When I take on a mediation case, it is my belief that I don’t need to know anything about who the parties are, or anything about the situation the parties find themselves in, in order to be a good mediator.
Actually, if I did know anything about the participants or their situation before the session begins, I would become partial. I would see the people with different eyes.
To be a truly neutral observer, I need to know nothing at all about the case, the participants, or the details. My job is not as the expert in the room — that’s what the parties are. The parties themselves are the experts in the room. They may have a little trouble talking to one another about their situation. That’s why I’m there: to keep the parties talking to one another, and when there’s a bump in the road, a point where communication comes to a halt, that’s what I facilitate.
Here’s a beautiful example of why the mediator needs to be a totally blank slate: