One of the tools that New Jersey residents might use to settle the issues resulting from their divorce is mediation. However, for mediation to be successful, the mediator must be truly neutral, which is challenging when many of people’s biases are implicit and automatic. To truly help people, mediators must learn to both identify their bias before the sessions begin and then to actively work around such bias.
Mediation and bias
The goal of mediation is to help divorcing spouses settle their issues in a more amicable manner than going to court. In many cases, the mediator also helps the couple learn to communicate more effectively. A central aspect of mediation is the mediator’s neutrality, which means the mediator should listen to both sides impartially, give suggestions on how to address their issues and provide answers to questions they might have about their options and the process. If the mediator is unable to see their own implicit biases due to things such as gender, social class, identity or sexual orientation, for example, the success of the mediation process is threatened.
Avoiding bias during mediation
Mediators can learn to avoid their own biases during mediation sessions. To do this, they can practice several things:
- Being aware of the biases that might affect the mediation process
- Guiding the couple to find a common area to begin the negotiations
- Making the solution the goal and avoiding focusing on the problems
- Giving time and space to each party to present their side, without judgment or interruptions
- Solving problems creatively
Avoiding biases can be very challenging, but a prepared mediator will anticipate the impact that biases can have. The mediator can take notes during their sessions to keep all information clear and organized and to understand each side’s point of view.