Do the Experts Mean What Their Metaphors Say?
An exploratory study of complex metaphor structure within and between schools
Paper presented at RAAM V
Researching And Applying Metaphor V
3-5 September 2003
Université Paris 13, Villetaneuse, France
The study of conceptual metaphor is a way to learn more about what speakers and writers are thinking in addition to what they are saying. They may, we suspect, be saying certain things literally while their conscious and unconscious thinking – that is, what they truly mean – is more interesting, profound, far-reaching, adventurous, or even something quite contradictory. If metaphor sets the frame and conveys the unstated assumptions implicit in discourse we will know much more of what a speaker or writer is telling us by attending carefully to the metaphors being used.
Perhaps nowhere is such an understanding of common metaphor more important than in the literature of a teaching-learning community where experts with extensive experience are imparting their understanding of a complex subject to those with less experience. This literature records the experts’ insights, theories, techniques and research on how to conduct their profession. Through such literature a profession makes progress in developing and refining its practices and teaching those who are moving forward in their careers.
This study samples a particular expert literature – that of the professional practice of mediation in resolving interpersonal conflict – that undoubtedly has much in common with the literature of other professions. The mediation process is a complex and abstractly structured undertaking dependent upon assumptions and theories of other disciplines – in this case social relations, economics, and psychology. While informative in nature it is by no means as concrete and deductive as, say, an engineering text. So we would expect the expert literature to use metaphor extensively.
The goal here is to document the conceptual metaphors repeatedly used and thereby enhance our understanding of what the experts in this particular profession are thinking and saying. The exploration covers how metaphor may frame problems, support or undermine literal positions, be logically coherent or confusing, rhetorically manipulate or promulgate a latent ideology, and otherwise impart regimes of truth (as summarized by Goatly, 2002). This paper prepares the ground for forthcoming work that will explore additional features, such as systems of metaphors, governing metaphors, questions of metaphor scope and elaboration, missing links and voids in explanation, incidence of conventional versus novel metaphors and preference for metaphor types.
A corpus of approximately 257,000 words (707 pages) was formed from 34 texts many of which are widely cited in the conflict resolution literature. To achieve an authoritative corpus representative of North American mediation experts the selections were made using the author’s knowledge of key texts, bibliographies from several sources, and an informal survey of seven authorities in the field contacted by the author. The texts include sections of books of single authorship, chapters in anthologies, articles in professional journals and pieces published electronically. Substantial examples were included from each school, although the quantities of text were not equal. For this exploration the selections focus on definitions of “conflict” and “methods and tasks of the mediator.” (The full list of texts can be found at http://www.metaresolution.com/bibliography.htm#Mediation Corpus Text Citations.)
The corpus, while of moderate size, was read end to end by the author, who is already very familiar with such material, to accomplish two goals: (1) To extract literal statements of major principals, tenets, methodology and procedures of each school, and (2) to manually find and record the major metaphors being used taking into account larger contexts and greater diversity in vocabulary than would be practical with the computerized concordance which follows. Added to this are accounts in published literature that document conventional metaphors.
Using the results of (2), above, concordance software was then employed to search for the use of words and combinations of words representing major metaphors, verify which instances were actually metaphorical, and to extract examples. In some instances a thesaurus was consulted to broaden the choice of words indicating certain metaphors.
Thus far it has not been possible to rank the metaphors found here as to dominance or to verify that we have definitively found the “major” metaphors in the expert literature on mediation. To have done this would require quantifying and comparing the frequencies of occurrence of specific words believed to be indicative. It is the problem of exactly which comparisons to make that is frustrating. The question of comparative importance was considered and explored but, because of the variety of synonyms and roughly equivalent word combinations that may indicate the presence of various metaphors, and the fact that some metaphors were revealed only by taking into account complex constructions in wider contexts, no efficient method has yet been found to make such comparisons.
Note: Evidence presented for the existence of certain conceptual metaphors in the corpus studied consists of sentences and sentence fragments. Examples of these are given below and can be distinguished by their being indented and within double quotation marks; I have added italics for words that indicate metaphors. When a name is given to a metaphor the name is in small capital letters; for example Conflict is An Opening means that conflict is metaphorically understood as an opening.
Many readers may not be familiar with the field of conflict resolution and mediation. The practices of negotiation and mediation have received serious professional attention for over thirty years. They are now the subjects of wide-ranging academic study in hundreds of universities. Specialists are found in departments of law, psychology, sociology, communications, business management, and political science among others. One can now earn masters degrees in conflict resolution from many prestigious schools.
Simply defined, negotiation occurs when two or more people who are in conflict with one another (referred to as disputants or parties) deliberately communicate for the purpose of trying to resolve the conflict mutually. The conflicts may involve such matters as money, use of resources, public policy, human rights, employment conditions, or responsibility for injury. The conflicts may be between government entities, between employers and employees, between commercial units, among family members particularly regarding marriage, divorce, children, family businesses and elder care, between hospitals and their patients, lawyers and their clients, and so forth.
Mediation is when a relatively neutral third party intervenes to facilitate the negotiation process. For our purposes here we regard a mediator as having no decision-making power to resolve the dispute but considerable prerogatives in governing the process of negotiations. Normally mediation is done in sessions with all parties and the mediator present. Discussion, while moderated by the mediator, is likely to be informal. Sessions last from one hour to longer periods, may be adjourned and reconvened, and may consist of periodic meetings over weeks or months. Reduction in conflict may be marked by changes in the behavior of disputants and their constituencies, plans of action, written memoranda of understanding or legal agreements, the suspension of court action, or simply reports of improved relations, changed feelings about oneself and others, and enhanced skills in handling ongoing issues.
Within the professional field of mediation there are a number of schools. The schools most often referred to are (1) Evaluative Mediation where the mediator directs discussion to a realistic assessment of what would happen (particularly how money and property would be awarded or distributed) if the conflict were decided in a court of law, (2) Facilitative Mediation where the mediator helps disputants express underlying needs that require remedy and aids in integrating as many of these as possible into a mutually agreed outcome, and (3) Transformative Mediation where the mediator encourages development of personal insight and competencies that will be helpful in resolving this and possibly future disputes. Riskin (1996) has plotted mediation schools along two axes. One axis is the degree to which the mediator is evaluative versus facilitative in moderating discussion. The second axis is the breadth or scope of the dispute that will be included in the discussion.
Because conventional metaphors operate largely outside of conscious awareness a significant portion of essential meaning is communicated unconsciously. This analysis of texts done here represents a method to become more aware of metaphoric meaning. With this knowledge we can learn more about what the experts mean, discover possible internal inconsistencies, and ask the questions that should lead to better understanding.
For theoretical guidance in uncovering such metaphors we turn to conceptual metaphor theory (especially as summarized by Lakoff and Johnson, 1999; Kövecses, 2002) including the extensive work done in documenting conventional metaphor in various linguistic communities. This work on conventional metaphors has little touched the mediation profession (except Jones and Hughes, 2003).
Conceptual metaphor theory emphasizes the existence of two domains – the target domain (the subject being discussed – for example, a real estate dispute) and the source domain (the figurative vehicle from which new meaning is derived – for example, two children trying to play with the same toy).
Furthermore, conceptual metaphor theory exploits the abstract nature of the target and the more concrete, grounded nature of the source to map the physically experienced aspects of the source and project them onto the target (for example, toy corresponds to the parcel of real estate in question, playing corresponds to ownership, physical pushing or jostling corresponds to legal maneuvers, and so on). This gives the target a seeming reality more in terms of universal bodily activity such as movement and sensation. This analysis imparts an awareness of metaphor that depends more on fundamental knowledge shared by most human beings and less on socialization and culture that vary widely across human groupings, or literary sophistication and cleverness with words that differentiate members of the same group. This concrete knowledge is based on simply having and growing up with a human body, handling objects, moving in space, encountering obstacles, and interacting with other humans. It has been studied more systematically and the generic structure of this knowledge has been more broadly related to how we use language.
Most expert mediators, if they speak of the use of metaphors at all, do so without benefit of conceptual metaphor theory. Their examples might involve a dispute metaphorically understood as a battle, a sport or game, and dispute resolution as cooking, commerce, or sometimes even dancing and gardening (Cohen, 2003). Wilmot and Hocker (2001) discuss sixteen common metaphors that mediators use to approach conflict or to form a perspective: war, struggle, explosions, court trial, force of nature, animal behavior, messiness, communications breakdown, games, heroic adventure, balancing, bargaining, a tide, a garden, a dance, or as quilt-making. Gelfand and McCusker (2001) cite some of these and add theatre/cinema as a source domain. These large-scheme metaphors offer more narrative, locate the disputants in a storyline and, perhaps for these reasons, seem special, appealing, and memorable.
Note that these metaphors depend for their effectiveness on the experiences disputants might have had in the domains mentioned. For example, the mapping of corresponding elements from the source domain to the target domain would be expected to differ widely between men and women when sports or military metaphors are used, or between rural and urban people when animal or agricultural metaphors are used.
The metaphors that this study indicates are actually the basic ones – repeatedly and systematically used in the expert literature of mediation – are more generic. The primary conceptual metaphoric structure that emerged from analysis of the texts were mostly in the general domains of force dynamics, containers, and bodily movement. Although games, sports and dancing, for example, are occasionally mentioned, such metaphors are not widely used nor, when mentioned in the texts, are they used in other than incidental or momentary fashion.
