What does “neutral third party” mean?
A neutral third party is someone who is not involved in your dispute and does not have a vested interest in the outcome.
Mediators as neutral third parties:
Mediators facilitate a conversation between parties that appear to have polarized perspectives. In this situation, it may feel like resolution is impossible without someone deciding for you. A mediator does not decide who is right and who is wrong. A mediator can help parties discover the ground where resolution lies.
A mediator is a neutral third party that attempts to help each party understand the other party’s perspective and navigate toward solutions that will work. Agreement about who is right and who is wrong is not necessary and often obstructs resolution. A skilled mediator boosts realistic and creative problem-solving skills.
A mediator can balance a power differential. A skilled mediator can minimize over-powering parties and bolster under-powered parties. A skilled mediator can minimize destructive communication such as intimidation, name-calling, and threatening behavior in an effort to help the parties communicate more productively. A mediator can bolster each party’s negotiation skills to allow for a more collaborative, cooperative, and creative approach to problem-solving.
Many parties know each other extremely well and repeat destructive communication patterns that prevent resolution. Studies show that when the emotional parts of our brain are active, the logic and reasoning parts of our brain shut down. Studies also show that under stress, our problem solving skills are reduced and sometimes to extreme levels such as ‘black and white’ thinking. By the very nature of being neutral, a mediator is not emotionally invested in your situation or the outcome. Therefore, a mediator can help parties engage their best thinking using logic and reasoning instead of emotional reactivity.
Judges and arbitrators as neutral third parties:
Judges and arbitrators as neutral third parties are authorized to make decisions about your situation. A judge will evaluate the evidence and merits of your case then decide your case based on the law. The legal system is not designed to understand your feelings and the emotional landscape of your situation. The law is designed to determine right from wrong as legislated.
While a judge will decide your case for you at trial, this is usually not the most desirable outcome for either party. The courts require mediation in situations where the courts believe YOU are better able to determine a desirable outcome than the courts will be able to do. In these situations, the courts believe that mediation results in a more satisfying resolution to your case than a judge will impose upon you at trial.
An arbitrator will decide your case for you upon your request. However, the only influence you have on the outcome is the evidence you provide. An arbitrator will also decide your case based on legislation, not based on your interpretation of right from wrong.
Attorneys are NOT neutral third parties:
Attorneys are authorized to give legal advice and advocate for you from a legal perspective. They are not neutral. They are on your side and fight for you as determined by the law, not your feelings. The institutional word here is “fight” creating opposition.
Most attorneys know the law more than they know the emotional landscape of the situation. This positioning creates an adversarial stance with the other party that causes either aggressive or defensive escalations in reactions. Attorneys, literally, have a vested interest in the outcome of your case.