Neutrality is a word seldom used to represent impartiality; however in this day and age the true meaning of neutrality seems to have been lost; the word, more often than not, is used to deflect or hide.
Nowadays we forget the term “neutral” was used to represent “proper conduct”, “objectivity” ; an ability to adopt an objective stance in order to stablish trust, respect and credibility.
The party who claims neutrality should be impartial in his or her views and neutral in his or her relationship towards all parties involved. He should psychologically remain outside the conflict situation and have no commitment or connection to either side. Neutrality hence requires a strong level head and more so, a strong personality; where one does not become bias or judgemental towards another simply due to personal history or any type of commonalities/differences–being neutral then is easier said than done.
Our thinking is mostly shaped by our own personal history and life experiences, hence most of us find it hard to step out of our own personal bubble in order to fully see both sides of an argument. The moment one is incapable of seeing past the differences in personalities or one chooses to directly or indirectly pay attention to only one of the parties’ argument; whether it was brought up through direct questioning or indirect gossip; one has lost the ability to be neutral.
A truly neutral person lets his actions and words reflect such stance. He or she will not participate in any type of direct or indirect gossip or having been exposed to such, will have the ability to demonstrate his neutrality by giving the same attention to the other party. One cannot be part of gossip and claim to be neutral. One cannot associate with one of the involved parties while ignoring the other and claim to be neutral. Human nature and its psychology would contradict the ignorance of such belief.
It is important to note neutrality has many meanings and several different understandings, however the term refers to the ability to be objective and detached when dealing with the parties involved and/or to give equal time or opportunities to both parties. A more detailed definition of a neutral person would be :
-A neutral person will not intervene in the substance of the dispute.
-A neutral person will have no relationship or equal objective relationship (free of gossip) with all parties involved.
-A neutral person will not attempt to alter perceived power balance differences.
Now let’s take a closer look at the definition of neutrality:
Neutrality as impartiality–which holds that one should be free of bias and should set aside his or her opinions, feelings and agendas.
Neutrality as equidistance— which focuses on the idea that one should try to give equal consideration to each side.
Neutrality as a practice in discourse— One is supposed to shape problems in ways that give all speakers a chance to tell their story in a way that does not contribute to their own marginalization.
It should lack a bias toward the parties and or a lack of knowledge of the issue in its entirety. One’s actions should reflect one’s words when attempting to use the term “neutral”.
There is a difference between neutrality and impartiality; the latter being easier to achieve yet still requires proper mental ability to step out of one’s own shoes and the general pattern of common thinking.
Impartiality is more concerned with the ability to recognize that although one can feel more in tune with one particular party, one should not lose the ability to see past gossip, half truths and hurt attitudes; realizing there are two sides to each story. As such an impartial person; regardless of personality affinity to one side; is capable of seeing all sides of the argument and has the mental self discipline to be able to understand and recognize not only the weaknesses but also the strengths of the party with whom they do not share an affinity. An impartial person then never claims to be neutral but rather does not allow gossip and does not contribute to unfair and unbalanced attitudes.
An impartial person is more concerned with his/her own personal growth. An impartial person by definition likes the challenge required to accept the personality differences with another party. Example: Let’s say I have a friend whose friendship I value and our personalities are alike, yet my friend has a problem with someone else. I can either choose not to ever partake in any type of conversation about the third party which I know nothing about or I can choose to be impartial and treat both parties equally. My friend may not like my choice, however through such action I am not only putting myself in a position of growth but also helping my friend to grow mentally. I am therefore helping my friend to step out of the victim role, setting clear cut boundaries so my friend may understand I will not listen to any direct or indirect gossip about someone else without the other person being present.
One should not claim to be neutral if one’s choice is to have an unbalanced relationship where one side is heard and/or partakes in events while making excuses to exclude the other. If one cannot do that, it is best to simply and directly state your position in the argument and do not to claim any type of neutrality– it’s okay to acknowledge your own limitations.
As explained above then, neutrality is one of the hardest things to achieve. One should be careful not to use the term neutral or “diplomatic”, when in reality one is acting hypocritical. If we have reached our own limitations it is best to say so, rather than to spend countless energy pretending to like or be accepting of those we care nothing for. If however we choose to strive to be impartial instead of neutral, then we need to make certain our actions are equal with both parties without hiding behind excuses –such excuses are usually there to mask the fact that we lack the courage to directly express our lack of ability to be neutral.
It is because neutrality in its accurate definition is something so hard to achieve; as we lack the mental strength for it; that in some cultural contexts being neutral is associated with being inactive, ineffective and even cowardly (who could blame them, after all neutrality has been mixed up with hypocrisy).
So for now let us strive to be impartial and maybe one day we can develop the mental and spiritual attitudes to qualify ourselves capable of being “neutral”. Easiest way to get there…say what you mean and mean what you say. Do not feel ashame because you cannot accept everyone; it is a natural fact of life that we surround ourselves by those which we are mentally/spiritually ready for. To try to walk faster in our spiritual journey without doing the inner work, will only hinder us. Be honest with yourself and with those around– Do not claim neutrality only to secretly try to convince someone else of your perceptions.
And to the ones being judged without being given an opportunity, remind yourself that whatever criticism may come your way is only a reflection of what the ones passing judgement lack–they are in their own spiritual journey and it has nothing to do with you. Don’t take comments and behaviours personally when it comes from people who “think” they know you or the events; rather remind yourself ‘they don’t you” so they are only speaking and judging out of their own limitations and/or ignorance.
Forgive them; forgiveness does not mean condone bad behaviour, it means “get rid of”, “let go” ….Let go of their toxicity and walk away. Be polite but direct, you don’ t have to pretend, you don’t have to fight.
The next time you see someone whose actions do not match their words or the next time you come in contact with someone whom you know does not like you or accept you but tries to “act” nice whenever others are around to watch, simply say (at the appropriate time. No need to make a show) “I know you don’t like me and I have tried to give you the opportunity to get to know me, by your actions you have shown me you have no interest on getting to know me or rather like to believe what it’s said of me, so in order for us not to waste any precious energy pretending, please don’t have any contact with me. It is best we ignore each other than it is to pretend we are cordial with each other” then walk away.
It matters not what others think of you–those who don’t know you and don’t like you will criticize no matter what. Others will see your action as one that is fair and mature. You are not being insulting neither are you putting yourself in a position to be a yo-yo to anyone; ultimately with that statement you are teaching others to grow up.
I leave you with a quote by John Vice
“Neutrality is not something to be given an explicit and essential definition. Neutrality is not an essence; it is an absence. We must dance around it with enough synonyms and examples to be able to recognize when it ain’t present.”