The simple metaphors, documented below, appear again and again and are the workhorses of this literature. Properly combined, simple metaphors can potentially weave the required complexity. This paper describes seven groups (see figure 1). All of these are found as well in research done on a wide range of English language discourse (Lakoff and Johnson, 1999; Kövecses, 2002).
Although sustained in their use the primary conceptual metaphors of force dynamics, containers, and bodily movement appear and reappear, alternating and combining with each other as the expert authors clarify and elaborate their discussions. We may certainly suspect that these patterns of metaphor use is done outside of conscious awareness – determined much more by the essential cognition of the experts than if they were chosen consciously for rhetorical effect. It is in bringing these metaphors and their patterned usage to conscious attention that, it is hoped, will contribute most to clarifying the more or less “invisible” fundamentals of the experts’ presentations.
Container metaphors are used throughout the expert literature on mediation studied here. The metaphoric understanding that conflict itself is a container is shown in the habitual mode of expressing that people get into conflict and often want to extricate themselves from it; this corresponds to the conventional metaphor documented elsewhere (Lakoff, 1994) given the abbreviated name Difficulties are Containers.
A metaphor helps us because of what we already know about the metaphor source domain. Our conventional knowledge of the source domain of containers includes surfaces – sides, walls or membranes that keep some things in and others outside of the container’s space. These boundaries may be transparent and porous or opaque and impermeable, sealed or partially open. Opening and closure are implicit and all containers are open at some point in time. They contain objects or substances that, themselves, may be hard or soft, dense or light, slippery or something easily moved into or out of the container. The objects or substances may enter and remain stuck inside, may spill out, may go in one opening and out another, and may be reached into, prodded, or dug out. Containers have depth and size and what is deep inside is harder to see or access than what at the surface. What is close to the surface of the container is more likely to come out than what is deep inside.
All of this we know as soon as the word container is mentioned. This knowledge, if not universal, is very widely and consistently held across all human groups. Simply the statement, “We want them to have more room in which to negotiate” invokes the idea of a container. A room in a building is a container, as is the room you have to work, or as meant by these examples from the corpus:
“…the mediator might make room for the parties'
anger and their resistance,“
“…developing room within which to negotiate.”
This is metaphoric understanding – a simple term or idea evokes a “container” domain fully pre-structured with elements, relations and logic that, in turn, are mapped back on the subject being discussed. The existence of all this is entailed simply by mentioning a word. Let us look at related metaphors.
Conflict is a Container
This metaphor is revealed in examples from this corpus such as
"...the amount of emotional energy he or she continues to put into the conflict."
Besides containing emotional energy, conflicts are also understood to contain other things that may be troublesome or be useful:
"…[such and such a process is used]
to harness the resources contained within deep conflict to transform
“What it does is inject reality” [into the conflict].”
The conflict container may be open or closed, as are those experiencing conflict, and the mediation process is understood to influence such openings or closings:
"[the conflict] was an opportunity
[opening] for mutual gain…."
"Trying to reach closure prematurely can harden people's resistance to a solution that they might have been more open to at a later time."
Disputants are Containers
This last example suggests that the people who are in conflict (the disputants or parties) are also metaphorically understood to be containers inside of which are feelings, thoughts and needs. Things may be concealed inside or may burst out:
"...when a party is hiding
"The stepmother was extremely angry... and was unable to contain herself..."
Mediators must often dig inside (a mental space metaphorically understood as a container) and mine the contents so that what is there – goals, values, needs – can be brought out, expressed, seen and responded to:
”…mediators mine [certain issues] for
“Mine their [stated] position for the interests that lie below the surface.”
“[what the mediator does] opens the way to a solution.”
These containers have space within which one might see her or himself and have room for a view of the other. The space could be room for growth and more inclusiveness of what is seen.
Mediation is a Container
The practice of mediation is also metaphorically conceived as a container. The primary experience of the source domain in this case is the physical space or room in which mediation occurs, which extends metaphorically to what may seem to permeate the air in the room, to the mental space for working on the conflict, to a container for mediation processes, tools, and techniques.
“…develop an atmosphere that promotes… creativity.”
“…we aim to create a safe and respectful atmosphere…”
"...developing room within which to negotiate."
”[the range of settlement possibilities] is often referred to as the bargaining range…”
"...there is room in mediation practice for many styles...")
The Resolution of a Conflict is a Container
The resolution of the conflict is metaphorically imbued with container attributes such as in
"The offer contained a considerable
"…proposals that contain a variety of solutions to satisfy another's interests..."
How does it help us to know about these aspects of the mediation process understood in “container” terms? To some degree the metaphoric containers are one within another – containers within containers – each of which may be the focus of our attention in turn or simultaneously. They correspond to concepts and categories used to describe and think about conflict and the mediation process. The name of the concept (e.g., “bargaining space”) is a container and its contents (e.g., money, fairness, needs, rights) are the attributes of that concept. Such concepts metaphorically understood as containers are ways to organize into more universally understood spatial terms the various qualitatively different aspects of mediation – many of which are subjectively understood mental and emotional dynamics for which standardized or scientifically based terms do not exist. Mediators are agents who inspect, alter and maintain these containers and who attempt to rearrange their contents, putting things in and taking things out.
We may reflect further on what the experts mean by noting their literal use of the concept of container and observe how they adapt it for dual literal and metaphoric use, and finally how they make it entirely metaphorical. The corpus gives examples where the expert mediators speak literally about the mediation room, sometimes referring to its furnishings, physical arrangements, and then metaphorically (see example, above) about its “atmosphere”. We also see frequent discussion of “room within which to negotiate” and “bargaining range” that refers literally to amounts of money and metaphorically to bounded space within which to think about and make settlement offers. The metaphoric container might be called a mental space within which to temper the offer so as to achieve a compromise.
In disputes that may not involve money decisions, but instead involve a number of qualitatively discrete issues, we find a very similar container metaphor being used:
"[the mediator helps disputants] define the boundaries of the discussion..."
The following metaphoric treatment implies container properties that may seem to bring some disciplined order to the messy business of multi-faceted qualitative discussions:
"Where uncertainty exists, there is often room for movement…"
Literally “uncertainty” means lack of knowledge. Here it could be interpreted instead to mean a known point on a known continuum such that adequate “room” still exists.
Surely uncertainty doesn’t have the same effect on the thinking of disputants as the offer of a price. But this extension of the container metaphor shows in what simplified ways an expert mediator may invite us to conceptualize a much more complicated task. We may conclude that the experts couldn’t mean to imply such an oversimplification, but apprentice mediators may live by this metaphor long enough to gain first-hand, grounded experience of the greater complexity.
Within the literature describing the three schools of mediation represented in this corpus may be found different uses of the Conflict is Container metaphor. Where the Facilitative school may focus more on what is “inside” the conflict, carefully selecting what to focus on, and the Evaluative school more forcefully chooses the contents and may reshape the container, the Transformative school declares “conflict is an opportunity” (which we may interpret as Conflict is an Opening) through which the contents are “mined” or expressed outward while the mediator remains ready to “seize” what is of most use for transformation.
The use of the container metaphors allows a certain precision to be gained while some inherent complexity may be lost. For example, when complex phenomena are metaphorically understood as containers, then the interactions, time sequences, priorities, and other relationship features are de-emphasized or lost. This has advantages and disadvantages. The implicit existence of such metaphors enables expert mediators to speak more distinctly about circumstances, processes and dynamics that may not even be fully understood by the experts, themselves, and most likely would be too complex for less experienced learners. This can oversimplify the subject. Nevertheless, the experts can draw attention to things and attempt to make needed distinctions and connections. Thus they may be better able to bridge the gap between their more developed understanding and the lesser sophistication of the learners.
Having so naturally introduced container metaphors, expert mediators could make better and more continuous use of them. The attributes of containers automatically evoked – surface and depth, boundaries of various permeability, openings readily opened and closed, for example – are only occasionally exploited for their conceptual and didactic richness. When the experts speak of interests to be mined, they have the natural implications of the container metaphor at their disposal to make more clear such matters as how one safely enters a “mine-like” space, extracts the best stuff, and keeps the container from imploding. Other metaphors will necessarily be introduced, as we shall see below, but keeping the terms of the container metaphor close at hand can afford thematic continuity.
Containers entail contents that are objects, things or substances with all of their material attributes. These objects or substances may be hard or soft, dense or light, slippery or something easily moved into or out of containers. From the conventional knowledge we all have from our bodily experience, objects can be seen or otherwise separately sensed. This is the source domain of our metaphorical understanding of objects and it assures us that whatever we understand to be objects can be separated one from another, they are handled and manipulable with the right tools, we can observe, classify, count, measure, sort, and order them, move and even reshape them to fit together, and choose which ones to use in constructing something.
Processes are Objects
Take, for example, when mediation experts speak of the contents of a space, such as
“…room for creative option-generation or other means of
addressing underlying interests…”
”Conflict consists of a number of variables…from a slight look of exasperation to a pistol shot.”
