Mediators! Do you know your clients? How do your own prejudices & life experiences enhance or impede your ability to remain neutral and non-judgmental?
Diversity can no longer be limited to sex, gender, national origin, race, religion and disabilities. When you hear the word diversity do you think of all the prejudices the word identifies or do you immediately think of the protected groups? Diversity is so much more; Gays, seniors, the mentally challenged to name a few.
There are so many pre-conceived notions that can interfere with our ability to be neutral and objective as we practice our profession; as an example, case background and the instinct to rush to judgment.
As ADR professionals we are there to enhance the process. In so doing we must keep in mind how diverse the fabric of the world really is. Identifying the “Me” in mediation can consist of the awareness of sensory interpretations (vision, smell, appearance, etc.).
What do we see? If someone appears with a visual disability do we immediately sympathize with that client? What happens when the disability is not visible, do we have the tendency to have assessed the situation immediately when the participants appear? Do we stop and revisit our views and later find ourselves having to retool our thoughts, and are forced to listen to an entirely different set of facts? How could we have been misled?
Then there are our perceptions. What are we feeling when perhaps a gay couple are the participants in a dispute with a Southern Baptist and you have strong Christian beliefs? What if one participant of the conflict is economically disadvantaged or powerless paired up with the rich and powerful? Can we remove our thoughts, opinions, and nonverbal behavior? Or do we immediately prejudge the situation and allow our unfounded opinions to influence the way we communicate?
These are difficult questions to ponder. The truth is that we do bring our life experiences, limited knowledge, lack of exposure, preconceived notions, and formulated opinions when we mediate any conflict or dispute.
Guess what! We can leave the “Me” out of mediation and replace it with an armor of understanding, empathy, open mindedness, and non-judgmental practices.
To leave the “Me” out of mediation, we must:
~Vow to be flexible in our orientation and methods
~Give value to each participant’s views and concerns
~Shed any visual interpretation or prejudicial perceptions that will impact our neutrality.
If we learn how to do some of this, we can leave the “Me” out of mediation and truly arrive at a settlement that is most importantly fair and impartial.
“In complete darkness we are all the same, it is only our knowledge and wisdom that separate us. Don’t let your eyes deceive you."