1 Introduction and Status Quaestionis

1.1 Structure of the Chapter

The structure of the chapter will be as follows. In the first section of the chapter the need for the essay and a cursory Status quaestionis will be provided. Secondly the conceptual and technical framework of the paper will be sketched, by providing a theoretical discussion of metaphor theory in which we will specifically draw on the insights of Lakoff and Johnson (2003) who are considered world leaders in conceptual metaphor theory. Within the context of the research group/book, and the intersection between leadership, spirituality and discernment, we will provide some perspectives from research on the phenomenon (and philosophy) of hope, drawing on Richard Rorty’s insights, and its possible relation to mediation.Footnote 1 Thirdly, these insights will be brought into dialogue with mediation as academic discipline within jurisprudence, i.e., how metaphors (of hope) and the underlying philosophy of hope, could influence the mediation process. Since the social-constructivist epistemology is used, the meta-theory of language and meaning being used here serves as the conceptual frame underlying the scientific approach of the argument. Secondly, from an epistemological point of view, spiritualityFootnote 2 and the perspective of hope serves within the post-foundationalFootnote 3 frame of reference of the authors and their trans-disciplinary engagement. Subsequently, attention is turned to the discipline of mediation with an example of a concrete case study which will be discussed with the aforementioned theoretical presuppositions. Graphically the inter-and-transdisciplinaryFootnote 4 structure of the article could be illustrated as follows (Fig. 1).

Fig. 1
figure 1

Inter-and-transdisciplinary dialogue

1.2 Lifelong Learning Organizations: From Unconscious Incompetence to Unconscious Competence

In Business management and in other disciplines like theology, in this case, learning organizations (a term coined by Peter Senge)Footnote 5 aim to continuously facilitate transformation and growth of their staff.Footnote 6 The research gap this article wants to address lies on the theoretical basis of the inter-and-transdisciplinary dialogue between jurisprudence (mediation), theology and philosophy, and social science about the topic of mediation. Jordaan (2013, ad loc),Footnote 7 following Burch’s four stage learning model,Footnote 8 remarks that it is important for mediators and negotiators to become aware of their unconscious incompetence, i.e., the fact that they are not always necessarily explicitly aware of the theoretical basis of their negotiation and mediation practice and that they could become even better and more effective in what they do. The problem here is that unconscious incompetence also limits the growth of the mediator. By means of ongoing practice and inter-and-transdisciplinary dialogue, exposure to a proper learning cycle, a mediator could enter a stage of conscious incompetence, i.e., when one is exposed to deeper knowledge and confronted with one’s own epistemological and theoretical basis of mediation and aware of one’s own gaps and alternative approaches available.Footnote 9 This entails a phase of “deconstruction.”Footnote 10 When one then goes through this stage, one could eventually become consciously competent, i.e., when one has consciously learned and practiced new methods, approaches and ways of thinking (theory) about mediation. Then, eventually one moves into the stage of becoming unconsciously competent, i.e., when one has integrated the newly acquired skills and theory by means of reflection and constant practice.Footnote 11

In the next section of the paper we will reflect on theory, that is, to stimulate a process of becoming conscious of their incompetence.

1.2.1 Inter-and-Transdisciplinary Discernment in a Superdiverse and Supermobile World Sketching the Backdrop/Relief/Setting the Scene

We live in one of the fastest changing times in history, amidst a digital, communication and travel revolution which some consider to be as significant as the transition between the middle ages and the modern word or the dawn of the industrialized world. Our time is characterised by superdiversity and supermobility, which in Business Studies we refer to as resulting in a VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) world (Barentsen and Kok 2017, pp. 7–10; Van den Broeck and Jordaan 2018, p. 12).Footnote 12 The term “superdiversity,” a term which originated in the social sciences, was coined by Steven VertovecFootnote 13 in 2005 and appeared for the first time in an academic article in 2007. His 2007 article on Ethnic and Racial Studies,Footnote 14 and the term superdiversity has since been used widely in different fields.Footnote 15 Superdiversity refers to diversity within diversity (Barentsen and Kok 2017, pp. 7–8). Thus, a form of “diastratification”Footnote 16 appears within one and the same family for instance, where some members were born in a different country, have a low competency to speak the local language of the host country while others within the same family might have been born and socialized within a liberal democracy and embody a Western conceptual framework as part of their social identity complexity.Footnote 17 After some years they may be highly educated and earn a high income over and against some of their family members who might be dependent on the host country’s social system, for instance. The implication is often that the legal statuses between family members might be different. This is what Vertovec means by superdiversity—which is diversity and complexity within diversity (and complexity). In this latest book Geldof (2016) correctly argues that diversity within diversity will increase and be characteristic of the twenty first century. The latest research Geldof (2016) points out, that has been done on population composition in the EU capital Brussels for instance, indicates that circa 66% of residents have a migration background. Soon to follow the statistical tendency is Antwerp where the majority of citizens will soon be those having a migration background. Thus, we will increasingly find Europe to be a context of “Ethnic-cultural (super)diversity.” This will of course shape the future of our society and the need for skills to mediate and negotiate conflict will grow.

