Negotiation Skills

How Unconscious Bias can “leak out” in mediations

BEWARE your unconscious bias that your lived experience is the ONLY lived experience.

Unconscious bias’ are a necessary mental shortcut for the millions of complex activities we do on a day to day basis, but when it comes to advising our clients or negotiating deals, it can have a detrimental impact.

Some years ago I was mediating a case that centred around whether the Claimant had a pre-existing mental illness (depression) that should have been disclosed.

The factual dispute related to her prior attendances on a psychologist to discuss various conflicts in her family life and to seek guidance on transient day to day difficulties.

To prove a point, the lawyer for the Defendant used the example that both she and I had busy and stressful jobs and yet didn’t require the services of a psychologist.

Unfortunately for the lawyer, on this occasion, my lived experience did not match her lived experience.

We have so many opportunities at mediation to test the validity of our assumptions by asking questions both of ourselves and of our negotiation partners.

Questions, not statements, pave the way to knowledge.

Happy Negotiating!


Emily Barnes

Emily is a highly experienced and well-regarded mediator with over 1000 mediations conducted over the past 7 years. She has sat at every seat of the negotiation table (lawyer, client and mediator), and brings unparalleled expertise to difficult conversations, and people.

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