” One end of this continuum contains strategies and techniques that facilitate the parties' negotiation…”
”… the contents of an acceptable solution…”
“…a ‘tool box’ of techniques…”
These metaphors are found within the literal discussions of what happens in a conflict, the generation of acceptable solutions, and how to prepare and use a tool box of mediation techniques. All of these discussions are actually about processes – dynamic, interdependent steps in sequence. Yet by using objects metaphors these processes are translated into objects. What then stands out is the metaphoric understanding of things – sometimes things in motion – within a container. The result is to highlight the attributes of material objects.
Complex Information and Emotion Are Sortable, Separate Objects
In the corpus studied here, mediators are repeatedly told to distinguish things, pay attention to one kind of thing and put aside others. Even when the name of certain “things” is literally a process or a complex, interconnected event (such as “decision-making”), it is treated as an entirely independent, readily separable object:
“…separate inventing from decision-making…”
”A mediator can separate the people from the problem.”
"Make emotions explicit and acknowledge them as legitimate [but apart]."
“The… mediator comes to a session ready to hear a barrage of factual and emotional information, which can be sorted and organized into negotiable issues that are parts of a problem faced by the parties.”
Parts of a Conflict are Objects Manipulated in the Hand
We know that objects are things we can hold and maneuver with our hands.
“She realizes… what her goals
and interests are in the situation at hand, why she holds those
“…give him a freer hand in the negotiation.”
”… we offer ideas and strategies that former clients have discovered and allow us to pass on to others.”
”… participants tell brief personal stories about their relationships to the issue at hand.”
Parts of a Conflict or Conflict Resolution are Objects One Can Move Among/Within
Objects are things that we can move toward, away from, in between, around or among.
” [certain mediation techniques move clients] toward the new,
the promising, and the fulfilling.”
“…integrative negotiators do not shy away from addressing the distributive elements of a problem.”
“I am not going to let them waste their time… moving away from the agreement.”
“…steering the topics of discussion toward ‘safe’ issues and away from ‘problematic’ ones.”
“The party has moved into an acceptable range of options.”
”… the party who keeps ‘wandering around’ from issue to issue, point to point.”
”… how to compromise among conflicting needs…”
”… look for agreements about the boundaries within which a distributive decision will be made.”
Having identified container metaphors in the previous section, and having found ample evidence of the content of those containers to be metaphorically understood as separable, manipulable objects, what have we learned? The Processes are Objects metaphor identified above resembles what Halliday (1985) and others call grammatical metaphors (summarized by Plementitaš, 1998). Grammatical metaphors occur when verb phrases describing processes have become transformed into nouns or noun-like phrases. These are found to be used more and more in European languages, especially where specialized knowledge is being discussed. There are advantages to this “objectification.”
First of all it becomes possible, rather than having to narrate how various processes interact in mediation, experts may simply list the processes as nouns (or objects). In this way dynamic processes take on the attributes of static objects, sound more substantial and less contingent. For example, rather than having to describe how the mediator is motivating a party to speak of her needs to receive certain compensation, it is possible to say that this mediation satisfies the party’s requirement for discussion of compensation needs. Not only does this economize on words, it tends to disentangle, in our thinking, the interrelated parts of the process being discussed.
When processes are renamed and thought of as objects details and sequences are collapsed into smaller capsules and this aids short-term memory by increasing the information density. The capsules can be focused on separately and will seem additive, not interdependent, in their effect. We may therefore more readily consider reconfigurations, deletions and substitutions. In our example one may now more easily contemplate additional forms of satisfaction, adding or deleting requirements, and asking whether other needs might be substituted. Secondly, once objectified in this way, the details of the process are put in the background, which makes those details seem more certain and authoritative, thus less debatable.
The Processes are Objects metaphor is more than the substitution of a noun-like grammatical form for a verb form. Evidence for this metaphor given above illustrates how the metaphors of containers and objects operate in parallel to structure this transformation of meaning.
Whether consciously intended or not, object metaphors serve experts very well by enabling them to single out elements involved in conflict and mediation as if they were discrete components. After all, beginning mediators may initially see only a blur or a tangle and welcome conceptualizations that juxtapose the parts for individual consideration, making mediation seem more straightforward.
We know, however, that turning intricately interconnected processes into detached entities will strip mediation of its inherent complexity. This could be harmfully misleading if other metaphors are not also introduced which reconstitute key aspects of the diverse dynamics that make mediation work. The following section takes up metaphors that restore information by enhancing distinctions using relative locations, connections, and links.
The three schools of mediation represented in this corpus all use objects metaphors, particularly Processes are Objects, Complex Processes are Multiple Objects in Motion.
While we know that objects have multiple properties, virtually all of which are implicitly invoked and may be used for metaphoric purposes, few of these properties are exploited in the writings of expert mediators. Object properties such as hard and soft are used, but aspects of conflicts might be sticky or slippery as well, and such descriptions are never used in this corpus. In one example, when the experts speak of separating the people from the problem they abstractly detach two very sticky objects. What substances might be applied, corresponding to solvent or oil that might help separate them? In another example, when strategies used in one case are passed on for use in another, or when feelings are brought out into the open the complex processes of performing a strategy or recognizing a feeling are metaphorically collapsed into objects; describing the intricacy or delicacy of the objects would give continuity to the metaphor and perhaps provide more coherence of understanding, but this is almost never found in this corpus.
Quite often containers and their contents may be large or extensive, spread over a wide area and their boundaries may not always appear distinct or regular. Under such circumstances a container becomes a field, terrain, territory or landscape. This accords with the conventional metaphors A Problem Is A Region In A Landscape, Theories Are Covers For the Facts, Facts Are Points (set up in Spatial Configuration) documented elsewhere (Lakoff, 1994).
The spatial aspects of a container apply to a terrain or landscape, but additional properties become prominent, such as points and locations (both often conceived as containers within a terrain), relative distances between locations, starting points, directions, destinations, gradients and paths. Objects in a container often are in motion. To describe this motion a gradated space is needed to locate positions and measure distances. Terrain, field and territory metaphors provide the structure to do this and to begin to reconstitute the relationships in the process of mediation that are left out using container and object metaphors alone.
Conflict is a Terrain; Mediation is a Terrain
Examples from the corpus provide evidence that conflict and the practice of mediation are metaphorically understood by expert mediators as a field, terrain or territory – even a climate:
"[mediation is best done in a] climate
of joint problem-solving"
“…all parties may recognize that they have reached a field in which any settlement is preferable to no agreement.”
“…a field of options that, although satisfactory, provide different degrees of benefits…”
“As a mediator, are you now liberated to level the playing field a little bit?”
“…commentators survey the mediation terrain and argue about what they see…”
“…a mediator who is familiar with the rugged terrain of his or her own assumptions… will be more confident when accompanying parties through their conflict.”
Terrains are mapped, locations are marked and distances are judged:
“…mediators carry an internal ‘map’ that
gives them a sense of familiarity with the general terrain and the direction
they are going, even if the details are new each time they travel the road.”
"I am near my bottom line…"
"…parties come close... and then back away quickly or unexpectedly."
“All available answers appear to lie along a straight line between their position and yours.”
“At this point participants have to decide whether…”
The disputant’s inner processes are also metaphorically represented as territory:
“That connection [to herself] is her territory.”
Terrain and territory metaphors are widely used in this corpus. These metaphors explain where needs, feelings, and argumentative positions are located relative to each other, and how close disputants might be to settlement. But the process of mediation is conceived as more than locating conflicting positions and underlying needs in two or three dimensions. Relational factors – largely sidelined by container and objects metaphors – are reintroduced by using these terrain metaphors, allowing comparisons, estimates of differences, and mappings to be conceived. These are important in describing a conflict and its resolution.
Here is an initial comparison of how the different schools tend to use terrain metaphors. Both the Facilitative and Transformative schools use container metaphors in explaining where the disputants’ needs, interests and feelings are (inside of them). In contrast, when speaking of the positions that disputants take, terrain or territory is evoked to show where they are relative to each other. Once needs are expressed, feelings are to be mined or other useful elements seized upon in the mediation session, Facilitative mediators will attempt to give them meaningful places on a map of the territory so that the mediation might take the direction that will satisfy them (so they can be met on the way to a resolution). Transformative mediators are more likely to seize them and use them. Evaluative mediators, less interested in what is within containers, want the disputants to find where they are on the map and proceed accordingly. When expert mediators compare one mediation school to another they also use terrain metaphors:
“I am not clear on exactly how you would define evaluative mediation. When does the mediator cross the line from facilitation to evaluation?”
One of the chief implications of the idea of terrain or territory is that it can be mapped. Experts represented in this corpus frequently use maps and mapping to speak of how mediators think of mediation and how disputants think of conflict and its resolution. But everyone who has ever used an actual map will know that, while essential, they are nevertheless inaccurate and misleading in numerous ways. To extend the idea of land maps to the idea of maps of knowledge or of settlement options presents serious problems. Maps always assume a point of view, a collapsing of multiple dimensions, a consistent metric of distances, that places can be represented by solitary points and boundaries by simple lines, and that there is a “legend” that anyone will comprehend. They assume that the intelligence being mapped can even be known at the moment the map is created and won’t change minute by minute.
Nevertheless terrain metaphors and their attendant maps have been put to good use in the expert mediation literature. The notions of direction and relative distance are essential to re-representing actual complexities. This usefulness can be extended, however, through some of the same enhancements that real cartographers have invented, such as topological representations and map overlays to show additional dimensions and features and fitness contours to depict paths of least resistance to optimal sites.
