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Influencing the Process of Mediation with Metaphors Thomas Smith Asociace Mediatorů České Republiky Prague.

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Presentation on theme: "Influencing the Process of Mediation with Metaphors Thomas Smith Asociace Mediatorů České Republiky Prague."— Presentation transcript:

1 Influencing the Process of Mediation with Metaphors Thomas Smith Asociace Mediatorů České Republiky Prague

2 Overall Outline Metaphoric Framing in Mediation. Mediation as Management of a Complex, Adaptive Relationship System. The Metaphoric Frames That Work Well for Simpler Conflicts. Metaphoric Frames More Suited to Complex Conflicts.

3 Very often mediators act as though… The conflict can be broken down into its separate parts. Conflict resolution can be done in a series of pre-defined steps. Each part can be re-shaped, moved into place. Then the whole can be fit back together into an agreement. Not always true that we can assemble the pieces so easily and move disputants out of conflict, towards a suitable agreement. Events occur, grievances emerge, emotions erupt… But first let us examine simple metaphoric frames.

4 Divorce Case case J He says we are going on different paths. He says we had thought we were going the same way, but we aren’t – we are really headed for different places. She says, nobody pushed you into marriage and having children. Because we both love the children, we could be open-minded and find a way to stay together. 9

5 Marriage is a Journey – obvious metaphor frame - ? If detected, the mediator can join it, reflect it back, reframe it, expand on it, co-develop it with clients. 10

6 Two-Person Exercise Examine Metaphor Frame Case J: Turn to person next to you.. Do you find the Journey metaphor? Do you find other metaphors? Are ‘other’ metaphors related? Discuss.

7 Usefulness of metaphor: Detecting metaphor requires very careful listening. Hear the themes in disputants' own language and thought. Develop rapport through awareness, sensitivity, reflecting back, asking questions... By sustaining a metaphor you sustain familiar cognitive structure. Uncover more dimensions of what is being thought. Use the metaphor frame to unify and synthesize. Describe alternatives and options in coherent terms. 12

8 Disputants Use Metaphors to Describe and Explain What Has Happened, What They See, What They Want Anatomy of Metaphor – Source and Target Domains How to Identify Metaphors Some practice…

9 start S-T



12 full S-T

13 push

14 Different paths

15 open

16 start phrases



19 He says they were going on different paths.

20 They were really headed for different places.

21 They could find a way to stay together. 26

22 Two-Person Exercise ‘experience’ the Source Domain Pair with person nearby. "I feel I'm being pushed into something." Try to think of 3, 4, or 5 distinctly different ways that a person might literally, physically be "pushed".

23 inference patterns

24 Most Widely Used Metaphors in conflict resolution & negotiation 29 Journey Game/Sport War/Struggle Material Object/Substance Building Construction Personification/Animation

25 Metaphors, like the ones considered so far, work well for simple conflicts or somewhat complicated conflicts.

26 When disputants come together we may expect that they will - Be reasonable and talk sensibly. But more likely they will... Avoid their conflict, or Begin to fight or argue about their conflict.

27 Simple versus Complex Systems Simple Systems change state in direct response to external inputs; outcomes depend on the sequence and intensity of inputs. Complex Adaptive Systems can change state every moment regardless of inputs, they are non- linear, non-proportional, subject to escalation; as stable patterns form, outcomes emerge. How can we think about this?

28 By Defining 2 Outcomes in Mediation We Can Begin to Comprehend the Complexity 1 - Overt conflict. 2 - Understanding, cooperation, agreement. Now We Can 'Mind Map’

29 Case S: A married couple is seeking mediation of their divorce; they have children who they both want to thrive (but they are young and are showing emotional stress). There is consumer debt, and equity in retirement accounts and home. Each of them is sad and feels like a failure in the marriage.

30 List Factors How does our knowledge of complex dynamical systems help? Here is a list of possible factors that can influence this mediation:  Agreement to get a divorce.  Sadness, feelings of inadequacy due to divorce. Exercise Exercise  Believing that their young children will be happy and have a good life.  How emotionally and developmentally vulnerable are the children?  Complex marital finances are obstacles to be overcome.


32 Model the Case S Based on mind map to two mediation outcomes, and combined influence of multiple factors. Each factor can influence the model in 3 ways: (1)momentary + or - impact (2)longer-term positive interactions (3)longer-term negative interactions Simulation Simulation

33 Based on Experience With Simulation, ‘Audition’ a Mediation of the Case Mediators now have overview of factors and a perspective on their relative influence. Can choose which factors to focus on. Forms an “agenda” based not only on client input, but on evaluation of which factors are most likely to be affected in mediation. How to translate this into metaphors easily understood by disputants?

34 Start-Path-Destination Metaphors compared with Metaphors that describe Complex Dynamics …

35 Bringing Together Dynamical Simulation & Metaphors What questions might you ask? Work in pairs. 1.Use what we learned from dynamical simulation. -Take each agenda item List Factors Exmpl -Think of any Journey metaphor and form a question (e.g., starting point, path, destination, obstacles… ) - Share with group. List FactorsExmpl 2.Form more questions; try to extend and elaborate metaphors to include dynamics. - Share with group.

36 Metaphoric Re-Frame Using Your Knowledge of Complexity 41 “We’ve come to a point in our marriage where we can’t go any further.” Simple metaphor: Marriage is a Journey: End of the road. Exercise Exercise Metaphor for Complexity: Journeys on multiple dimensions: Physically we go separate ways. Economically we share a road map. Parentally we coordinate our movements…

37 Metaphoric Re-Frame Using Your Knowledge of Complexity 42 “…I feel sad most of the time – because of the failure of our marriage." Simple metaphor: Marriage is a Exercise Journey: Can’t get self out of rut. Exercise Metaphor for Complexity: Slippery Surface or Slope, Requires Skill.

38 Metaphoric Re-Frame Using Your Knowledge of Complexity 43 “The kids may not do well, they are vulnerable.” Simple metaphor: Marriage/Divorce is a Journey: Dangers on the road. Exercise Exercise Metaphor for Complexity: Kids flying by the seat of their pants… learn to use radar, navigation aids.

39 Thank you

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