Empathy, neutrality and emotional intelligence: a balancing act for the emotional Einstein

Duffy, James (2010) Empathy, neutrality and emotional intelligence: a balancing act for the emotional Einstein. Queensland University of Technology Law and Justice Journal, 10(1), pp. 44-61.

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Emotions play a central role in mediation as they help to define the scope and direction of a conflict. When a party to mediation expresses (and hence entrusts) their emotions to those present in a mediation, a mediator must do more than simply listen - they must attend to these emotions. Mediator empathy is an essential skill for communicating to a party that their feelings have been heard and understood, but it can lead mediators into trouble. Whilst there might exist a theoretical divide between the notions of empathy and sympathy, the very best characteristics of mediators (caring and compassionate nature) may see empathy and sympathy merge - resulting in challenges to mediator neutrality. This article first outlines the semantic difference between empathy and sympathy and the role that intrapsychic conflict can play in the convergence of these behavioural phenomena. It then defines emotional intelligence in the context of a mediation, suggesting that only the most emotionally intelligent mediators are able to emotionally connect with the parties, but maintain an impression of impartiality – the quality of remaining ‘attached yet detached’ to the process. It is argued that these emotionally intelligent mediators have the common qualities of strong self-awareness and emotional self-regulation.

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ID Code: 38966
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: Yes
Additional URLs:
Keywords: Mediation, Neutrality, Empathy, Emotional Intelligence, Emotion, Countertransference, Impartiality, Emotional Contagion
ISSN: 1445-6249
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > LAW AND LEGAL STUDIES (180000) > LAW (180100) > Litigation Adjudication and Dispute Resolution (180123)
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Law
Current > Schools > School of Law
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2010 The Authors & Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 02 Dec 2010 22:02
Last Modified: 29 Feb 2012 14:34

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