But resolving a conflict necessitates finding things that have so far not been apparent and, while terrain metaphors suggest where these things might be located, other metaphors are needed to describe and explain how this “finding” is done.
A dominant way that territory, terrain and landscape are physically experienced is with the sense of vision. Vision is, of course, a principal sense modality and all sighted people share common experiences based on how human vision operates. This makes it an extremely rich and widely used metaphor source domain. A central example is the conventional metaphor Knowing is Seeing (Lakoff and Johnson, 1999) that we find exemplified in so many substitutions of the word “see” for “know” or “understand” in common parlance.
Seeing entails a number of integral factors that build upon and go beyond the metaphors of containers, objects and terrain previously discussed. These factors include the need for light and an angle, orientation, frame, approach or point of view that is clear and unobstructed. While we can view movement and action before us, just as often we are in motion, focusing on relatively stationary objects sequentially. As we move about, refocus and reframe we look behind, under, forward, positively (up), beyond, and through. Then these sequential segments are strung together in memory or on some external representation, metaphorically extending the visual experience of space to a mental or imaginary one.
Because of these entailments I would propose variations on the conventional metaphor Knowing is Seeing as follows: Thinking is Viewing, Thinking About Something is Viewing Something, and Learning is Visually Searching (perhaps also Thinking is occupying a position). Focus, angle, orientation, frame, approach, point of view, and clarity of view are all important aspects of seeing. The physical act of seeing combines these in a way that composes sequential segments into fields of vision (terrain, territory, landscape) where thinking is metaphorically understood to occur.
The following subsections elaborate the metaphors just proposed by extending them based on mappings found in the present corpus.
Thinking in a Certain Way is Viewing From a Certain Point, Approach or Orientation
Disputants, when unchanging in their thinking are said to be fixed in their point of view. Differences in thinking are understood as differences in point of view. These, in turn, occupy distinct points that make up a field or terrain. Each view, because of its own angle and orientation, might focus on the surface of the terrain or at greater depth:
"…it is ultimately the reality as each side sees it that
constitutes the problem in a negotiation...”
"We never deal with reality per se, but rather with images of reality - that is, with interpretations."
“...consider the dispute from a different point of view.”
“…commitment to a point of view, approach…”
“From your point of view, the situation looks like this...."
“…viewing a conflict as a field full of opportunities…”
“[the conflict] can be viewed simply and superficially or in great depth…”
"...talking at the level of feelings."
The view may be delimited or altered by frames or lenses, perhaps bringing out unseen aspects:
”There are many different lenses we can use to look at
“Frame each issue…”
“Frame the principle behind each tactic…”
The terrain is subdivided into regions with varying desirability, usefulness or ownership:
“[other parties] viewed as opponents…”
“…being closed to the other side's point of view.”
“…improve your ideas from their point of view.”
“One side may have viewed a totally unrealistic demand from the adversary as…”
People arrive at their points of view by their approach, in details of walking or sitting, any of which can be altered or changed. In addition to thinking, their wants or desires may be metaphorically understood as their point of view or approach:
“Put yourself in their shoes. How you see the world
depends on where you sit.”
“…to alter the way in which the parties see themselves, the world, and especially, each other…”
“…disputants have to alter their approach to the conflict…”
“…efforts to help disputants alter their perceptions about the nature of the conflict…”
“People tend to see what they want to see."
Resolving Conflict is Changing Orientation As Needed
The mediator is urged to try a number of viewing orientations particularly so as to see behind, under, ahead, beyond, or at a different depth or level:
“Behind opposed positions lie shared and
compatible interests, as well as conflicting ones.”
“…look behind opposed positions for the motivating interests…”
“Don't attack their position, look behind it.”
“...ask for the theory behind that price…”
“...the thinking behind our suggestions…”
“…they finally acknowledged that what lay under those feelings was fear…”
“…a forward-looking, purposive outlook.”
”…they see the situation differently and to try to go forward as people with a joint problem.”
“We can choose to look back or to look forward. You will satisfy your interests better if you talk about where you would like to go rather than about where you have come from.”
“He had been heard and understood at a level beyond his request
for financial support.”
“Should conflict resolvers have a purpose beyond helping disputants attain an agreement?”
“…extend beyond the immediate case to the ongoing lives of the parties.”
“…beyond what the parties bring to the table.”
“…work through fundamental life issues that are beyond their practical motivation….”
Advice frequently given is that mediators reorient the disputants from facing each other to being side by side
“…similar to what happens when two people work together on a puzzle…
the parties sit side by side and attempt to develop a mutually
acceptable picture or settlement.”
“…people sitting side by side… facing a blackboard tend to respond to the problem depicted there.”
Here literally the people in conflict are asked to turn from facing each other and re-seat themselves side by side. They are asked to look forward together to the table or the wall or the rest of the room. The table, perhaps holding related documents, an easel or writing board may be in front of them with related notes – all of this stands both literally and figuratively for the problem or dispute they are working on. They may literally look at and work with those notes, but just as important is their gazing at the open space and blank surfaces in front of them where thoughts might be projected, ideas formed and solutions explored. Now the container is a workspace, terrain or landscape within which things can be moved, located and constructed.
Side by side they can view the full scope of their dispute in front of them, rather than focusing on each other. Thus oriented, they are more likely then to see a wider range of options.
“…psychologically to see your alternatives…”
“…enable us to see things differently…”
“what they see as viable options…”
“…make people look at the likely outcomes for themselves.”
"...he could not force Sharon to 'face reality,' as he put it, but he could help her to look at their options."
Points in Thinking are Points Focused Upon; Scope of Thinking is Scope of Vision
“By focusing firmly on the parties' own moment-by-moment
deliberation, decision-making and perspective-taking, the mediators encourage
genuine, voluntary, fully informed settlements…”
“…focusing instead on assisting parties in gaining clarity….”
”…focusing on the issues that are most salient at the time.”
“…[to assist disputants in] focusing their attention on the merits [of a proposed solution]… you yourself [the mediator] can concentrate on the merits…”
"...they [mediators] notice, and attach importance to, each step the parties have made..."
“…microfocus on the parties' feelings and emotions as well as their overt positions."
"...helping the parties notice..."
“…served as a focal point in the continuing debate…”
“…mediators, who often define the scope of the problem..."
Resolving Conflict is Searching for the Right Things
Mediators are to encourage disputants to search the terrain of the conflict. The language used by experts sometimes suggests that the terrain of the conflict and the terrain of the resolution of conflict are one in the same, sometimes separate. Occasionally the searching is to occur on territory that contains the disputant’s needs or interests. What is searched for are options, alternatives, solutions, concerns, or opportunities. The search is sometimes directed to different levels. Very frequently the search is for multiple possibilities or the proper combinations of things.
“[the] mediator is generally committed to helping parties search for
an outcome that adequately addresses each of their key concerns.”
“…searching for interests…”
“…searching for a joint solution that will meet your needs and satisfy your interests.”
“…to search for new opportunities for empowerment…”
“…collaborative search for options…”
“We then need to search for the right level of depth at which to intervene or to engage disputants… we can never be sure whether we have found the optimal level…”
“…constantly search for integrative potential when gathering
information in the mediation.”
“…search for objective criteria… [not] search for the single answer.”
“…in search of a creative or ‘healing’ solution… this ensures that the search process will be more comprehensive and complete…”
Resolving Conflict is Having Clear, Unobstructed Vision
“…effective integrative negotiation usually requires negotiators to
have a clear view of both their own interests and those of the others
”Record the ideas in full view.”
"…it was clear to me that..."
"…parties can make clear and deliberate choices..."
"She reaches a clearer realization..."
“…it is these hidden aspects which may truly fuel the
“Uncovering Hidden Interests of the Disputing Parties.”
“It is a vulnerability that feels so childish that it is usually hidden or disguised.”
Resolving Conflict is Having Light In the Right Place
What is inside may only come out on reflection (of light) into the interior; expressing what is inside by saying or expressing it. Abstractions such as ideas and intelligence are found in the body of conventional metaphors described elsewhere (Lakoff, 1994) and corroborated by usage found in our corpus:
Ideas Are Light Sources
“…the problem is illuminated simply by looking
“[one kind of mediator intervention] can be illuminating, but it should not blind you to [other possible interventions]”
“[one party is] interpreting whatever they [the other parties] say or do in its most dismal light…”
“He decides, in light of his changed understanding of the other's past conduct… to make some concrete accommodation…”
Intelligence is A Light
“’the light bulb goes on,’ as it dawns on him that…”.
These metaphors, combined with the others discussed here, suggest that, just as light is necessary for seeing, ideas and intelligence are necessary for understanding.
“Rework your ideas in light of what you learn from them [other disputants]…”
Seeing Is Touching - Eyes Are Limbs
We know from earlier studies of conventional metaphor (Lakoff, 1994) that Seeing Is Touching - Eyes Are Limbs (Looking At Something On Purpose Is Touching It With Eyes Or Glance, Discovering By Looking Is Manipulating With Eyes Or Glance, Seeing Something By Accident Is Accidentally Touching It With Eyes Or Glance). This is reinforced by some examples from our corpus such as
“…touching all or only some of the issues…”
“…being out of touch with the way the world really works.”
