Whether there are sins in mediation, mediator prejudice might well be number one (possibly connected with breaking confidentiality). But how can mediators, mere mortals keep neutrality? What resources are available to fight the very human inclination to create and pass judgment? Below are a couple of them that may assist you the next time you’re in the area.
Know your role
Perhaps the most essential bit of keeping neutrality is recalling your part in the mediation. This boils down to listening to what’s likely already part of your introductory statement – you aren’t anyone’s lawyer and you’re not a judge. To put it differently, it’s not your task to shield, convince, or even find a fault.
As opposed to restricting you, this understanding of your role ought to be liberating. You don’t need to think about creating an argument for one side or another, nor would you need to deliberate concerning who’s right and who’s wrong. You’re freed up to only explore the inherent needs and interests together with the parties and let them develop a resolution that’s amenable to every side.
Outer and Inner Neutrality
Because all of us, as humans, are subject to subconscious prejudice, it is important to work on both outer and inner neutrality.
Outer Neutrality. This is perceived by the parties. It comprises what is said, how it’s stated, and things as essential as the physical surroundings and body language. The mediator should use announcements, dialog, and procedures in such a manner as to show neutrality. A procedure example could be giving equal time to each party to their opening statement. Concerning physical surroundings, what type of table is used, the positioning of seats, and if the mediator is equidistant from every party may influence the perception of neutrality.
Inner Neutrality. This is all about cultivating your own awareness of neutrality for a mediator. This is mainly about practicing mediation consciously. We all are subject to unconscious prejudice and the environment can activate people’s unconscious biases. It’s crucial to reflect before responding, to check in with yourself before talking in a way that could possibly be tainted by the inevitable biases which happen automatically regardless of how practiced you’re at mediating.
Neutral language is also important. In the end, the terminology we use could do a lot to boost our attempts at neutrality. Rather than saying, “I understand that should have been hard for you,” use more neutral terminology which reflects what any individual in your position might observe. By the way of instance, “I see this has been hard for you.” The gap between both of these statements is delicate but impactful. In the first case, you’re identifying with the feelings that the other individual is demonstrating whereas, at the second, you’re just observing the psychological content.
Both these techniques accomplish the inherent tasks of the mediator – to demonstrate comprehension of a party’s expertise. But the first one can make an impression of biased or partial and another can only be understood as impartial.
Neutrality, together with confidentiality, is a bedrock of mediation training. One method to stop your subconscious bias would be to remind yourself that your part inside the room is neither of urge nor judge. Another would be to keep knowledge of both internal and external factors which could promote neutrality. And, eventually, be conscious of the way you phrase things.