Power and imbalance of Power
Every person exerts some form of power over others. This power can stem from the situation, the person’s position, education, socioeconomic status, or nearly any other individual element. For example, in the sitcom, “The Big Bang Theory,” early in the seasons, one character, Raj, could not speak if a woman was in the room. The meant that women had power over Raj and the only thing that came close to balancing this was his consumption of alcohol.
In negotiation, whether assisted (mediation) or not, power imbalances can affect the outcome. If one person in the negotiation perceives that the other has significant power over them, they may not attempt to advocate for themselves and thereby allow the other party trample over them.
“When parties of equal power are trusting of each other, they will choose more cooperative strategies to resolve their differences” (Coleman 2014, 152). This is a lovely sentiment, however, in nearly every situation, an imbalance of power. Mediators attempt to adjust for this as much as is possible, but there is never an absolutely balanced situation. “Sustainable resolutions to conflict require progression from unbalanced power relations between the parties to relatively balanced relations” (Coleman 2014, 152).
It is therefore that the parties attempt to reduce the power imbalance between them. This is something that mediators attempt to do. However, sometimes the power imbalance is too great to overcome. This is especially true in domestic violence situations where one is exerting their control over the other through coercion.