This suggests that vision becomes synesthetic, broadening the metaphoric understanding to include the tactile and kinesthetic senses. Now even more bodily experience in physical space can be projected onto the mental spaces we use to understand conflict and the practice of mediation.
The conventional metaphors mentioned earlier, A Problem Is A Region In A Landscape and The Visual Field Is A Bounded Region, combined with Seeing Is Touching - Eyes Are Limbs suggest that the target domains studied here (conflict and the practice of mediation), metaphorically understood to be regions, might not only be seen but also touched, reached into and felt. But, in accord with the physical characteristics of these senses a conflict, for example, may not just be a bounded region with a certain expanse and depth, but something you can’t easily see as a whole without turning it over in all directions and feeling what you don’t see.
How disputants think is held to be at the center of conflicts, and changes in this thinking are believed to lead to resolution of conflict. But expert mediators are not experts in cognition and have no special knowledge about how people think. Instead, much the same as any person might, they often make use of seeing as a metaphor for thinking – they conceive of thinking as if it were seeing. And they elaborate their understanding of thinking by using all of the aspects of seeing for which evidence is given above – point of view, how something is approached, the angle or orientation, what is in focus and how focus is moved. New or changed thinking, such as that which might resolve conflict, is metaphorically understood to involve searching, achieving clear or unobstructed vision and having light in the right place.
Vision isn’t an adequate metaphor alone. Vision combined with terrain metaphors allows what is approached, seen, and searched for to be located in a bounded space, thus producing a metaphorical map of what is being thought about. Metaphors of vision and terrain operate in combination when expert mediators attempt to describe the thinking necessary in the mediation process. Together they structure not just a map, but a map plus several different means to change and adjust focus on different points on the map (metaphorically to change ones thinking), and thereby to use the map (metaphorically to strategize about how to change thinking). The metaphoric use of the sensory modality of vision provides both a means of creating a map and of beginning to move within it.
But as seeing and moving the eyes are often precursors to physical movement of the body (pointing, reaching, starting down a path), metaphors of vision suggest linkage to metaphors of bodily movement.
The writings of expert mediators very often refer to conflict and conflict resolution as involving movement. Needs, interests, emotions, thoughts, histories, behaviors, procedures, mediators and the disputants themselves – all metaphorically understood as objects (see above) – are in movement. When the conflict is described these elements may be blocking each other, going in opposing directions, clashing, rubbing each other the wrong way, or incompatible in other ways. Conflict is metaphorically understood as things the motion or fitting together of which aren’t compatible.
“…neighbors who oppose the opening of a
“A third school of thought is opposed to a bright-line prohibition…”;
”…what is blocking people from moving forward…”;
“…disagreements arise out of clashing assumptions…”;
“The divergent interests may perhaps be reconciled by…”.
We might give a name to the metaphor such as Conflict is Objects Moving in Opposition To Each Other. Alternatively we might say Experience is Movement and Experience of Conflict is Objects Moving in Opposition.
To get a sense of the metaphoric role that movement plays, consider the types of conflict that Mayer (2000) enumerates. He lists them as conflict of emotions, conflict of thought, and conflict of behavior. Emotion, thought and behavior are each metaphorically understood as something in motion (or something prevented from moving).
Conflictual emotion is discussed as a hot, pressurized fluid substance contained within an individual that must be managed carefully and that can be released.
“Emotions are the energy that fuels conflict.”
“Releasing emotions can prove risky…”
“Are emotions spilling over from one issue to another?”
“…powerful emotions that now permeate even the most concrete practical issue…”
“…to let an emotion out…”
“…opportunity to express and release emotions…”
Thought is discussed in terms of fixed, constraining, restricted structures and rigid positions that people hold onto for physical stability, and a container of some depth is often invoked.
“Participants express… deeply held beliefs.”
“…it rigidifies their thinking and narrows acceptable options…”
”…entrenched perceptions about the situation and each other…”
“People cling to their beliefs and perceptions because to question them threatens to upset their sense of themselves and their world,”
“Beliefs and perceptions are usually more rigid.”
Conflictual behavior is behavior that goes too far or moves dangerously but is often discussed in terms of how it is to be limited.
”We ascribe impasses to disputants' immoral or evil behavior or
to their irrational or crazy behavior.”
”…opportunistic or exploitative behavior directed against him…”
“…we are on the brink of racial war…”
”…the mediator should shift his or her focus to behavioral guidelines…”
”…it is important that the negotiation be conducted in a way that meets the fundamental behavioral norms of the different participants.”
”… certain behavioral standards…”
If the nature of conflict is emotions, thoughts and behavior all of which are objects in some kind of oppositional motion then mediation is the process of altering this motion. Conceptual metaphor theory helps here by describing the start-path-destination pattern of this movement according to a generic metaphor arrangement – the Event Structure metaphor (Lakoff and Johnson, 1999). This skeletal metaphor helps us understand basic elements and their interrelationships. In particular the Event Structure metaphor describes what is moved, what does the moving, the obstacles encountered and the space and locations traversed.
We become aware of movement when change occurs. The Event Structure metaphor is a bare-bones metaphor purporting to reveal the elements of any event that produces change. We can use the Event Structure metaphor to elucidate the prevalent metaphoric idea of “moving” used by expert mediators to describe conflict and the practice of mediation. Briefly, an event includes something having one or more states, changing or being changed, by something, through action, with purpose(s), using means, and which may encounter difficulties. The Event Structure metaphor prompts us to look for an Agent which exerts Force or Movement, an Affected Entity or Party that is moved or affected, a Path of movement, changed Locations of objects that may result and Obstacles that may impede the movement.
Many of the elements mentioned – needs, interests, beliefs, mediators, disputants, and the mediation process – are depicted in the expert texts on mediation as Agents exerting some degree of Force on Affected Entities. This corresponds to the Event Structure Metaphor. (Despite literal descriptions purporting subtle, arranging, facilitative actions) the logic of bodily movement are repeatedly used. For example, needs and interests are agents that move disputants, mediation moves these elements and moves itself (mediation is moving), mediators move disputants, mediators seize on things said, disputants express needs, and these movements are stopped by impasses.
These metaphoric uses of movers (Agents), those moved (Affected Entities), the degree and kind of Force producing what manner of Movement, from what starting Location along what Path to what final location or Destination – are all regularly found in the explanations about conflict, conflict resolution and mediation given in the expert literature studied here. Causality may be implicit: Interests define problems; interests motivate positions; choices impact interests; positions serve needs, hopes, fears, and desires.
What are some of the “movers” in this literature?
Interests are Forces (Strong Interests are Strong Forces)
The term “interest(s)” is very frequently used in the expert literature on mediation (887 occurrences compared with two of the most frequently used subject-relevant words: 1,562 instances of mediation(s) and 2,600 instances of party(ies)). Its meaning in the mediation literature is specialized, referring to what disputants “really” want, compared with their demands or positions. One of many examples in this corpus is Fisher, Ury and Patton’s best-selling book, Getting To Yes (1991), where it is said that interests are Agents (interests move things and cause events to occur):
“Interests motivate people; they are the silent movers behind the hubbub of positions. Your position is something you have decided upon. Your interests are what caused you to so decide.”
We have already seen (above) that interests are depicted as contained and often hidden, but can be seen clearly with the proper orientation or point of view. There is an implied correspondence between positions taken (demands made) and the disputant’s point of view (interests seen). When disputants see things in a new way (perhaps from a different point of view from which they begin to see interests) their positions often change. The logic is contained in the metaphor of physical seeing and movement (not in psychological knowledge of how thinking actually occurs) and is eminently helpful in communicating a complicated process to students of conflict resolution.
Needs are Forces Moving Objects in A Deep Container
“Need(s)” is another very popular term in this corpus (609 occurrences), and is defined in the literature as a subset of “interests” that are more basic to human nature and less tied to particular circumstances. As with “interests”, “needs” refer literally to complex and dynamic social psychological and perhaps physiological processes but are metaphorically understood as objects in motion. Most often needs are depicted in a container.
The container has depth, and the deeper within the container that the objects are moving, the more difficult are they to see (understand, be conscious of). The deeper, the more one must work by degrees, encounter other objects, and take additional steps. The less deep or more superficial the less force exerted, the more accessible, quicker, less meaningful, less long-lasting.
“Needs should be discussed at a deep enough level that
the real forces driving the conflict can be addressed.”
“…the human needs that drive people's actions…”
“…finding a way to meet disputants' essential needs.”
“…searching for the basic interests behind a declared position… those bedrock concerns which motivate all people.”
“…motivational structures… run deeper…”
“…fundamental concerns about…”
“…deeper levels of interests…”
“…addressing the conflict on the level that it is experienced by the participants…”
"Needs… are embedded in a constellation of other forces that can generate and define
Issues, Attitudes are Forces that Move Disputants
Issues and attitudes have no specialized meaning in this literature, but by association to interests and needs, they seem to have a similar role.
“…they have got an issue that is moving in a direction.”
”…moving through impasse is usually more a matter of [disputant’s] attitude than of [the mediator’s] tool or technique.”
”…if a mediator believes that the parties are driven by purely selfish motives…”
Mediators Are Forces That Move Things
Now we turn to instances, very prevalent in this literature, where the “movers” are the mediation process and the mediator.