Against the background of a VUCA world characterised by superdiversity, scholars and practitioners increasingly become aware of the need for inter-and-transdisciplinary research. Rather recently (2011) the Carnegie Foundation reported on research that has been done on the need for inter-and-transdisciplinary intersection between Business Studies and other disciplines in a study “Rethinking Undergraduate Business Education: Liberal Learning for the Profession” (Colby et al. 2011). One of the outcomes of the research was that a significant amount of business schools in the United States tend to focus on “one-dimensional and specialised courses of study.” After the international economic crisis in 2008, scholars and practitioners reflected on the “need (for) entrepreneurs (to) consider the consequences of their activities and who understand the connections between business activities and society.” Consequently, the influential Carnegie Foundation deliberately aims to include in their business curriculum, perspectives and insights from human/social sciences. This tendency is also seen in the “European Haniel Program in cooperation with HSG and CBS,” and others like the Copenhagen Business School follow educational programs and curricular design that aim at inter-and-transdisciplinary research.Footnote 18

In the field of mediation and negotiation studies, and in the courses presented in the MBA programs in Europe and the U.S. these challenges are inter alia addressed by engaging in inter-and transdisciplinary research, conferences, expert seminars and joint publications.Footnote 19 From the perspective of mediation, this development has proven fruitful for scholars from different disciplines and for practitioners alike.

Below we will provide some examples and further reflect on metaphor theory and a philosophical approach to hope and how it could help mediators to enrich their theoretical approach and skillset.

2 Insights from Metaphor Theory in Mediation

Mediation could be defined as a social process whereby a third party (mediator) assists and facilitates individuals or groups in a context of conflict to find win–win solutions.Footnote 20

At the world’s leadingFootnote 21 Dispute Resolution Program hosted at Pepperdine’s Strauss Institute for Dispute Resolution,Footnote 22 scholars and practitioners have for some years already mentioned the importance of narrativesFootnote 23 and metaphors in mediation.Footnote 24 Thomas Smith (2005, p. 343), a mediator from Colorado, is correct when he argues that metaphor:

[O]perates covertly to gain tacit agreement on direction, means, and ends without full description or rationale. It constrains a discussion, focusing on certain concerns while masking others. Becoming consciously aware of the metaphors commonly used during negotiation offers valuable insights into meanings not overtly discussed. This awareness helps reveal intentions and implicit evaluations while also illuminating obvious areas for mutual gain.

He is also correct in suggesting that the dynamics of metaphor could be particularly helpful “to reinforce rapport, to persevere in negotiating, to reflect and query usefully, and to explore and propose different options” (Smith 2005, p. 343).

It is of utmost importance that a mediator as leader in a process of mediation not only develops the ability to understand the dynamics or structural properties of metaphor but also ways in which to construct and deconstruct meaning by means of analysing the way in which particular metaphors frame a discourse and also determines the boundaries within which possibilities could be created.Footnote 25 Furthermore, in negotiation an important skill to master is the (psycholinguistic) ability to analyse and clarify meaning behind the words of discourse participants in an effort to ascertain implicit concerns and ways in which possibilities for mutual gain (win–win situations) could be negotiated. In this regard, inter-and transdisciplinary insights from conceptual metaphor theory, promises to provide valuable insights.Footnote 26

In a recent business meeting one of us observed the following metaphorical frame in the discussions between discourse participants referring to Brexit:

The unfortunate divorce between us and England

also effects the relationships with the in-laws.

I suppose we would not be enjoying tea in the garden soon.

The relationship is stuck and we are parting ways—there is simply no hope on the horizon.

It is interesting to note that the particular person interpreted Brexit within the metaphorical frame of a divorce between a husband and a wife and the subsequent estrangement of relations involved in the process. From a socio-cognitive and critical-discourse analytical perspective it could be argued that the discourse participant in this meeting projected certain dimensions, and the frame of a divorce unto the diplomatic (and economic) context. One problem with this metaphor is that it immediately frames the negotiations as adversarial. The frame is likely to impact on the negotiators’ approach to the process—i.e, positional rather than collaborative; their tactics or behaviors during the process of negotiation and thus also on the quality of the outcomes they achieve (if any).

