Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Mediation

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Mediator neutrality is a practice in discourse, specifically, the management of person’s positions in stories, the intervention in the associated interactional patterns between stories, and the construction of alternative stories. Neutrality is also the antidote against bias and functions to preserve a communication context in which grievances can be voiced, claims to justice made, and agreements mutually constructed. Neutrality refers to the relationship or behavior between intervenor and disputants. Mediators should not have had any previous relationships with disputing parties, or at least have not had a relationship from which they could directly and significantly benefit. The are generally not tied into the parties; ongoing social networks. Neutrality also means that the mediator does not expect to obtain benefits or special payment from one of the parties as a compensation for favors in conduction the mediation. A mediator may be too concerned with maintaining their own neutrality to focus on the interpersonal communication of the participants. A truly neutral mediator can diffuse a contentious situation thereby allowing an agreement to come more honestly, fairly and expeditiously. Conversely, an attempt at neutrality that does not conform to the definition listed above can be detrimental to the process of mediation. Neutrality as impartiality. Impartiality is described as the absence of feelings values or agendas, essentially and absence of bias. Bias is thought to come up when strong feelings, beliefs or values based in the mediator’s mind rise to the surface and cannot be checked. The problem with this definition is that the mediator is essentially assigning the responsibility for being unbiased to a condition that is internal to them, and the authors argue that we cannot control what is not conscious for us. The authors also state that the mediators, rather than focusing on the interpersonal process of mediation, are too conscious of controlling their own psychological issues. Neutrality as equidistance Mediators may, at any time, favor one side of the other, but neutral settlement is the outcome. Unbiased outcome is achieved because the mediator theoretically gets the participants on equal footing to reach an agreement. A good example of this is if a mediator prompts” a shy or disadvantaged participant to stick up for his or her needs. This may be seen as the mediator taking sides, but in reality, the disadvantaged participant may never air their concerns if not heavily prompted. This definition of neutrality directly contradicts the previous definition by allowing the mediators to be biased toward one side or the other at different times as long as the outcome is rooted in overall neutrality. The authors contend that the ethical code actually requires that mediators practice bias within a session to ensure that all parties are represented in the process and to avoid power imbalances. There are certain standards in which neutral parties should live up too. The mediator should remain impartial to the conflict and remain on the sidelines. This includes restraint from bias and favoritism. The neutral party should also articulate in an understanding manner to the parties involved in the conflict resolution process. In order for a smooth and progressive session, the parties must thoroughly understand the mediation process. One of the most important standards of conduct the mediator should abide by is confidentiality. Only in extreme cases can this rule be ignored. Of course the conditions in which such information is disclosed at the introduction of the session so if violated by the parties, then they have chosen this direction themselves. All commitments held in confidence must be honored. The neutral must not engage in resolutions which are known to be unfair or cause harm to a party. The mediator must not stall or hinder progressive sessions in order to run the clock. The process should be expedited as quickly as possible while ensuring a fair meeting. The disputing parties came to the neutral therefore it is their ownership of the dispute resolution. Settlements are not based agreements therefore the neutral will remain separate from the parties. Neutral’s must oversee that the parties consider the terms of settlement. Any concern the neutral has about an agreement must be disclosed to the parties. The mediator may have to provide additional advice in the even of dissolution, however, the possibility from withdrawing from the case is allowed. If an interest is not represented in a party, the neutral must use judgment to assure the best interest for the absent party. Using multiple procedures in a dispute resolution requires the mediator to devise the parties of such procedures. Consequences must be disclosed to ensure likelihood of successful mediation. Responsibility should be accepted only when sufficient knowledge of a certain process is known. The neutrals responsibility is to improve their professional skills. Payment information should be explained at the beginning of the process to eliminate any confusion. It is also the mediator’s responsibility to educate the public of such services thus providing an alternative solution. If more than one neutral is involved in the case, each neutral has an obligation to maintain and open and professional relationship with each other. To conclude, all advertising must accurately reflect the services rendered. Claims of specific outcomes must be avoided at all costs.


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