Mediators are often referred to as moving with their clients, moving the process along, moving their focus, putting interests and options where they can be seen, probing for information, pushing disputants to be more clear, to consider other points of view, and sometimes prodding them to move in directions they would not have gone otherwise and even to accept certain alternatives.
the resolution process forward.”
“…mediators… are patient with whatever pace the parties set.”
”… the mediator can help parties to progress and agree on even the most difficult of incompatible interests.”
”Shifting from specific interests to more general ones may…”
”… move them toward an option that might meet more of their interests.”
“It is helpful to figure out what is blocking people from moving forward.”
"…these moves are conducted in a self-consciously provisional manner..."
"Through careful questioning
and persistent prodding [by the mediator], parties adjust their views of
"…probing about a particular set of statements..."
"Probing for further clarification of feelings or attitudes is just one of many possible responses a mediator might make..."
"...maintain the appearance of impartiality when engaging in common mediator practices such as asking probing questions..."
"Probing questions. The mediator asks either open-ended or focused questions to encourage a speaker to elaborate on an idea."
"What sounded like a
preliminary nudge gets a lot more like a push if it's done in
caucus or separate sessions."
"...mediators push for joint custody..."
"...resolving how to share the pie may require an active push from the mediator..."
"Urge or push the parties to settle or to accept a particular settlement proposal or range..."
"[the mediator] pushes the parties to accept a settlement..."
"...pushes the party toward a certain settlement based on evaluation..."
"He pushed the parties hard, making moral arguments as well as suggesting ways in which..."
"You are trying to get the parties, pressing them hard sometimes, to..."
"…by banging their heads together or twisting their arms."
All of this mediators do, but with the proviso that they advise and lead in a neutral, balanced way, avoid imposing settlements by not being coercive or overly directive and certainly not try to compel something.
“True change cannot be forced, so the mediator will only support the parties' efforts and help open doors for them to consider whether they wish to enter.”
Process is a Force That Moves Disputants
(Neutral Mediating is Balanced, Non-Coercive Movement)
Certainly the mediation process is in the hands of the mediator, but it is also understood to have a force of its own. In terms of the Event Structure metaphor, when the mediation process is Agent, the disputants are the Affected Entities. The path is that set by the mediation process (not often clearly referenced) from a starting point of being in conflict to a destination of having resolution. Obstacles, of course, are often encountered.
“… [mediation] assists them in moving through a difficult conflict process.”
Note that the mediation process is sometimes equated to “reality”:
"What it does is inject reality and alert the parties that, under certain circumstances, reality bites." ” The [mediator is the] agent of reality…”
Disputants are Forces that Move Things
The disputants are negotiators who take the role of Agent, moving things and moving themselves.
“…[the disputants are] ready to move forward on the overall
resolution of their differences…”
“…allows people to move beyond old ways of understanding…”
“…people would like to move forward or that it would be better for them to move forward…”
“[mediators] expect cycles of moving toward and away from agreements as parties wrestle with feelings of commitment and feelings of doubt and indecision.”
“…the experience of moving beyond a focus on self that a party experiences…”
By using so many metaphors of movement, what are the conflict resolution experts telling us in addition to their more literal statements? The Event Structure metaphor shows how movement of any kind may be understood to involve force. Force and movement are central to our conventional understanding of causation (Lakoff and Johnson, 1999).
But how do mediation or mediators cause conflict to be resolved? Mediators are instructed in literal terms by this literature not to direct or compel the terms by which settlement of disputes might be achieved. Literal statements to the effect that settlement terms are to be voluntarily determined by the disputants themselves are reinforced by the use of metaphors such as Needs are Forces Moving Objects in A Deep Container and Disputants are Forces that Move Things. Experienced mediators, nonetheless, know they can influence whether settlement is achieved, how, and on what terms, and this is evident in the broad use of metaphors such as Mediators Are Forces That Move Things in the expert literature.
Where do these movements produced by needs, by the disputants, by the mediator, or the process, and so forth, end up? A disputant’s position on a conflict is moved by needs and interests, as is the conflict, itself. The movement of needs sometimes is conceived as a force that generates something new, not just a force that changes a position. Issues and attitudes have direction; they move disputants through things (such as impasses), while mediators move disputants through the conflict resolution process to options and alternatives more clearly seen. Sometimes the mediator’s pushing or prodding seems intended to move disputants in another direction or cause a different behavior, but the direction of behavior is often cognitive in flavor (e.g., probing to elaborate on an idea). Other times the mediator’s movement is to open new doors or get disputants to accept things they so far haven’t. These locations are seldom very specific in terms of the metaphoric terrain that stands for the conflict resolution task. We may suspect, then, that the terrain is not specifically enough defined, in combination with the metaphors of moving, to produce a description of the results of such movement.
Metaphors of movement, combined with metaphors of terrain and of seeing, form a kind of mental space or territory where retrospective and prospective action can be conceived. The different schools of mediation debate just how directive mediators should be or to what extent mediation should be guided by the disputants’ self-determination. The metaphors so far discussed begin to define territory by structuring the space within which the relative directiveness of different mediation styles can be described. But additional specificity is needed to conceive this action fully. Journeying metaphors are useful for this and, the evidence indicates, are in fact invoked by expert mediators.
The metaphors implying greater force sometimes occur in the same textual sections where the importance of disputants’ self determination is also discussed. Despite literal descriptions purporting subtle, arranging, facilitative actions, the logic of potent bodily movement occurs repeatedly in the metaphors used. Readers may understandably conclude from the implicit conceptual metaphors that mediation should be more directive than literally stated.
Metaphors of moving include an implicit pattern of starting from an initial location, proceeding along a path, and heading for a destination. This has been referred to in the literature of conceptual metaphor theory as a source–path–goal schema (Lakoff and Johnson, 1999). But something additional is required to give this schema enough specificity to conceive action fully. Journeying metaphors are useful for this and, the evidence indicates, are in fact invoked frequently by expert mediators.
Besides affording an explanatory context for movement, force and causation, the Event Structure metaphor (described above) contains within it the elements of a journey – movement from a starting point to a destination, along a path. We have learned through everyday experience that continuing on a path implies a channel or route on which to continue and that a destination or goal is part of it, usually at the end. We also know that starting and continuing imply specific locations in some known proximity to each other that can be mapped, along with intermediate locations, implying progress along the way to a destination. Step-by-step movement the length of this route is implied. Diverging from this route means that the destination will not be reached or be more difficult to reach. This illustrates an implicit inference structure in the journey metaphor.
Journey metaphors are invoked when mediators or disputants speak of where they would like to go or where they have been. They invoke a journey metaphor when they discuss the many ways to reach their objectives or goals and which way to choose, when they mention seeking or not seeking certain things, when mediators try to move parties in one or another direction, when a particular solution or a realistic settlement is mentioned as a goal or destination, or when parties have moved to more extreme positions. These and the other examples cited below not only invoke the implications of terrain metaphors, such as relative locations and distances, but also the start-path-destination sequential pattern that typifies a journey. The story of a conflict or an account of the mediation process can readily be understood metaphorically as a journey.
Many of the text examples already cited above when we spoke of containers, viewing and terrain metaphors also substantiate the journey metaphor. This is true because the journey metaphor in some ways “sums up” the other metaphors discussed. Let us review some of the ways that the journey metaphor is specifically invoked in this corpus.
Mediation is a
Self-Determined (Broad Scope) Mediation is An Exploration of Discovery
Exploration, as a special case of journeying, implies a general direction and multiple paths but lack of a single, fixed destination.
”…negotiators will have to spend little time exploring
details of contested issues.”
”People go through some process of discovering each other's interests.”
”… mediation enables parties to move in one direction for awhile, then backtrack and retrace their steps, reconsider where they see themselves heading and then move forward again in a slightly different (or the same) direction.”
Mediating is Guiding a Journey
The mediator is a sort of tour guide in any mediation.
”While journeying through this phase…”
”… the mediator… guided the process and interacted with the disputants.”
Facilitative Mediation is Mediator Mapping and Guiding the Journey
In the school known as Facilitative Mediation the mediator has the map, but the choices are said to be self-determined by the disputants, themselves.
”…the facilitative mediator assumes that his
principal mission is to clarify and to enhance communication between the
parties in order to help them decide what to do."
”Diagnosis begins with the preparation of a conflict map. Such a map should identify active and potential adversary groups and intermediaries, along with their interests and positions. It should also place the immediate dispute into the context of the long-term, underlying conflict.”
”These two "maps" of how mediation unfolds look very different…”
”To work effectively on conflicts, the intervenor needs a conceptual road map or ‘conflict map’…"
Transformative Mediation is Mediator Following Disputants Explorations
In the school known as Transformative Mediation the mediator promotes exploration (as mentioned just above) and leads by following:
“Mediators are present, in the moment, following the
parties as they move through their conflict journey.”
”Once we began that journey, we realized that transformative mediation required significant changes to both our practice and our training.”
”…problem-solving mediation does not - and cannot - reach the same destination as the transformative approach, because although it is a move away from the distributive view, it is only a partial move.”
Maps are used by members of this school but they are not the customary kind of map. Instead the Transformative mediator’s map shows possibilities for movement but no specific path to follow to particular destination.