The question of course is whether this particular metaphorical frame is at all adequate and whether it will not perhaps limit the possibilities of the negotiation process and influence the discourse between the leaders. Instead of simply uncritically engaging within the frames of this particular discourse and the metaphor being used here, the negotiators and leaders around the table could perhaps consider to reflect critically on the use of this metaphor in this situation. Secondly, by becoming aware of the dynamics of metaphor, leaders, mediators and negotiators could use insights from metaphor theory to build rapport with discourse participants and also steer the direction of discourses in the negotiation process in a more informed (and sophisticated) manner. Different cultures embody different values, and that is often expressed in deep and surface (cultural conventional) metaphors. As described above, in a context of superdiversity and supermobility, which is characteristic of the VUCA world we live in, the negotiator and mediator’s ability to reflect critically on language use and meaning by discourse participants becomes even more desired, if not essential.Footnote 27

In the following section we will discuss some salient conceptual and theoretical aspects to buttress the aforementioned scenario and need for deeper understanding of metaphor theory.

3 Conceptual and Theoretical Discussion

3.1 Understanding the Social-Constructive and Socio-Cognitive Critical Discourse Nature of Language

Some (like Rooney 2015) go so far as to argue that “[T]he mediator is the most powerful person in the room, given his or her control over the process. The mediator’s process calls (e.g., whether to meet in private or plenary sessions only); the terminology he or she uses; proposals he or she might make to the parties all have the potential to alter the course of a dispute.” This makes it even more important for mediators to be aware of their role, their frames (about the problem, people and process aspects of the dispute) and how these might affect the course of a dispute and, ultimately, the parties themselves. Rooney puts it as follows: “The mediator’s presence in the room changes the dynamics in the relationship between the parties… The challenge is to work internally on ourselves for it is through this endeavour that we have the most profound effect on those around us both professionally and privately. We cannot afford to be blind to this power.”Footnote 28

Specialists in socio-cognitive critical discourse analysis like Fairclough correctly illustrate that when discourse participants utter words in an effort to communicate meaning, they draw from/on social cognitions or mental maps. We could thus speak of a form of intertextuality of discourse, i.e., that we not only draw from different layers of meaning “out there” but that our utterances are also multi-layered in particular contexts on the level of interdiscursivity. The latter term wants to express the reality that we dialectically draw on multiple discourses and that in our micro-expressions, we take part dialogically in larger macro-socio-political discourses. Thus, there is a dialectical process taking place as we engage with different layers of discourses in society or in a group. In other words, as we take part in the construction of meaning through words, we not only produce but also consume texts by means of drawing from shared and assumed knowledge in our culture which is based on our habitus. Habitus is defined as the system(s) of embodied dispositions, tendencies, etc., which we have internalized from our social world and have become a form of sensus communis. As Bourdieu has argued, it manifests in our hexis (body posture, mannerisms, accent, taste, habits, perceptual schemes and mental habits, etc). The point here is that from a socio-cognitive perspective, what we say draws from existing social maps of knowledge which we in some form reproduce through our communicative actions.Footnote 29 Furthermore, as Bourdieu has showed, communicative action is mostly “contaminated” by power dynamics, i.e., that by our words and our metaphors, we position ourselves vis a vis another, in a particular way. A mediator should in other words also have the heuristic tools to be sensitive to the manner in which power relations are structured, embodied, maintained/sustained or transformed in the process of negotiation.Footnote 30 Fairclough (1992, pp. 65, 126, 124–130) has shown that particular power interests are either reproduced or transformed in and through the way we use language and discourse in a given context. As we enter as patients the consulting room of a medical specialist, the mere context positions us in a certain hierarchical relational dynamics. We draw on our habitus and play our respective roles in that discourse context. The social system and the context in other words determines and shapes the nature of the discourse and relations. People aware of this might decide to either reproduce existing discourses and social (power) positioning or decide to challenge and transform the social power relations and meaning. The mediator leads a process of negotiation, and for this reason, he/she needs to be skilled in analysing these complex discursive elements in a given discourse context and aim to become aware not only how people intertextually draw on existing “mental maps” (Fairclough 1992, p. 82) but also wise in how to steer discourses into the direction of a win–win outcome.

3.2 Understanding the Dynamics of Metaphor

The study and critical reflection on metaphor is an ongoing process. Classic scholars for instance provide helpful insights on Aristotle, who wrote extensively on the nature of metaphors. In his contribution to the debate, negotiator Thomas Smith (2005) remarks: “Writings at least as old as Aristotle define metaphor as talking about one thing in terms of another.” But here Smith lacks depth in his approach probably due to the fact that he mainly makes use of secondary sources and have not consulted Aristotle as primary source directly. However, already in ancient times, a difference was pointed out between a metaphor, a simile, a comparison and a symbol. Also, they reflected critically on the function of words by the speaker. Functionally speaking, there is a difference between a surface metaphor and a deep metaphor. There is a difference between [see LyonsFootnote 31 (1986, p. 216)]Footnote 32 the understanding of the functional dynamics of metaphor and figurative meaning, between a metaphor and a so called proper comparison.

