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  the metaphors   by asking questions to get
 We all know of cases where met   each client's
  metaphor.

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by extending
the metaphors
where possible.

How to Extend Metaphors

How to Form Questions

How to Look, Listen

Improve Communications

by asking questions to get
a better understanding of
the metaphors.

Listening, Questioning, Extending

We all know of cases where metaphor has been key to resolving conflict. Think of the several ways metaphor is useful in mediation. For example, clients think and speak using metaphors, so the mediator will want to listen in a way to detect and receive them. Furthermore, if the mediator carefully highlights these metaphors or brings them out into the open, this enhances communications among disputants. Finally, mediators can help bring out aspects of a metaphor that may not at first be attended to. Since such aspects often contain new options, the mediator's skill with metaphor will introduce additional ways to resolve conflict.

So often, however, mediators' use of metaphor is a hit and miss proposition. This is because metaphor is largely an unconscious process and it takes some learning and practice to be able to use it consciously and flexibly.

When mediators learn to use metaphor flexibly, this promotes the three essential processes most mediators agree are at the core of mediation:

o Listening to what clients say -- about their problems, needs, desired outcomes, what has happened, what they believe will hapen. Mediators pride themselves in being able to listen better than most other people. This corresponds to listening for clients' operating metaphors -- listening for clues as to the metaphoric nature of the client's understanding.

o Improving communications by asking questions to get better understanding of what clients mean. Mediators improve their own understanding and help clients clarify their meaning. They do this by exploring the metaphors that seem to be present and by using metaphors that may help elucidate. In being sensitive to, and helping clarify a client's operating metaphors, the mediator can increase both the understanding of, and the communication between clients. (To the degree that such metaphors are understood in universal terms, connection or empathy may also be enhanced.) [note]

o A main tenet of mediation is to enlarge the pool of available alternatives that clients may choose among. Because metaphoric meaning comes from a complex of interrelated experiences, metaphor is a tool for extending the possibilities of what is seen and understood. Options can be expanded by extending clients' operating metaphors where possible.


[notes]
Ferrara (1994) identifies three parallel processes in psychotherapy and illustrates how sensitivity to, and extention of client metaphors facilitates these processes: building rapport, facilitating client self-expression, and fostering insight.

Revealing a metaphor in a client's thinking can communicate that thinking and make that client better understood. Beyond understanding we may also look for identification and empathy. Does revelation of operating metaphor also help listeners identify or empathize with a client? This may be the case when (1) the metaphor has universal elements, (2) the metaphor corresponds to that already operating for the listener, (3) alignment of elements.

Another tenet could be that of supporting clients to find their own solutions and make their own decisions. Metaphor can suggest patterns, configurations, relationships, inclusion or exclusion of factors without in any way arguing for or against. Some mediators may choose to use more targeted or explicit metaphors, to highlight the parallelism, use analogy or even draw conclusions from metaphors, each of which brings a certain level of advising or persuading.

See Lakoff & Turner's "More Than Cool Reason" for suggestions on extending where they discuss composition of novel metaphor. Also see Sims, Peter A. & Whynot, Christopher A. (1997) [Hearing Metaphor: An Approach to Working with Family-Generated Metaphor. Family Process 36 (4), 341-355.

Look, Listen for

each client's
metaphor.

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The BASIC STRATEGY in the use of metaphor: