Hmm, one last thing – oh yes, the weather. Can you talk to your fairy godmother and arrange some sun for the day?”
“Wait a minute, Cindy. Not so quick. This is a really interesting opportunity. Let’s think about all the possibilities for a while.”
They talked for a couple of minutes and Cinderella began to get hot and bothered. “Why can’t he just make a simple decision? We have to act now. It’s so simple and we just need to get to the point. Obviously, we just arrange some simple buckets and spades and set up a sandcastle building contest”
Meanwhile, the Prince was thinking, “why oh why can’t she see the big picture? This is such a wonderful opportunity for development for these children. There are so many possibilities and we really need to think through each one before we reach a decision.”
Within just a few minutes, they were screaming at each other, and then shouting all sorts of silly stuff that they had kept bottled up inside.

In early Autumn, they had again forgiven each other, but they didn’t quite understand the other’s point of view. It was worrying both of them quite a bit, especially now that they were trying to make an important decision together: choosing the location for the new palace. The real estate agent took them off to see the location and explained all the great features. The Prince was really impressed. It was on a great hill with a fine view. The rock was solid enough to be a strong foundation and there was no history of earthquakes in the area. They wandered around the site and the Prince was delighted. But Cinderella didn’t look quite so happy. Finally, she said, “yes, I know that it’s a very logical choice. Everything seems right, but it just doesn’t feel right.”
“Doesn’t feel right?! Here we are making the biggest purchase of our lives and you’re just worried about your feelings.”
“Exactly,” said Cinderella angrily. “We’re going to live here, so it has to feel exactly right.”
“It will feel right”, said the Prince. “Because all the right features are here. Just look around you and use your head.”
So they had their third argument, the biggest one yet.
But they didn’t quite understand how the other person was thinking. Everyone has arguments, but these seemed to go right to important issues that they needed to sort out.

When winter came to the land, they decided to plan their honeymoon. They had been so busy with royal duties and the wedding and officially opening statues of glass slippers that they hadn’t had time to go on a honeymoon.
“Where shall we go?”, asked the Prince cautiously. He was being careful tonight after all the arguments. He was going to let Cinderella have her way as much as possible. After all, she was the woman and the honeymoon would be more important to her.
“Oh, I don’t know”, answered Cinderella. How about just taking a couple of horses out and heading down south for a couple of weeks?
“What do you mean?” This is our honeymoon!,” stuttered the prince. We’ll have to book the hotels and arrange for the carriages and notify all the towns in advance so that the people can come out to wave at us.”
“We don’t need to worry about any of that stuff. Let’s just go with the flow. I don’t like to plan too much. It just gets in the way of having fun.”
“Gets in the way of having fun?! How can we possibly have fun if we don’t know what we’re going to be doing?”
Oh dear, yet another argument.

They say that you shouldn’t allow any communication strain in a relationship last more than a week without addressing, so they decided to call on the Wizard, a great counselor who could surely help them to save their marriage. After all, it would be embarrassing if they had to get a divorce after the fairy story books had already been written.

So off they went to the wizard’s den where the wizard asked them to tell him about the problems between them.

The Prince said: “Wizard, we need your help. She is just incomprehensible. Take out your wand. We need to change her into a normal person.”
“What”, cried Cinderella. “You want to change me. I’m the one who’s normal. You’re the crazy one. Wizard, get out your wand and change this man into something that I can understand, a frog, for example. ”

“Oh dear,” said the wizard. “I see that you two really do have some problems understanding each other.
And then he said something really strange, so out of the blue that it made them really curious about what he was trying to communicate.

***

Because communication can be strange sometimes, can’t it? Sometimes, we have real difficulty in understanding someone’s else view of the world.
For example, I read a funny story about teaching the other day.
There was a rather eccentric lecturer named John Moffit. John was known for his strong view about the role of the teacher. One of the other lecturers arrived at work on this particular morning and passed by the main lecture theatre on the way to his class. He happened to glance in, and saw John Moffit giving a most rousing lecture from the front of the room. John was gesturing enthusiastically, and eagerly writing on the board. But when the other lecturer looked around the lecture theatre, it was totally empty. A little concerned about John’s sanity, he decided to raise the matter gently at morning tea later on.
“John,” he observed “I saw you teaching over in the lecture theatre this morning.”
“Yeeees.” John replied with a wide smile.
“But John, I must say I noticed that there didn’t seem to be any students there.”
“Yes, thet’s right. No-one turned up this morning.”
“And I noticed,” the other man continued, “that you were still teaching.” He waited hoping for some simple explanation.
Sure enough, John replied “Yes, thet’s right. Well, they pay me to teach, and that’s what I was doing!”
“It was at this moment”, the other lecturer told me, “that you realize that teaching and learning are two separate things”.
And you realize that people’s attitudes to teaching and indeed their attitudes to the whole world are completely different. And that’s where Metaprograms come in. Because you’ll also notice when you look at people that some people are different in the same way. In other words, their differences show certain patterns. And these same differences are metaprograms, and I think they are very useful for thinking about teaching and learning, and in fact in all types of communication. You can think of metaprograms as strategies that we use to put our values into action. Because when we are trying to communicate, we are trying to open up communication channels, to engage in communication, not necessarily trying to persuade or accept another person’s values.