Let us provide the following examples from a recent caseFootnote 33 where an employee claimed constructive dismissal.Footnote 34 The mediator played an important role in the resolution of the dispute with a successful (win–win) outcome for all parties inter alia by means of his/her use of metaphor theory and socio-cognitive discourse analysisFootnote 35:

  1. #a.

    Employee before and during mediation: “Barry, my boss, is stubborn like a horse with blinkers/blinders. I try to talk to him but gained no ground and in the process he attacks my integrity and underestimates my experience. How dare he refer to me as an ‘African’ and that ‘Up here’ we do it the ‘European’ way. Or the fact that I am not ‘integrated’ well enough. It is blatant racism and discrimination, especially when put in an email copied to colleagues, or discussed around the staff room. I feel that the time has come for our paths to separate, for I have no hope.”

  2. #b.

    Employee after mediation [endorsement]: “The mediator was a catalyst.Footnote 36 He/she created a positive effect in restoring the trust and power balance.”

Within these two extract examples one finds several metaphors which need to be deconstructed. In example (a) the “point of comparison” framework is more closely determined than example (b). The point being made is the “stubbornness” of the “opponent” and in the process of conveying this message functionally, the boss (tenor) is compared to a blinded horseFootnote 37 (vehicle), with the function of communicating the point of “stubbornness.” Also note that there is a certain power dynamics at play here, because the parties in this process are hierarchically positioned in a lower and higher position in the particular context from the perspective of their discourse. The employee experiences that the employer views his/her African identity as inferior to that of the Westerner and that he/she is discriminated against and feels powerless against the “inflexibility” or “obstinacy” of the employer. The metaphorical frame of implicit “distance” and difference in class, is underlying the use of the words “up here” and “down there.” Below we will show how this way of speaking is a performative act in which power is exercised and some positioned “lower” than others on the level of competency or quality based on what we will refer to as “metanarraphor.”

On the other hand, example (b), is much more complex in nature. The reason is that from an inter-discursive perspective (especially from a socio-cognitive level discussed above), there are multiple ways, and thus a complexity of possible semantic qualities/relations between the lexical items in which the source domain and the target domain are compared. In a VUCA world characterised by superdiversity and supermobility with clients representing diverse backgrounds, this could become a complex analytical task. According to Van der Watt (2009, p. 308), one can think of explaining the relationships between these items by means of the image of a “semantic sieve,” looking at all the qualities of both lexical items that “fall through” and are related/overlap. By looking at these shared qualities one can discern the dynamics of the points of interaction which Van der Watt calls “the system of associated commonplaces” which form the analogical basis by which means interpretation is made and meaning constructed. In most cases, there would be points where a target and source domain share qualities or “simultaneous similarity” and where they do not “simultaneous dissimilarity” (Van der Watt 2009, pp. 308–309). Important to note is how the meaning of metaphors used by discourse participants are to be understood? For metaphors are in nature relatively “open” as discourse participants draw comparative connections.

For this reason, one should carefully also look at the cohesion within a body of literature or in a discourse structure by looking at the following (here we are following/drawing from Van der Watt 2009, p. 313):

  • Words which are thematically related, for instance, sun, light, sunrays, dawn, dusk, dew, etc.

  • Repetition of words which indicates that the author is building on and expanding a particular image.

  • Stylistic features, for instance chiasmus, parallelism etc.

  • Contextually related coherence within a particular frame, for instance in hospitals where you have sick people, doctors, ambulances, waiting rooms, operating theatres, nurses, scrubs, etc.

By means of these methods one could also determine the nuances and explore the “emotional meaning carried by the metaphor” (Van der Watt 2009, p. 313).

Lakoff and Johnson (2003) explained some of the results of research that has been done in cognitive neuroscience and the relation to metaphors. The latter points out that metaphors are always embedded in a particular frame of reference and also ipso facto a result of an embodied experience.

Lakoff and Johnson (2003) and Lakoff (2009) often uses the following examples: Firstly, it is important to note the importance of frames. For instance, when entering a hospital, that space/frame would be associated with reception desks, nurses, doctors, operating rooms and scalpels. Discourse participants would know that something is wrong from the perspective of the accepted frame if a patient is given a scalpel and asked to operate on a doctor. It simply does not fit the frame. Apart from frames, metaphors are also related to embodied experiences, and there is a significant amount of similarity between cultures because of this embodied experiential reality. When a container is filled with water, we observe the content being filled from outside into the container which makes it full. Thus, more water means that we observe vertical increase in level: Thus, more is up and less is down. Accordingly, as Lakoff points out, we would speak of “stock prices going through the roof” with the presupposition of vertical increase. Secondly, the metaphors we use for expressing whether someone is a “warm” person is directly related to experience of physical warmth in close relationships. We also use metaphors to explain emotions like “I am boiling” (for anger) which has a biological experiential basis. Anger is related to the physical increase in blood pressure which leads to increase in body temperature, within the embodied experience of the body as container. Lakoff also often refers to the following example, from his time at Berkeley as this theory was developed. The expression: “Our relationship is stuck and we are parting ways” is embedded within the frame of relationships as journeys with destination(s). The conceptual framework of relationships as journeys, is embedded within the framework of linear thinking of movement from point a to point b. Within this frame of “love is a journey” it is thus possible to combine several ways of expressing metaphors and images related to this frame. For instance, “The relationship is on a bumpy road; the wheels are spinning; from here on it will be downhill; hope is on the horizon, etc.” These are all examples in which the root metaphor “relationships are journeys” are expanded within the frame of conceptual mapping made possible by the root metaphor.

