The International Association for Conflict Management (IACM)
14th Annual Conference
ESSEC Business School, Cergy-Pontoise (Paris) France
June 26, 2001
Thomas H. Smith, Ph.D.
Mediator in Private Practice
Boulder, Colorado, USA
This is a workshop on the use of metaphor in mediation. You will learn a number of key strategies to help you develop a flexible, naturalistic facility with metaphor -- a facility you can apply in real time during negotiations, no matter the subject matter being negotiated, or the culture, educational level or sophistication of the participants.
You probably have already found yourself using metaphor in negotiations or as you help others to negotiate. Certainly you have noticed others doing so. Metaphor is a spontaneous form of expression.
It works quickly and holistically to impart information, expand viewpoints, and reorganize people's thinking.
When mediators learn to use metaphor flexibly, this promotes the three essential processes most mediators agree are at the core of mediation:
§ Listening to what clients say -- about their problems, needs, desired outcomes, what has happened, what they believe will happen.
§ Improving communications by asking questions to get better understanding of what clients mean.
§ A main tenet of mediation is to enlarge the available alternatives that clients may choose among.
Metaphor organizes the unknown (what is called the Target Domain) in terms of the known (the Source Domain).
Focus on Target Domain. Identifying figurative language, words the full meaning of which is not available from Target Domain.
We shall focus on metaphors of common bodily movement patterns, movement in bounded regions of space (containers) and with constraints (such as obstacles and gravity), and handling or manipulating objects (including possessions). Clusters include: Location/Container; Moving/Locomotion; Balance; Seeing; Handling; Objects/Structure. (These clusters were inspired by empirical findings but are interpretive and heuristic, more than a summary of findings.) We can listen for words suggesting metaphors in any of these clusters, and then ask questions, explore and extend metaphors based on the logic of bodily movement in space.
Cause and Effect metaphors are a major system within bodily movement metaphors. Main elements: Agent, Affected Entity, Force/Movement, Locations, Possession, Obstacles. When we encounter a cause and effect metaphor, we can explore the presence or absence of each of these elements.
The “embodiment hypothesis” says that cognition (including metaphor) is organized in the same manner as behavior, which demonstrates the following sequence of events: Begin Startup, Startup process, End Startup, Begin Main Process, Interruptions, Continue, End Main Process. Awareness of the Event Sequence allows us to extend or “complete” metaphors using logic innate to human cognition.