***

So the wizard said to Cinderella and the Prince: “I see that you two really do have some problems understanding each other.
And then he said something really strange, so out of the blue that it made them really curious about what he was trying to communicate.
Alright, both of you, please take off your shoes.”
“Our shoes?!”
“Yes, yes, quickly take off your shoes.”
Looking very confused, the Prince took off his great big black size 11 hunting boots and Cinderella took off her beautiful, dainty size 5 glass slippers.
“Now,” said the wizard. “Put on each others shoes.”
“What?”, said both of them together.
“They’re too big and horrible,” shouted Cinderella just as the Prince was shouting, “they’re much too small and dainty.”
“Quiet, both of you,” said the wizard sharply, “or I really will use my wand and change you both into pumpkins and eat you for my supper.”
So the Prince and Cinderella looked at each other worriedly and quickly put on each others shoes.
“Now,” said the wizard. “Walk around the large courtyard past the fountain and don’t even dream of coming back before you have finished.”
So the Prince got up and promptly fell over as his huge size 11 feet slipped out of the dainty glass slippers. And Cinderella landed down on the ground next to him as her tiny size 5 feet got lost in his big black size 11 hunting boots.
“Up, up, and out of my sight,” shouted the wizard, waving his wand and shouting out a strange incantation: “Tea-a-me-Ton-a-me, Got-a-be, Song”.
Seeing and hearing this, the Prince and Princess scurried out of the wizard’s den, half crawling, half walking, fully annoyed at the crazy old man.
“He’s mad, you know,” said the Prince. “We should never have gone to him. He’s gone and cast some crazy spell on us. I should have listened to my friends. They said he’s completely flipped since the territory war with the Fairy Godmother.”
“Oh shut up and leave her out of it.” said Cinderella. “Let’s get this over with. How on earth do you walk in these things? They are so ungainly. I never knew that you had such big feet. You must trip over yourself all the time.”
“Trip up? What are you talking about? I’m Prince Charming, you know. You didn’t notice me tripping up when we were dancing at the ball, did you?”
“Well no, I guess not,” said Cinderella.
“And how do you get around in these tiny things? They’re made of glass, you know. Aren’t you afraid of breaking them?”
“Of course not. They’re absolutely perfect for me. Just you be careful with them.”
“I am being careful, really careful”, said the Prince. “It’s funny. They seemed so odd to walk in at first, but it is becoming a little easier now.”
“Yes, you’re right”, answered Cinderella. It is funny that these boots aren’t quite as bad as they were before. With a couple of weeks of Sunday newspaper supplements stuffed in the toes, I could probably wear them comfortably enough. But of course, I wouldn’t want to.”
“No. That would be silly,” said the Prince, “but I do know how you can like these slippers. They are awfully pretty and they suit you.”
And as the couple walked around the courtyard, they talked more freely than they had done in months. It felt like they were actually communicating again and they even started to laugh at their own predicament.

And by the time, they came back around past the fountain, they were hobbling along hand in hand, laughing and giggling like two little garden gnomes.

“Hey wizard, we’re back”, called out the Prince when they turned the corner and saw him waiting at the door of his den, a peaceful look upon his old face.
The wizard gestured to them to sit down and poured them some tea.
“So you two seem to be getting on a little better.”
“Yes, what was that spell that you cast on us when we left?”, asked Cinderella. “It must have been very powerful to work so quickly.”
“Spell?”, asked the wizard. “I didn’t cast any spell on you. I just cast a spell to boil water for the tea. I can’t use my wand to bring you two back together. That would be a breach of ethics and the Merlin league would throw me out right away.”
“So what did you do,” asked Cinderella.
The wizard laughed and answered, “I just wanted you to remember the old saying: ‘You’ll never really understand someone until you walk in their shoes for a mile.”
The couple looked at each other in confusion while the wizard continued: “You two, more than anyone else in the country should have realized that. Cinderella, don’t you remember that your shoes were created by magic. They were created just for you. And my noble Prince, I thought you would have remembered how everyone has different feet. How many ladies did you try to put that same glass slipper onto?
“Oh hundreds and hundreds,”answered the Prince, “but Cinderella is unique. She’s completely unique. That’s why I love her so much.”
“And you’re unique, too, my great bigfooted Prince. How many other guys would have been so patient? You’re completely crazy, but I love you so much.”
And so the wizard showed them how they could understand each other and experience the world in a different way by wearing different shoes.
And just before they went off to live happily ever after, the Prince turned back and said to the wizard, “thank you so much wizard, you really do have powerful magic”.
“Of course I have magic,” snorted the wizard. “We all have magic in every word that we say. But everyone responds to that magic in their own unique way. You can be a wizard. Just learn the structure of magic.”

Main Uses: : Metaprograms
Also Useful For:
Submitted By: Brian Cullen
Source: Brian Cullen
Notes: This is a story that I wrote for a seminar on metaprograms that I carried out a few years ago for a teacher training session. I can’t remember where the story in the middle about the teachers came from. I may have written it myself or adapted it from somewhere else.

Index of Metaphors

1 thought on “Metaphors for NLP & Teaching

  1. Sarah

    Hello Dr. Cullen,

    What a great list of metaphors! Thank you for creating this great resource for people to use freely. I was wondering if there would be any way to have each metaphor page set up with a link that says "printable version", or something similar, allowing for easy printing of a particular metaphor?

    Thanks again for setting this up. It is a really useful resource not only for me, but for my students as well.

    All the best to you,

    SJ Marubay
    Nagoya

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