When choosing a logo for the New York Peace Institute, we insisted on avoiding the commonly-used images of our field...so, ixnay on the doves, peace signs, roundtables, and handshakes. (We did toy with the idea of a peace pigeon...a scrappy urban bird gobbling an olive branch). We wanted to carve out our own identity --and recognize that we're as much about providing a safe space for confrontation and difficult conversations as we are a venue for peace and reconciliation. Not that those are mutually exclusive concepts.
I wish I could just as easily jettison some of our tired mediation jargon. Here are some hoary chestnuts I'd love to deep-six. I still use them, but cringe inwardly when doing so. Anyone who comes up with awesome alternatives to these will get a special shout-out in these pages.
-- Win-win. It's been mockingly used in commercials, as a movie title, and lampooned in The Office (where it became "Win-win-win"...with the third "win" as props to the mediator for bringing parties to agreement.)
-- Think outside the box. The very use of this hackneyed phrase kind of means you're thinking inside the box.
-- Brainstorm. Not only a cliché, but suggestive of a debilitating stroke. "Spitballing" is also played out, and "non-judgmentally generating as many options as possible" doesn't really roll off the tongue. (Watch the movie 12 Angry Men sometime....one of the characters comes up with a litany of zany metaphors for idea generation....my favorite is something like "let's leave the idea in a saucer and see if any kittens lap it up".)
-- Get on the same page. We need something new for post-print era. "Get on the same url" doesn't quite cut it. I tend to use "get on the same side of the table," but that's probably also overused.
-- That Chinese character for conflict/crisis supposedly combining "danger" and "opportunity". This gets trotted out in almost every mediation training, and it's a makes a good point...but it may not even be an accurate translation: http://tinyurl.com/r467e.
So, dear readers, let's brainstorm and think outside the box so we can get on the same page for a win-win on new ways to express our core values. May this semantic crisis be an opportunity.