”…the map and signposts can provide a model to guide practitioners in their work, telling them what to look out for…”
Evaluative Mediation is Mediator on a Mission
In the school known as Evaluative Mediation the mediator not only has a map, but has a much more specific destination, a route mostly charted, and a style that urges the parties to speed on, avoiding diversion or losing their way.
“Most lawyers prefer active directive mediators –
mediators whose mission is arriving at a settlement, who urge the
parties to settle, who cajole, who plead, who persuade.”
”Possible outcomes in fixed-sum negotiations are plotted…”
"…without an evaluation, settlement can be delayed or an opportunity can be lost altogether…"
Mediation is Finding, Following a Path; Type of Mediation is the Path Taken
Mediation is a path that must be identified or found and which follows the route that leads to a specific destination. Progress towards the destination, adjusting the path as needed, not abandoning it, and overcoming obstacles are important inferences readily made when journeying metaphors are used.
”The art of dealing with conflict often lies in
finding the narrow path between useful expression of emotions and
”…[to] summarize what that route looks like… [is] instructive in understanding how and when opportunities… arise in mediation…”
”…problem-solving mediation does not – and cannot – reach the same destination as the transformative approach…”
“Still, the only path to it is through a respect for and acknowledgment of the emotion generated by the situation.”
”…travel further down the path toward an
”Has the mediator traveled so far down the evaluative continuum that my client's decision-making ability has been impaired?”
“…to move conflict along a constructive path.”
”…looking for the right path…”
Direction of Mediation is Choice of Path
”She needs to find her separate self, her own
particular needs and wants. And,
indeed, the path to these may be through her own anger.”
“They can start down one path and reverse to another path…”
”Because people speak personally… these stories steer the group away from the narrow path of polarized principles, policies, or positions and guide it instead toward the wide and varied world of individual experience.”
”…it is easier to narrow one's focus after exploring alternatives than to suddenly broaden one's focus after having set out down a narrow path."
”…those that do succeed are unlikely to follow a simple, linear path.”
”The art of dealing with conflict often lies in finding the narrow path between useful expression of emotions and destructive polarization.”
”Many conflicts appear to lurch from impasse to impasse, and few disputes follow a straightforward path to resolution.”
Mediation is Overcoming Obstacles in the Path
Obstacles block, stop or impede progress, set people back, are overcome by changing or adjusting the width of paths or moving through the obstacles.
“People in conflict may experience a significant setback
in their progress toward resolution on one dimension when they do not
experience progress along another.”
” Are structural factors impeding progress? Are people unable to move forward…?”
”… an unnecessary roadblock in the path of the parties as they struggle to survive and move on.”
”… the opportunity to make progress by arriving at agreements on divisive issues.”
”[misunderstandings about interests] are often significant blocks to progress in negotiations and may produce deadlock.”
” There is a Quaker saying that ‘progress occurs as the way closes behind.’ In a healthy negotiation, as more information is shared and more effective patterns of communication develop, options are identified and possible paths are opened. However, equally important is that potential approaches to resolution become narrower. Without such narrowing, closure is very difficult.”
“…she could not get past her anger and her
desire for revenge.”
”…there was no very cogent reason for some of the people to get past impasse.”
” Helps the parties get past the emotion of the dispute.”
Mediation is Not Abandoning The Path
“…mediators need to adopt the transformative vision
as a whole and not abandon it when the going gets tough.”
”[mediators} would do better when they confronted difficult or intractable conflicts if they would abandon the search for resolution and pursue [other ways].”
”…but they will usually abandon [other approaches] and move to a more directive approach if this is necessary to achieve a settlement…”
Mediation is Stepping From Unobstrcuted Point to Unobstructed Point
During mediation the parties are seen to step or move through the process, they take paths that are unobstructed, clear, and not blocked. Mediators assist those steps.
”…the parties left the session with greater
capacities for addressing life's difficulties, stepping outside of
themselves to consider another's perspective…”
” Mediators can be particularly helpful in taking those steps…”
”… as in so many other steps in conflict resolution, timing is critical.”
”When they run into a distributive roadblock, they naturally look for further integrative options.”
”…[the situation] in other ways was a dead end that was contributing to a deteriorating self-image.”
“…to understand the overall conflict will help people work through an impasse.”
”The key to moving through an impasse is often to acknowledge the distributive issues…”
If there is a single metaphor that sums up the others it may well be Mediation is a Journey. One begins this journey with a dispute or impeded by a conflict and ends up at a destination that might have been in mind before the conflict got in the way, or was discerned only after conflict resolution commenced. The resolution of the conflict is the path through (over, around) the dispute and several steps are likely to be taken in between. If the conflict is intractable, you don't get very far in this journey, unless you find a way around the impasse. Depending on the type of mediation, disputants more or less actively choose their route, step along the route roughly in parallel, and are of assistance to each other, but they walk not necessarily side by side. Sometimes they must negotiate difficult turns or maneuvers. A mediator can serve as a guide who travels similar routes over and over again and can offer help along the way, but who does not take the trip for the travelers. Or, the mediator may actually draw the map and then pull or push the disputants along the selected route.
We have seen how the journey metaphors make use of the start-path-destination pattern that is articulated in the generic Event Structure metaphor. The journey metaphor adds elements to terrain, movement and other metaphors already described above – particularly more specificity as to starting location, relationship of intervening locations, whether and with what precision destinations are chosen, obstacles are encountered on the path, and the role of the guide (the mediator). Now the mental terrain of the conflict and its resolution has been established as a virtual map. While one school conceives mediation as a journey to a known location on the map, for another it is an exploration to find a certain kind of place. In yet another school mediation is an exploration of discovery.
We find in the literal statements in our corpus that traveling using a map and with help of a guide still does not fully capture what one has at the end. For that metaphors of structuring are needed.
The metaphor Mediation is A Journey has a very large number of interrelated entailments, many of which have been found in this corpus, but a significant number of which were scarcely represented or entirely absent. The omissions are important to us because they represent an unused resource that mediation experts might profitably use to further explain, in a coherent and integrated way, more of the intricate reality of the mediation process.
For example, if the process of mediation is understood as a journey for disputants, there is a means of transport, perhaps a vehicle, within which they move together. The corpus contains a single example of this:
“…the vehicle for understanding the many contradictions that are necessarily present…”
Discussing the nature of this vehicle and its use – how one enters and leaves, what is found inside, coping with close quarters, how to speed it up or slow it down – is consistent with the unconsciously assumed aspects of the metaphor (compare Casonato, 2001). And all of these aspects have an analogical counterpart in the mediation process – entering the enclosed environment of the mediation sessions and exiting back to daily life, what you can steer or control while mediating, relative speeds, using maps, baggage, taking wrong turns, detours, dead ends, getting lost, homesickness, special ways of interrelating in confined space, riding in separate cars, ending up in the same place yet going on alone from there, and so forth.
Metaphors having to do with structure and structuring involve many of the same implications as the container (boundaries, depth), object (sortable, manipulable) and terrain metaphors (maps, distances, relative locations), and metaphors of moving (multiple agents exerting forces), seeing (point of view, orientation, focus, searching, light), and journeying (paths, destination, obstacles). But structuring goes further and entails an overall useful design or plan (not just a desirable destination), putting the right pieces in the right place (arranging, matching, fitting, constructing, building, forming, assembling, integrating), according to principles (standards, norms), that balance, attach, and link parts on a foundation solidly and flexibly.
In conflict resolution and mediation, as evidenced in the present corpus, these words are used metaphorically to describe the manipulation of objects contained in two major areas of concern to mediators. The first is the design and carrying out of the mediation process, itself. The second is the formation of a solid resolution to a given conflict. Now that we are considering metaphors of structuring it becomes more evident that expert mediators have always been speaking of two groups of containers, two types of terrains, and two parallel journeys.
The two types of containers are those containing the ingredients of a generally effective mediation style or procedure (e.g., the mediator’s “tool box”) and those containing what is needed in the case of a particular conflict (e.g., certain options and alternatives). The two types of terrains are first the mediator’s general conceptualizations of conflict and its resolution and next the specific “solution space” for a given conflict. In the first instance mediators journey along a route that takes them from wanting to be an effective mediator to becoming a more successful and fulfilled one. In the second instance the participants in a mediation make a “journey”, for example, from fixed positions, through complex communications, to an integrated resolution. So now, too, as we consider metaphors of structuring, we find structured models of the mediation process in general and the composition of a given resolution in particular.
The journey or exploration of the mediation process covers territory, moving towards various short and long-term destinations, searching for (useful) objects (in containers). Along the way the parties identify what might be taken to form a resolution of the conflict. Out of the conflict and communications attempting to resolve the conflict come pieces that must be addressed, attended to, put in place, integrated into a construction that is mutually agreeable. This is done according to sound principals, rules, and a framework that are thought valid, and the whole thing is built on a firm basis to be relatively solid and enduring. Building construction and architecture can easily become the source domains of these structuring metaphors.
These source domains are of physical activities using mechanical principles and they are projected onto target domains of mental activities taking place in mediation. These mental activities are not accessible to observation, but the linguistic operations linked to them are observable. Our evidence for the existence of these metaphors (as it has been throughout) comes from the patterns of word use that we find in this expert mediator corpus.
