Respect in the Mediation/Martin Rosenfeld, JD

Posted on December 25, 2015

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What is the role of “respect” in the mediation session? Does a mediator have the right to set ground-rules for the mediation? An interesting perspective recently appeared at mediate.com in an article entitled “Does Mediation Really Need ‘Respect’? The author, Katherine Graham, makes a case for a diminished mediator role in such a sphere because it may be asking for more than the parties are capable of giving.  It calls for a mediator to impose rules on the parties and it makes assumptions about proper patterns of behavior.

I take a different perspective than that advanced by Ms. Graham. I believe parties in a controversy look to a mediator for a sense of order and protocol. Is it permissible to interrupt another party? Is name-calling acceptable? The alternative to establishing rules is to allow uncertainty about what will “fly” and what will not. I believe the expectation that a mediator has rules us well-placed and helpful. If the mediator can’t have an orderly session, why go to them for mediation work?

More important is the concept that certain rules of respect engender proper discussion and proper listening. It is a rule of human behavior that one can’t talk and listen at the same time. Respect for another is respect for the mediation process. One does not have to be Aretha Franklin to know that respect goes a long way in getting parties to where they want to go. Put me down as one mediator who believes that mediation indeedsneeds respect.

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