There’s a philosophical idea at the heart of mediation—and most conflict resolution services and processes—that the person who acts as the “third party” should be neutral in a conflict between two parties.
Neutrality is a tough concept for parties to accept, which is why many parties prefer to retain the services of an advocate or, further out, a judge.
Neutrality is a tough concept to accept because, deep in our conflict scenarios, lies competing desires to both be right, and to win.
Neutrality is a tough concept to accept because, many people in conflict can’t see themselves as being neutral participants in their own conflicts, much less acting neutrality in the face of other people’s conflicts.
Advocacy is an easier concept to accept (as is rendering judgment) because giving help and rendering empathy are a deep part of the relational aspects of conflict. They are reinforced through social proofing and other means.
The role of the third party as neutral is the hardest role in a conflict scenario and the philosophical structure of neutrality has not been fully justified as a need to a Western public, much less to many individuals in the field of which I am a part. At the philosophical heart of resolving conflict is this ephemeral search for a truly, deeply neutral third party.
The search will continue, for as long as conflicts are relational, neutrality will be the ineffable goal.
-Peace Be With You All-
Jesan Sorrells, MA
Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
Email HSCT: email@example.com