Comments: Metaphors and Mediation

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David     08/14/00
metaphor - another aspect,March 31, 1998
Thanks for your article. Very valuable. I note that often litigants make money a metaphor for pain - i.e. "the figures have to be big enough to make me feel OK about what I have sufferred." It is the basis of Western leg al systems that compensation is measured in money for physical or psychic pain.Major contrast with indigenous systems which focus on harmony or at least equilibrium in the relationship/ community. Lawyers often see results in money terms. As a result figures are unrealistc.The underlying issues need to be unpacked. I find the use of metaphor to illuminate to applicants how they get to be stuck on money can be helpful - especially if a laugh is possible - or generates warm feelings. I'm indebted to a colleague for the following: A gang member and his girl came to mediation over the dog. He had bought a pitbull/alsatian/rottweiler/mongrel cross - the hound from hell. Outfitted it with a studded collar and expected its aggression to enhance his macho style.But she had turned it into the sweetest pussycat ever. it became apparent that what she wanted was to start a family and was pouring that need into the pet.Once they identified what it was they were not talking about - they could address their relationship issues. There are other examples of disputes over trivial things, hiding the relationship issue.Once identified, the parties can take responsibility to find answers that work for them. To return to money - sometimes the amount has to carry other messages - e.g. it has to be enough to "make them take notice" This often means - "I dont want what happened to me to happen to anyone else".(though it can of course be punitive) Either way, there are a bunch of outcomes alternative to money which may meet the particular need.I find the metaphor "mesh" re interests has its value at times.(Thanks to Ian MacDuff at VUW - also for the act of interlinking fingers of both hands whilst explaining it) This may be a little garbled, but the thought is just - using metaphor to illustrate (feed back) to people how they use metaphor in their lives and negotiations , can be a real impasse breaker.

Forrest    08/14/00
John: You are again on the frontier of helping us go to the next level as mediators and trainers. As you so eloquently suggest, one of our greatest assets as mediators is to be able to translate conflict to opportunity by helping participants loosen rigid concrete thinking into more fluid open perspectives. The use of metaphors is a safe and non threatening method of catalyzing that shift (chemical metaphor?). My giving mediators and trainers this new perspective on communicating with participants at the table and in the classroom, you are providing new opportunities for us to both model and intervene more effectively. Best personal regards, Woody

Charlie     08/14/00
Metaphors, February 11, 1998
This is exciting because it describes something we all do and may not have systematised. One of my favourites is to tell people at intake that mediation will help to move them from being ADVERSARIES in the breakdown of their relationship to ALLIES in the parenting of their children. It never occurred to me until I read this article that this connects two "war" metaphors with a "journey" one. Charlie Irvine

Hugh     08/14/00
Metaphor and language, March 07, 1998
John, I look forward to reading your article in depth. Here in Oregon we have proof of the power of language: We have revised our statutes to require families with children to file a "parenting plan" with their final decree. Bill Howe, Chair of our Task Force, drafting this change and I presented this concept to family law attorneys in Clackamas. The effect of our language change was reflected in the difference between the word "plan" vs "award": "Plan" is an active verb focusing on mutual future behavior. "Award" is a word connoting an outside authority making a decision for the family and creating a one-up/one-down paradigm of conflict. Thanks for pushing the envelope a little further. We have come a long way since we first met in Alaska, and much has changed in the interim. Hugh

John    08/14/00
Metaphors, February 06, 1998
Well, this is exciting. Seeing the first part of the article on the screen gives me the same sense of excitement as when I receive a hard print copy of my work. However, since this is work in progress, I am also looking forward to discussing these ideas with my colleagues both for the sheer joy of the intellectual exchange but also for the possibilities the discussion offers for a better work. Discussion can mean controversy and that's fine by me. In debate we will often hammer out new ideas (metaphor). I also look forward to suggestions to enarge the work and explore areas in greater depth. John