Give me milk! Analog vs Digital in speaking

The cat is rubbing against your leg. You understand: it is asking for milk.


This an example, provided by the psychologist and philosopher Paul Watzlawick in "The Language of Change", of analogical communication. The cat has no vocabulary. There is no special way of making "Meow" that means "milk". Rubbing against your leg is behaving like a kitten with its mother. In analogical language, it says: "Be like mother"

You understand. You give milk.

Analogical communication is based on the principle of: showing something that is like what you mean. In this text, I'll show you a few examples of analogical versus digital communication in human interaction, and suggest: go analogical for more impact and engagement!


If you are in a philosophical mood and ask "What is love?" you might come up with answers such as:

"Love is a fire..." Even though the scientifically minded won't be satisfied, this means something for us, human beings. Love will rarely be defined as a clump of earth or a pond. Love might be a breeze of fresh air at times, but desire will always be burning.

 My point here is: When we talk about our subjective experiences, we need to use analogies. There is no other way. Try to talk about whatever you feel without using any comparison!

Another example: "Eventually, we can see the light at the end of the tunnel" Unless we are in a real tunnel, this is an analogy. In digital language, we would say "the end of our difficulties", which means just what it means, but doesn't evoke the relief we feel, and won't motivate as much as the image of light at the end of the tunnel will. 


Before we invented CDs, we used LPs. The dips and bumps in the groove were analog to the sound waves. When the needle ran through the groove, it reproduced the music. Now, we use digital coding, that is a great number of information bits. I mention this for the record. 


When we speak, we use both analogical and digital modes. If I say: "I have seen your lover kissing the neighbor" (just another example) it is digital communication: It is unambiguous. It means just what it means. It is perfectly articulated, we know who has seen what and who kissed whom. It may be true or not, but it can't be both true and not true at the same time. This is what Watzlawick calls "digital" when talking about human communication. 


When we use metaphors, it is analogical language. If you look up "metaphor" in the dictionary, you'll come across this typical example: "The camel is the ship of the desert"


"The camel is the ship of the desert" is true and not true at the same time. It is not true: a camel is not a ship! It is true though. In only eight words, this metaphor let us know a great deal about how useful camels are for people living in the desert. It doesn't say anything precise, but you get the big picture. If you wondered why camels were so valued in the desert, you've got a good enough answer. 

When we communicate, and especially when we speak in public, using analogical language is always impactful and powerful. Listeners don't have to make any effort to get a metaphor, whereas following a logical reasoning or taking in a number of facts is tiring.


I especially love metaphorical stories. When you listen to an Aesop fable, for instance when a rat saves a lion by gnawing at the net it was caught in, listening is just fun. If you want to convince someone that even though you're just a small business, even big companies might need help from you, this fable will convey the message in a more enjoyable and efficient way that a tiring list of arguments (even though they might be welcome later, once interest is aroused....)


In conclusion: Use the analogical mode... as much as possible. We, human beings, love this mode which is closer to our nature. It is relaxing and refreshing. It is relevant when it's time to look at "the big picture" of any question, and necessary to talk about subjective experiences. Furthermore it is the way to engage your audience. Use digital language when precision, logic and attention to detail are necessary. 

 Are you ready for some updates about future workshops now? 

 This Sunday, like every other Sunday in Willesden Green, there will be a regular two hours Organic Speaking workshop. As usual, it's about training our communication and public speaking skills, building up confidence etc...  The address is: At Express Ed, Queen's Parade Unit 2 Walm Lane, NW2 5HT

 There are free tickets for for timers, to be grabbed here: 

 I may not write a newsletter before every single workshop or event, but you can follow me on Kweekweek to know everything. 

 If you join, you can use the code JPIERSON and you'll get £10 credit on your bookings. (They say, try and tell me if it works!) 

 As soon as there is enough pressure, I'll organize extra sessions in Central or East London. If you know of some affordable and well located venue (possibly your living room!) let me know! 

 Have a good end of the week and an excellent week end

 Don't hesitate to hit the Reply button if you have any question, feedback or suggestion. 

 Speak soon! 


"Communication skills are key to any success"