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Empathy is the capacity to understand another person’s feelings and experiences. It is often described as ‘putting yourself in another person’s shoes. Empathy is core to a successful mediation. Firstly, mediators must be able to feel and demonstrate empathy towards both parties, if they are to build trust and rapport with the parties and encourage the parties to share their stories openly. Secondly, mediators help parties to appreciate and empathise with each other’s experiences, values, needs, perceptions and feelings.
Mediators do this through encouraging and facilitating open and honest dialogue, particularly about the feelings and needs surrounding the conflict. Empathy is not to be mistaken with sympathy or pity, both of which show partiality.
Further reading: www.cnr.berkeley.edu/ucce50/ag-labor/7article/article40.htm