A Mediation is a Structured Plan or Design
“Designing a Detailed Plan for Mediation…”
”…Israel agreed to a plan that would return the Sinai to complete Egyptian sovereignty and…”
”A brainstorming session is designed to produce as many ideas as possible to solve the problem…˝
”The mediator… experimenting with the form of settlement options… while tailoring it to their specific needs and interests.”
˝…collect relevant information and plan constructive responses without being forced to act before they have a chance to think…˝
”…the setting might have been deliberately designed to make you want to conclude negotiations promptly and… yield points in order to do so.”
Becoming a Mediator is Designing Own Model of the Mediation Process
˝A fourth model of agenda design is…˝
˝Mediators bring a set of skills and procedures to the process, including… conflict resolution design.˝
˝… the general strategy or conceptual plan that mediators pursue when opening negotiations.˝
Conflict is Building;
Lasting Resolution is Building According to Agreed Principles
"...meets the fundamental behavioral norms
of the different participants…”
”...agreements in principle that define the mutual gains being sought."
”…insistence on a solution based on objective criteria that makes principled negotiation…”
"...seek out the principles which it [a proposal] reflects..."
"The essence of principled negotiation lies in remaining open to persuasion by objective facts and principles."
“…the chance to participate in consensus or settlement building.”
”Shared interests and differing but complementary interests can both serve as the building blocks for a wise agreement.”
”The agreement in principle or formula approach to settlement is often not as familiar to disputants as the building-block approach.”
Resolution of Conflict is Picking, Matching, Measuring and Constructing By Fitting Pieces Together, Reinforcing as Necessary
“…generate specific settlement options; or construct a package
”To construct a different approach to mediation practice, we have to begin with the underlying basis on which practice rests…”
” Evaluative-broad mediators expect to construct proposed agreements.”
"...to integrate proposals made by the disputants."
”…pick the one or two items that both consider of greatest importance…”
"...If dovetailing had to be summed up in one sentence, it would be: Look for items that are of low cost to you and high benefit to them, and vice versa."
"...integrative negotiations involve the exploration of a number of options..."
”They also are not tempted to describe as fair a plan that only fits their own needs.”
”We need to agree on which two school nights attached to the weekend the children will spend with me…”
“…the cognitive, emotional, and behavioral dimensions of resolution tend to develop together and to reinforce one another.”
Becoming Able to Mediate is Matching, Fitting, Assembling, Integrating… What One Has Learned
“…by matching their ‘style’ to the parties' needs…”
”effective mediators… can match mediation theory and the learnings of others with his or her own past experience in resolving disputes…”
“Fitting the Forum to the Fuss…”
”…the way option generation fits into the overall strategy of reaching an agreement.”
”…a dialogue that will enable us to find where we fit in the field and determine which aspects of our work are innovative…”
”…information was assembled regarding opening offers or demands and final outcomes…”
”…the possibility of integrating these approaches.”
”…constructive confrontation and transformative mediation were developed independently, they are parallel in approach and mutually reinforcing.”
Resolution of Conflict is Solid, Strong and Firmly Based,
"...lay a foundation of agreed-upon facts upon which a
principled solution can be built."
”The second option was a flat fee based on data and a formula from other medical clinics…”
”…lay the groundwork or foundation for later decisions.”
”…an attempt to determine a solution based on those rights.”
”Be firm; Be Principled yet flexible.”
”…solid agreements that genuinely meet the interests of the parties…”
”The mediator… can assist the parties in negotiating the strongest agreement possible…”
”…when a fundamentally sound agreement has been reached.”
The Ability to Resolve Conflicts is To Have Built Solidly, To Operate By Principle
“…building on a very solid tradition
within the field that long ago identified these concepts as central to
the mediation enterprise.”
“We were attempting to help our problem-solving mediators build self-knowledge so they could consider mediating in more transformative ways.”
”…recognize that mediation is based on the principle of self-determination by the parties.”
”…the mediator's actions should consistently reflect this principle.”
”…the practice - standard among divorce mediators - of meeting with the parties alone, without their lawyers.”
The structuring metaphors found in the expert literature on conflict and mediation all seem to come from physical construction, such as of buildings or occasionally of mechanical devices. These are useful metaphors. The entailments of structuring metaphors, including planning and design, building standards, matching, measuring, fitting pieces together to build solidly on a strong foundation, all have been documented above. Curiously, other very useful entailments are hardly used at all: for example, blueprints, weight-baring, and fragility.
The structuring metaphors are the final group considered here and can be seen to reintroduce much of the interactive complexity of actual conflict and real-life mediation stripped away when only container, object and terrain metaphors are used.
It is interesting to note that experts in Transformative mediation use structuring metaphors when they speak, for example, of building mediator competency, but seldom use these metaphors when speaking of the final resolution of conflicts. The other two schools use these metaphors for both mediator capability and the soundness of the resolutions they produce.
Even if every imaginable entailment of the construction metaphors were used in the writings of expert mediators it seems likely that the cognitive and social systems within which conflict plays out would involve greater complexity than this group of metaphors could project. So the metaphors of structuring that we have found in this corpus are probably simplifications that, while a temporary support for learners, are not likely to bear the weight of their full understanding.
More complex structures might offer useful parallels to the mediation and conflict resolution processes. Examples include the structures of energy fields (with poles, force lines, magnetic attractions, induced currents, and alignments), structures of biological entities (where we find elements one within another separated by membranes, bathed in fluids, attached by threads, changing form, self-repairing, subdividing, and seeking equilibrium) or information structures (digits placed in formats, passed in packets, stored invisibly on media units, processed by lists of instructions looping around to compose parallel levels of raw data, linkages, and interpretations).
Allusion to any of these is virtually absent from the expert mediation literature studied. Even metaphors of gardening, plant development or agriculture would offer ways to conceptualize length of time required for mediation, the preparatory steps that produce little change, attention to multiple tasks in parallel and sequentially, protection from wily outside pests, stewardship of resources, and so forth. But such metaphors are lacking in this corpus.
We are investigating here the conceptual metaphors that underpin expert mediator texts. In its simplest form the proposition of this study is that conceptual metaphors frame what expert mediators have to say about conflict and mediation and contain important but hidden assumptions. In turn, these implicit frames and assumptions will influence mediators’ thinking as they undertake the conflict resolution process. Our task in this descriptive stage of the study is to identify such metaphors and make as explicit as possible what they are saying.
Tentatively we may conclude that expert mediators use many of the same conceptual metaphors found throughout many different kinds of texts in English. These metaphors project the conventionally understood, concrete, physical qualities of containers, objects, bodily movement and so forth onto abstract, subjective experiences of what conflict is and what occurs in the mediation process. We found evidence that these metaphors are applied repeatedly throughout a representative sample of texts.
Not only that but the inference structures of these metaphors, including those of force mechanics, traveling, and building construction, are applied while trying to explain conflict and mediation. The processes involved in conflict and in mediation operate literally according to other principles entirely – probably those of physiology, psychology and sociology. By using these metaphors much of the complexity facing mediators is removed, thereby simplifying ideas of conflict and mediation. Certainly this makes it easier to communicate to less experienced members of the profession. Should these transformations and simplifications be pointed out we suspect that the experts would protest not to mean what their metaphors say. But to the extent that these metaphors are used unconsciously the experts’ own thinking may actually follow these simplified lines.
An expert mediator who knows how conceptual metaphors work would realize that thinking and most communications inevitably depend on them. Literal language just isn’t sufficient. But the metaphor-aware expert would compensate for over-simplifications and distortions, and would make the best use of as much metaphoric potency as possible.
Several advantages accrue when expert mediators bring their conceptual metaphors into conscious awareness. It becomes possible to better align meanings expressed literally with those expressed metaphorically. For example, instead of claiming literally that mediation facilitates self-determined outcomes but then contradicting that by describing how the mediator uses leverage to shift an intransigent party from a hard-line position, the expert might directly admit that forcefulness is best in certain instances. Or, he might realign the metaphor and describe how stepping stones can be put in place for the disputant to climb out of an entrenched position.
In addition, conscious use of metaphor could counteract oversimplification by combining the use of several or the entire network of the seven interrelated conceptual metaphor clusters found here. For example, mediators are to locate and list positions, needs, and interests, sorting them into their appropriate category so they can be compared and possibly matched. Knowing now that these represent dynamic systems that container and object metaphors have simplified into things, the mediator can be ready for other, more process-oriented metaphors. And when mediators are described as looking behind positions for disputants’ true interests, the metaphor-aware expert knows that a viewing metaphor has been invoked. Conscious knowledge of the network of metaphor clusters enables richer discussion. A terrain of positions (in valleys) can include interests (on hills) from which better routes for travel can be mapped.
All metaphors, as we have seen, have entailments and their own inference structure. But in this corpus, where the metaphors are likely to have been introduced unconsciously, only certain ones are used and others, that are rich with possibilities, are routinely ignored. For example, the process of mediation is understood as a journey for disputants and this entails a means of transport, perhaps a vehicle, within which disputants move together. Discussing the nature of this vehicle and its use – how one enters and leaves, what is found inside, coping with close quarters, how to speed it up or slow it down – is consistent with the unconsciously assumed aspects of the metaphor (also see Casonato, 2001). Allusion to any of the extensions just suggested is virtually absent from the expert mediation literature studied.
These possibilities for metaphor awareness and exploitation call for further investigation.
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