Metaphors can also function by means of analogy. For instance, if V is to W as Y is to Z and A is to B like V to W, then W could be analogical to Z and V to A. We could argue that old age (V) stands in a relationship to life’s journey (W) as winter (Y) stands to seasons (Z), or dusk (A) to day (B). Thus, we could speak of old age as the dusk of life’s journey, or winter as day’s dusk. “My journey is entering the chill of days’ dusk” is an analogical metaphorical expression that combines the frames of “life as journey” and embodied experience of winter/cold and the slowing down of “life” within the perspective of a linear frame of distance and movement in time from young to old.

The power of metaphor is that the interaction between a source domain and a target domain leads to a creative process of bringing together elements which are not normally brought together in a particular way, creating a new force of meaning. On the other hand these metaphors share particular frames which are rather generic and the apparent connections between communities expressing these metaphors perhaps not that significant. Halstead (2003, p. 83) remarks: “Metaphors are both motivated by and constrained by common patterns of bodily experience and experience of the social and natural environment…” Metaphors are thus a “fusion of the imagination and embodied experience…” and “grounded in human embodied experience…” Johnson (2005, p. 159)Footnote 38 also agrees and points to the importance of empirical data, illustrating that core analogies “typically come from basic-level-experiences that are shaped by human beings because of their shared bodily and cognitive makeup and because common features of the environments with which people interact.”Footnote 39

The metaphorical structure, and transference of meaning from a source domain unto a target domain in the above mentioned examples could be expressed as follows (Fig. 2).

Fig. 2
figure 2

Schematic representation of dynamics of metaphor

The Mediator as Catalyst of Hope and Win–Win Scenarios

Mediation is both an art and a science (Jordaan 2013, ad loc). The role of a mediator is inter alia to serve as a catalyst and create trust for a positive win–win situation for both parties in a dispute (Jordaan 2017). Some scholars might criticize the field of mediation for not having a theoretical consensus, but that does not mean that those scholars and practitioners in the field do not have, or take serious various theoretical perspectives in a rather sophisticated manner.Footnote 40 In the process of mediation between the employee and the employer the negotiator facilitated a process in which all the parties could express their feelings by means of what we call “metanarraphor.” This term is understood as follows:

We continually construct our identity inter-discursively on macro-meso and micro levels by telling narratives about ourselves in relation to the world at large and the groups we belong to and use metaphors to bind these narratives into coherent meta-narratives about the self-in-the-world. Thus the term “metanarraphor in mediation.”

This definition draws on several presuppositions, which range from knowledge of Social identity and Self-Categorization Theory,Footnote 41 Dialogical Self Theory,Footnote 42 Ethnicity Theory,Footnote 43 Socio-Cognitive Discourse Analysis, Narrative Counselling techniques, Psychology, etc., which the negotiator had in his/her back pack/tool set.

With regard to dispute resolution, Hansen (2004, p. 2) correctly observes: “For mediation to effectively use the storytelling metaphor and create a cooperative climate among disputants, it becomes necessary to destabilize those ‘theories of responsibility’ which simultaneously serve to legitimate one’s point of view and de-legitimate the point of view of the other party. This leaves conflicting parties with a previously ‘closed’ interpretation (their story) open to new possibilities and interpretations. This new climate of openness can lead to the genesis of a new account and mutually satisfying interpretations and outcomes.”

The analytical tool kit of the negotiator will enabled him/her not only to analyze different discursive elements in the discourse structure of the employee’s words, but also to enable him/her to ask certain questions to the employee in a process to facilitate a non-judgmental space of trust between himself/herself and the client.

