The Path to Mediator Neutrality is the Path to Enlightenment!

Can a process like mediation remain legitimate given such obvious inconsistencies, as highlighted in my previous posts on Mediator Neutrality, between the espoused notion of neutrality and the experiences of  those that practice mediation day in day out?

Is Neutrality in Mediation that Important?

If you’ve read my previous posts you will have gathered that I believe the notion of neutrality is just a notion and the credibility of this notion is undermined by procedural aspects of mediation and psychological phenomena that affect all mediators.

In my earlier posts I outlined how some commentators consider neutrality to be an important tenet in a mediators’ claim to professional legitimacy. Some suggest that despite the apparent difficulties with claim of neutrality it should remain an ideal that every mediator aspires to embody in their practice. If neutrality were seen as a journey rather than as one commentator describes ‘a mantle that magically descends upon them’ during their mediator training, it would encourage mediators to pay conscious attention to it.

Despite all this, I’m still left with the question; can a process like mediation remain legitimate given the disparity between the espoused notion of neutrality and the experiences of  practitioners?

Sharpen the Saw

Irrespective of whether we abandon the term neutrality, three things are for certain;

  • First, mediators need to be better informed about conflict theory and be provided with clear guidance on what it means to think and act in a neutral, and impartial way. I can never recall being told on mediator training what to do in order to achieve neutrality but I can recall being taught what not to do!
  • Secondly, mediators must pursue vigorously the third stage of mediator development and improve our own psychological health, develop greater awareness, even if it means synthesising the practice of mindfulness mediation with mediation. Some believe this can help mediators behave ethically. After all, as McGuigan, writing in Conflict Resolution Quarterly, states;

‘one does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light but instead by making the darkness conscious’.

  • Finally, I think it’s vital that as mediators we introduce greater transparency into the way we work, sharing with parties the ‘covert’ strategies that we employ such as party empowerment, sharing with them our intention for using such strategies and enable parties to make a free and informed choice about working this way.

I doubt very much this is the last you’ll hear from me on this topic or from the profession at large, but there are many more issues to discuss to take the mediation profession into the 21st century, in the UK and further afield.

But what do you think? Do you see it the same way or do you see it differently?

Please leave your comments, questions and feedback below.

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