Mediators and unconscious bias and stereotyping

13 November 2020

I recently had the pleasure of listening to a Ted talk by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a leading Nigerian author - HERE

What struck me about the talk was that, by telling stories rather than lecturing, Chimamanda brought home the lesson that every person has lived experiences which differ from one person to the next, and that there is no such thing as one identical, group lived experience. It also emphasised for me, something that I have learnt from mediation, which is that everyone has unconscious biases based on their different lived experiences and that it is not just one racial group of people who all have one identical unconscious racial bias.

It probably also helped Chimamanda’s audience to appreciate that to maintain that all people of a particular skin colour have one identical unconscious bias, is itself a gross form of stereotyping. It certainly reminded me that all people, and mediators, in particular, need to check their very varied potential unconscious biases and stereotypes, no matter what their race or gender may be.

This is more important than ever at present, as people find it so difficult to hear each other across race, gender and other divides because of group stereotypes that are so promoted, popular and prevalent today. Much of the conflict in our society seems to be caused or at least aggravated by this, and mediators have an important role to play in moderating it. 

As both a mediator and a trainer, what also struck me about the talk was that, as we know from andragogic theory, these lessons are not ones we can pedagogically lecture adults about because of the risk of reactive devaluation. What Chimamanda does so brilliantly is, through her stories, she lets us discover the lessons for ourselves.  

Join a Conflict Dynamics Mediator Skills Training course to learn how mediators might manage their own bias and work with the bias that parties may bring into the mediation process in so far as this impacts the parties’ decision making and interaction in the process. Attend one of our forthcoming mediator skills training courses either online or face-to-face HERE


- John Brand