The mediator for instance became aware that the employee holds on to an underlying meta-narrative (or metanarraphor) in which he/she implicitly believes that Europeans consider Africans to be inferior (refer to “up here” and “down there”) which is part of an interdiscursive dominating race discourse.Footnote 44 Lakoff and Johnson have illustrated that the notions of “up here” and “down there” are a result of certain embodied metaphors which connotatively and associatively link “up” with better/stronger and “down” with weaker. In his/her embodiedness, in his/her habitus, he/she carries “African” ethnic identity. There is sufficient research that shows the problematic nature of the subjective lived experience of “African bodies” being discriminated against,Footnote 45 with the (unfortunate) result of what some in the Benelux in the form of an eponym refer to as a calimero-complex. The employee also had many stories that he/she could tell of previous experiences where existential (discriminatory) trauma was experienced. In his latest book on Trauma-Spectrum Manifestation, Steenkamp, a South African Clinical Psychologist, pointed out that trauma is “stored” in the body like pearls to a necklace and past trauma experiences (and memories) are activated in certain circumstances. Steenkamp (2018, p. 181) remarks:

When we have internal trauma we will be subjected to potential reactivation through futuristic (usually adulthood) external associative activators that are cues reminiscent of previous trauma-activating events. Stress enhances amygdala function, and seeing that the amygdala is involved in implicit memory for emotionally charged events, stress enhances implicit emotional memory for traumatic events.

It is thus deducible that the employee could in fact theoretically easily be activated by words and gestures of his/her European employer which ipso facto entails an emotional response which is extremely complex, for it not only deals with interdiscursive societal discourses on topics like migration and integration, but also with personal trauma which the employee experienced and is reactivated in the current conflict in the workplace. In the process of the mediation, the employee revealed that the employer also reminded him/her of his/her father who was very abusive, strict and stubborn and that he/she vowed never to be the victim again of abuse and oppression. Clearly then, there is a problem behind the problem, and trauma behind the trauma on macro (societal), meso (family) and micro (personal) levels. In this case, several interdiscursive (meta)narratives of trauma, and the emotionally linked metaphors associated with it (narrametaphors) intersected and culminated into a conflict situation in the workplace. As employee and employer we bring our whole selves and therefore conflict also needs to be understood as a multifaceted and nuanced phenomenon. Those sensitive to these complexities can only benefit in the long term.

From the perspective of the words used by the employee, it was clear that another root metaphor, namely that of “argument is war” has been used. Notice the subtle nature of the implicit metaphorical nature of the words “attack” and “gain no ground” in the employee’s utterance in #a. above. Lakoff and Johnson (2003, ad loc) remark:

We saw in the ARGUMENT IS WAR metaphor that expressions from the vocabulary of war, e.g., attack a position, indefensible, strategy, new line of attack, win, gain ground, etc., form a systematic way of talking about the battling aspects of arguing. It is no accident that these expressions mean what they mean when we use them to talk about arguments. A portion of the conceptual network of battle partially characterizes the concept of an argument, and the language follows suit. Since metaphorical expressions in our language are tied to metaphorical concepts in a systematic way, we can use metaphorical linguistic expressions to study the nature of metaphorical concepts and to gain an understanding of the metaphorical nature of our activities.

Naturally then, one could assume that in such a situation of a destructive,Footnote 46dysfunctionalFootnote 47emotionalFootnote 48conflict situation (vis a vis constructive, substantive conflict) the primitive fight/flight response of the brain is activated by the parties involved. In this state of hyper-arousal and acute stress response, logical thinking and problem solving do not take place efficiently.Footnote 49 There are many Physiological changes induced by the sympathetic nervous system that show mediators that clients are in a state of hyper-arousal, one being the dilation of the pupils, shaking, flushed cheeks, etc., which are results of catecholamine hormones (e.g. adrenaline and noradrenaline) which prepare the body for fight or flight.Footnote 50 For that reason the mediator can play a significantly positive role in facilitating the client into a safe(r) space where more logical and problem solving reasoning could take place and where the client is “shifted” through the different “stages” of the (primitive) brain.Footnote 51 This is inter alia done by asking open ended questions and asking the client questions that help them to connect with their “metanarraphors,” the narratives and the metaphors they live by. The research of Steenkamp (2018) and others have shown that the creation of a non-judgmental space, where narratives and metaphors of clients could be told, has the potential to facilitate a space of “healing” and “integration.”

In a superdiverse and supermobile world, social relationships will increasingly be sources of potential conflict as persons from short-term cultures (like the US) and long-term cultures (like Japan); high-power-distance cultures (Japan) and low-power-distance cultures (Western Europe/e.g. Netherlands) work together (Jandt 1998). In this particular case study, the difference between African values and Western values were also underlying in the conflict. When employers and employees do not understand or have knowledge of these differences, it would lead to conflict and dysfunctional multicultural teams. On the other hand, when these differences are understood and managed from the perspective of adaptive change and constructive conflict, it could be a source of diversity, innovation and creative solutions (Schermerhorn et al. 2011, p. 236).

Often the narratives and metaphors (metanarraphors) we live and lead by limit our possibilities, sense of self, creativity and vision of hope for the future. By understanding metaphorical theory, and by means of the above mentioned toolkit at his/her disposal, the mediator helped the client not only to voice emotions, but also to penetrate deeper levels of past trauma that have been experienced in his/her life. In the process the client was “activated” into a “healing space”Footnote 52—a space in which he/she is confronted with the way in which he/she construct and is constrained by their narratives and metaphors and how some form of projection is being made on the employer in this particular case.

