Rebooting Mediation by Detaching from the Illusions of Neutrality, Just Outcomes and Balanced Power

Neutrality is physically impossible to attain as a personal attribute for a mediator.

The same applies to the concepts of ‘just outcomes’ and ‘balanced power’. They are all theoretical constructs which do not exist outside of theory.

There is nothing theorists can point to that would indicate to a mediator when these states have been physically achieved. They are subjective concepts subject to infinite variables especially in the context of the fluid art of compromise. They are at most aspirations the degree of success of which can only be assessed after the event has occurred.   

Neutrality, just outcomes and balanced power are states that can only be assessed in retrospect. This leaves mediators with the situation that they cannot predict the true status of their neutrality, issues of justice in the outcome and power differentials.  The have to wait until they and the parties have undergone the experience to judge.  

Having experienced the experience there is no formal benchmark with which to judge whether those states were achieved. The only valid assessment can be whether, in all the circumstances, the results of the process and outcome were good enough.

There are good reasons to detach from the concept of mediator neutrality as the basis of mediator behaviour. It is counter-productive because it programs mediators’ minds into accepting a state that is unattainable.  It distorts how mediators view themselves as practitioners as well as how they see themselves relating to the parties.  It installs an internal program in their minds that can unintentionally mask their own hidden prejudices, biases and preconditioning.

I would submit that the next quantum leap for the theory and practice of mediation is to detach from the concept of neutrality as a core element of mediation practice.

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