Because the process provides an opportunity to better examine a dispute in detail, moral issues come up frequently in mediation. When one party believes that its side of the case is the right one and that the other is wrong, instead of looking for a resolution, they tend to come to the table with a vindictive goal. In cases where a party feels it was wronged, it is normal for them to seek acknowledgement and most of them look a sense of value and vindication through the mediator.
Over the course of their careers, many mediation professionals have experienced facing with disputing parties who feel they are bending over backward to compromise and reach a resolution while their opponent is just “jerking them around.” This puts him or her into the role of moral listener – he or she must acknowledge these feelings of unfairness and help everyone involved in the mediation process rise above them.
Every day, mediators bear witness to moral behavior. He or she hopes that all parties will come to the session open-minded and ready to work through the process to a solution, but often they are blocked by difficult emotional reactions. The emotions that parties go through during the entire process can range from simple feelings of blame and need for praise, to a sense of “I want my opponent to lose even if I do not win.” If these feelings are not addressed properly, negotiations can drag on and make the situation worse than before the mediation even began. It is the mediator’s job to help these people avoid self-destruction and accept outcomes that are economically rational, even if not perfect.
This diversity of client’s moral inclinations mandate that the mediator possesses a mix of skills that can deal with various attitude and motivation. He or she must always guiding the focus back to the resolution and divert those involved in a dispute from moral indignation. The mediator can do that not only by being a facilitator of effective communication between the disputing parties but also by acting as a morally aware, empathetic listener. Parties must be allowed to share their story and truly have it heard, but if they dwell in the story and refuse to move forward to a resolution, the process breaks down. A mediator increases the odds of a successful resolution when he offers validation and then steers parties toward a new action.
Helping both sides of a dispute recognize and accept the good in the intentions of the other side is perhaps the most difficult challenge, but most effective accomplishment of a mediator. By participating in mediation, both parties are opening themselves up to a better, more holistic resolution to their dispute and a successful mediator is able to shine a spotlight on these intentions.