After the successful mediation process, the employee remarked: “The mediator is a catalyst.Footnote 53 He/she created a positive effect in restoring the trust and power balance.”Footnote 54

Here the copulative metaphor of the “mediator as catalyst” is interesting. The mediator is said to have restored trust and balanced the power dynamics. This is a complex metaphor with many inter-discursive layers of meaning. When trust and power imbalance is felt to have been “restored,” a form of hope for collaboration in future is created.

4 Breaking Bread: A Hermeneutic of Hope and Possibility for Solidarity

Thus far we have critically reflected on the metanarraphors [(meta)narratives and metaphors] of the employee and the employer in the dispute mentioned as an example case study to illustrate the importance of metaphor theory for mediation. But perhaps it is also important, within the context of this book, with its focus on the nexus between leadership, spirituality and discernment, to reflect also on the metanarraphors that implicitly influence the mediator and the mediation process. Within mediation theory, there are different perspectives and approaches which range for instance from “transformative self-determination” [cf. transformative mediation movement (Baruch Bush and Folger 1994)] and the “mediator as problem solving expert” (see Rooney 2015, pp. 8–9). The broad approach, role and view of the respective mediator will also influence and determine the metanarraphor the mediator will use in his/her general approach to dispute resolution.Footnote 55

Above we have already mentioned that Rooney (2015) argues: “[T]he mediator is the most powerful person in the room, given his or her control over the process. The mediator’s process calls…; the terminology he or she uses; proposals he or she might make to the parties all have the potential to alter the course of a dispute.” Here we want to further argue that from the perspective of metanarraphor, the mediator’s hermeneutics of hope might also have a significant influence on the mediation process.Footnote 56 There are different theories of hope, and that also influences one’s meta-approach.Footnote 57

Rooney (2015, p. 3) makes a strong case, and rightly so, that no mediator is neutral, and that “[Y]ou cannot take the mediator’s physical, mental, emotional and spiritual presence in the mediation session out of the relationship equation.” In this sense, Rooney (2015, p. 3) points out, in following Ogden (1994), that the mediator as third party in a dispute is the “analytic third” which inevitably has an intersubjective influence on the whole. Ogden (1994) states:

The analytic third is a metaphor for the creation of a mind that has an existence of its own and is capable of thinking in ways that neither contributor to the creation of the third subject is capable of generating on its own

(Ogden 1994; Quoted by Rooney 2015, p. 3).

This by implication means that within the context of mediation, the thoughts, intention and presence of the mediator about the success of the mediation “affects this communal mind” or dimension of the “analytic third” (Rooney 2015, p. 3). Thus, perhaps we need to think about the very metaphors we mediate by and the role that hope plays in the process of leading a process of mediation, in which the mediator is an “equal player in the mediation process” (Rooney 2015, p. 9).

Moti Mironi, experienced mediator and arbitrator and professor of Law at Haifa University always commits to “Breaking Bread” with the parties in a dispute, both as prerequisite for entering into the process and concluding the process, irrespective of the outcome.Footnote 58 Mironi’s approach as mediator, as an “analytic third” and his metaphorical notion of “breaking bread” at the start and end of the mediation process, leads to a certain intersubjectivity and creates a “third space” between the parties and the field which is created whenever they share that dialogical space (Ogden 1994; Rooney 2015, p. 3).Footnote 59 The power and dynamics of this metaphor is understandably rather influential in the whole (meta)process as the mediator and the parties co-create mediating moments and movements.

Jordaan (2017) recently observed the importance of hope theory after having been exposed to the work of Snyder (2002), Luthans and Jensen (2002), Cohen-Chen et al. (2014) and Bar-Tal (2001). After a careful study he came to the following conclusion:

My ultimate conclusion from delving into this fascinating subject was that hope theory is in fact intimately connected with what we do as mediators and conflict management practitioners. Further, I believe that by applying the concept consciously in our work we could potentially enhance the impact of what we do.

Jordaan (2017, ad loc).Footnote 60

Cohen-Chen et al. (2014) illustrated in their research that hope played an important role in the willingness of Israelis and Palestinians to engage in peace talks and fear played an important role in inhibiting possibilities for creative engagement [cognitive freezing; see Cohen-Chen et al. (2014) and Jordaan (2017)].

Jordaan (2017, p. 4) is correct when he remarks that: “As mediators we are in a particularly privileged position to help disputing parties develop a hopeful disposition with respect to their current conflict and so reap some of the benefits… (e.g., improvement in relationship quality and the management of negative emotions and stress; improved creativity, cognitive flexibility and greater ability to engage in integrative problem–solving”).

