Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Celebrate Your Mediator Independence !

July 4th is just at the end of the week. It is a celebration of independence. And when I think of “independence” in the mediation context, I think of being neutral on the content, being impartial, and not being biased in word or action. I think of self determination. It is our independence as mediators’ and our adherence to self determination that allows us to do our work as conflict resolution professionals. These are the foundational blocks of our work, just like the revolutionaries that went before us in 1776.

So, how do you stay independent as a mediator? First, you must embrace the notion that you are an advocate for the process, but not an advocate for a particular outcome. You focus your process choices on participant self determination. You might want folks to reach a settlement of their dispute (of course you do !) yet they may not. While you must help them consider all potential choices, if you push for a particular outcome, you may begin to lose your neutrality. You become partial. You show your bias. When you do so, you are no longer holding the center of the conflict; rather you are supporting one “side” over the other. If you do so, you will lose your effectiveness as a mediator because people will not follow your process lead it they perceive that you are supporting the other "side."

The key, I suggest, is to support all choices, all “sides,” and all participants at mediation. You do this by being a staunch advocate for the mediation process. You do so by listening carefully and guiding a process that stays aligned with self determination. You stay independent even as you empathize and connect with participants at mediation. This is the power and glory of the process. Enjoy as you celebrate on July 4th !

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