Whenever a situation arises where two parties need to discuss something of importance, a third, disinterested party should be present.
These situations might include negotiations on a loan, disagreement over how to manage a shared resource, etc. Witness will be especially useful if the parties have some history of struggle.
Should multiple occasions for witness occur between the same two parties, they should feel free to select different witnesses each time — or not.
The use of the word is not the same as "legal witness," such as may be required of weddings, executions, or other legal proceedings. Rather, the intention is closer to that of the Quaker or Unitarian concept of "social witness."
The witness has no duties other than to listen and pay attention to the proceedings. The witness should normally not speak (although the witness may speak, if the parties agree), and is not supposed to be a facilitator, nor are the parties to ask the witness to back their position. The witness will not be called upon at some later date to recall the proceedings, and need not take notes.
The witness's purpose is symbolic, to remind us that we are accountable to each other; it is a motivation for good behavior and fair dealing.
The qualities and actions for effective witnessing are:
- Be neutral, be conscious of verbal and body language
- Be restrained, be willing to be asked to participate
- Hold a space of victory for each person involved
- Be on time and steward another conversation if both parties agree to one
- Practise Third party confidentiality
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