Rorty on the Hermeneutics of Hope

As mentioned above, there are many approaches to the theory and philosophy of hope which range from positive psychological perspectives like that of Martin Seligman (2011), Charles R. SnyderFootnote 61 and others (from another angle) like Richard M. Rorty’sFootnote 62 hermeneutics of hope. We are inspired by the insights Rorty who worked with “hope as a central element of a hermeneutic” and not per se as an epistemological approach based on certainty and knowledge.Footnote 63 Rorty (1979, p. 318; quoted by Stanford Encyclopedia [SEP] 2017, p. 26) states:

Hermeneutics sees the relations between various discourses as those of strands in a possible conversation, a conversation which presupposes no disciplinary matrix which unites the speakers, but where the hope of agreement is never lost so long as the conversation lasts.

Against Rorty as radical ironist and atheist, we would like to argue (by using his own words) that hope is a form of a spiritual/faith/ethical value, which is not always in the first place grounded in knowledge or probabilities, but rather seen as “an attitude by which interlocutors express both their commitment to certain forms of future interaction and their belief in its possibility” (SEP 2017, p. 20). It is a firm belief and “ability to believe that the future will be unspecifiably different from, and unspecifiably freer than, the past” (Rorty 1999, p. 120 as quoted by SEP 2017, p. 20). This opens up the dimension of spirituality mentioned in the beginning of this essay, namely that for us spirituality is defined within the awareness of our embodied realism and embodied cognition which calls for the Other to extend our cognition and participate relationally with others (or the Divine Other) in a process of co-creation of meaning, significance and values, growth and transformation. A Hermeneutic of hope, which we will discuss below, is thus a form of spirituality and transcends the self.

For Rorty, and for the author(s) of this article, hope has an ethical dimension in the sense that it ipso facto entails intersubjective communication and that we are called to dialogue with each other even as “liberal ironists”Footnote 64 in our projected “selfish hopes” in such a way that we witness to the hope and active belief that it is possible to reach agreement and that this form of expectation of future (im)possibility is a reflection of “the liberal virtue of civility” (see Rorty 1979, p. 318) and a source of (possible) mutual solidarity (Rorty 1989, p. 93, 1999, p. 87). In this sense, such a mediator’s hope might even be seen as “unjustifiable” due to the fact that it does not require objective foundations (See Rorty 2002, p. 58; SEP 2017, p. 21). Important to note is that Rorty points out that “hopelessness is always based on the absence of a narrative of political progress” which means by implication that “if such a narrative is available this seems to provide rational support for political hope” (SEP 2017, p. 21). This brings us back to the notion of metanarraphor, i.e., the way we think about life and the metanarratives and metaphors we construct and live by. A good mediator, even the disillusioned-liberal-ironist legal practitioner often functioning as a mediator, has the ethical (and spiritual) duty to fight for hope as “an expression of the liberal virtue of civility” (Rorty 1979, p. 318). Only when the mediator’s own metanarraphor witnesses to the attitude and belief in hope as a sacred space of potential change, does he or she do justice to the insights of modern political philosophy that give hope a central and rightful place in their respective mediatory (and political) thought and actions. For this reason, this fundamentally important attitude and hermeneutics of hope of the mediator in the context of a dispute resolution process is a form of discernment and a form of leadership which is guided towards the possibility of facilitating moments where bread could be broken and communal solidarity be created. The “open” way in which Rorty conceptualizes hope is in other words helpful for mediation as an open ended process. But of course there are many other, even more valuable and applicable conceptions of hope (see e.g. Jordaan 2017). Riskin (2003) calls the mediator the most powerful person in the room. Perhaps that is an overstatement, perhaps not. Be as it may, for the mediator as leader, facilitator and empowering facilitator of disputants in a dispute resolution process, it is wise to be able to discern several options and approaches available.

5 Conclusion

In this paper we argued that we are living in one of the fastest changing times in history—a time which is characterised by superdiversity and supermobility. This leads to a VUCA environment which challenges us to become even more sophisticated in conflict management, dispute resolution and discernment. Latest trends in Business Studies and some MBA programs illustrate an increasing need for inter-and-transdisciplinary engagement to such an extent that we find courses like Spirituality and Entrepreneurship being offered at Business schools in Europe.Footnote 65 In this paper we argued that mediators will benefit themselves and the parties to a conflict or dispute if they are equipped with inter-and-transdisciplinary insights like metaphor theory, narrative approaches to counselling (metanarraphor) and insights from philosophers on aspects of hope. This is where leadership, spirituality and discernment engage in creative exchange of possibilities for constructive change towards communal solidarity and conflict management. Not only could those disciplines like theology who are concerned with the “spiritual” and “metaphorical” dimensions learn from those in the discipline of mediation and dispute resolution, but also vice versa. Thus, this chapter wanted to contribute to mediation theory and to the ongoing inter-and-transdisciplinary dialogue between the disciplines mentioned in the article, with the hope that it would stimulate further engagement and research.