10 Metaphors for a Mediator on the journey to settlement

jazz drummer Lewis NashMediators help people in conflict find their common ground, and build consensus on how to resolve/settle their conflict.  The journey to settlement can follow any number of paths.  Metaphor provides one way that mediators think about their role in that journey.

There is much potential with a metaphor.  More than invoking minor changes in behaviour and attitude, use of personal metaphor can help change the paradigm one frames their work with.

10 metaphors for a mediator

I often hear metaphors such as ‘conductor’ used to describe the role of mediator.  Out of curiosity, I got to thinking about what other metaphors could be used to describe a mediator, on the road to settlement.  Here’s ten metaphors, including conductor, I came up with:

  1. Wayfinder navigating to a desired destination (settlement)
  2. Coach helping plan and achieve goals (settlement)
  3. Doctor diagnosing problems and proposing treatment (settlement)
  4. Engineer planning, designing, and assembling a structure (settlement)
  5. Fire feeder catalyzing into motion(e.g., by adding coal to the fire) and moving forward (to settlement)
  6. Conductor orchestrating from the front to produce a complete work (settlement)
  7. Jazz drummer influencing from behind in support of ensemble performance (settlement)
  8. Gardener planting and nurturing ideas that bloom to fruition (settlement)
  9. Cook taking the ingredients at hand and making them into something (settlement)
  10. Watcher taking it all in, and judiciously influencing the outcome (settlement)

Inspiration for the metaphors

The inspiration for these metaphors I culled from various sources.  The Wayfinder comes from a recent post I did about Wade Davis’ book on the power of ancient wisdom.

Some insights about metaphor in mediation I found in an article by Thomas Smith, Do the experts mean what their metaphors say? An exploration of Metaphor in Mediation Literature.

The idea for the Jazz Drummer is from Howard Bellman, on watching an interview of him on the Mediate.com video library.  From that same source, I learnt some things about metaphor from mediator David Hoffman.

The idea of the Watcher I threw into the mix for a bit of fun.  It percolated up from my days as a youth reading the Fantastic Four (Marvel Comics book).  One of the characters was an all-powerful, mysterious figure (the Watcher) from distant galaxy; who saw all, and though sworn to an oath of non-interference with other worlds, bent the oath numerous times for “altruistic reasons” – e.g., to save humanity!

Your favorite metaphors?

What metaphor(s) do you use for the work of a mediator (or anyone trying to bridge differences between parties in conflict) on the road to settlement?  Why?

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Photo credit: professorbop

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