Compassion and Expression in Mediation
Compassion is a high value. We should be cautious that the notion of “compassion” or the perception of a ‘lack of compassion’ is often in the eye of a beholder. As always, reasonable minds can differ about what speech at mediation is or is not compassionate.
As an example, from public discourse, one may post to social media about a Judge arrested and alleged to have taken bribes. One person may comment that posting about the arrested judge to social media shows compassion for fairness and for those attorneys with matters before that court whose clients are affected by the alleged appearance of impropriety; others could say posting about the arrested Judge reflects a lack of compassion for the accused or lack of compassion for the family suffering from this judge’s alleged life choices. Compassion is a complex issue with many shades of potential perception in the eye of the beholder.
As such, we should all be compassionate, but also give folks some space to be themselves. We should be cautious that sometimes foisting an individual’s perception of compassion on others (even if some agree) may sometimes amount to judging or policing the reasonable expression of others, chilling the exchange of ideas themselves, or even discouraging valuable communication– and may actually be the very engagement in the lack of compassion for those with alternative (but genuine) differences of perspective.
We should not be overtly cruel to each other. Empathy and compassion are of high value.
One application of compassion involves respect for alternative viewpoints and support for the underlying value of relatively unfettered speech by and between colleagues. While we should be compassionate, sometimes the potential overt application of one individual’s perception of compassion, i.e. “[don’t say that, be compassionate]” can potentially stifle a reasonable range of another person’s perception of what nonetheless constitutes compassionate speech in a free and open marketplace of ideas.
In short, and paradoxically enough, let’s show compassion for each other’s alternative viewpoints about what constitutes compassion, or the lack of compassion, in each individual circumstance where there is a call for compassion.
In sum, the role of the mediator at times, typically in caucus and not in front of all parties is to express the notion of being compassionate about the compassion of others without alienating the party or attorney at caucus.