From the CMP Resolution Blog of John Crawley, Lesley Allport and Katherine Graham.
On a visit to BBC Studios in London earlier this year I came across a Dalek. (For those of you who don’t know they are sworn enemies of Doctor Who – a fictitious BBC character who has survived scary situations across time and space dimensions since the 1960s). My children invited me to ‘mediate it!’ As you can see I was not very successful – striking a quite hostile parental posture. A Dalek is just not made for open body language and empathic engagement. Its favourite word is ‘Exterminate’ and both its arms are weapons.
I’ve never met a real Dalek, but have mediated with parties who seem to be from a different planet from me and one another. I know it’s not the mediator’s role to be like the parties, nor necessarily to even like them. Mediators are more bystanders than buddies, more observers than witnesses, more facilitators than parents. Some parties will create different responses in us; others will require different responses from us.
Impartiality is a practised art which doesn’t happen naturally and is our main protection from judging or taking sides. The greatest gift to the parties, however, no matter how like or unlike you they are, is interest. Good mediators know a lot about people, but understand the importance of taking a fresh interest in each party they meet, understanding where they are coming from and not letting unfamiliarity or hostility downgrade rapport. Sometimes this is a small step, but it can also be a great divide. All the more important to cross it and see what life is like on the other side.
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