If there are cardinal sins in mediation, mediator bias may well be number one (perhaps tied with breaking confidentiality). Nothing will end credibility quicker than the appearance that the mediator is taking a side in a dispute. But how do mediators, mere mortals (it’s true!), maintain neutrality? What tools are available to combat the very human tendency to make and pass judgment? Below are a few that might help you the next time you are in the room.
What does reflection look like for a mediator and why do it?
Thoughtful reflection is not the act of ruminating on or second-guessing your decisions in a particular exchange or mediation session. Instead, reflection involves stepping back from your experience in the mediation, trying to be objective, and seeing what you can take away from it. It may feel unfamiliar and uncomfortable at first. However, you will discover ways you can do better in your next mediation by examining what did or didn’t work in this one, and by discovering the assumptions or habits underlying your choices.
Not all mediations end in an agreement. One question that many participants often ask before beginning mediation is, “What happens if we don’t reach an agreement?” Unfortunately, there isn’t one single answer that will cover all situations. However, a mediation that does not result in an agreement can still be worthwhile.
You’ve been scheduled for mediation at the Center for Conflict Resolution (CCR). You may be anxious about meeting with the other party and there are probably a number of questions running through your mind: What will the process be? What can I do to prepare? Will this be worth my time?
Frank D. Hill is a volunteer with CCR. In addition to this blog, Frank helps manage CCR's social media presence.