In the past month, we’ve witnessed extraordinary examples of miscommunication and violence in our country and abroad. Inflammatory words and revolutionary fervor have taken their toll in Arizona, Tunisia and Egypt. In all of these cases, we have to wonder why the lid blew so dramatically? In once case, a young man was hurting and couldn’t find any way to express himself except through violence. In the other, two whole societies were hurting but were not permitted to express themselves except by rebellion against oppressive regimes.
In all of these cases, the situation might have been different had care been taken to tap into and provide opportunities to express earlier the simmering resentments which led to hate rhetoric, gunshots and governments overturned. When a pressure cooker blows up, it’s because there is no opportunity for the gradual release of steam. Although one outcome was tragic and the other two, if handled well, may lead to long-sought improvements, all three situations illustrate how essential is the need for attentive communication and collaborative avenues to change.
On a smaller scale, it’s a rare business, organization, or human services agency that functions without underlying conflicts that cause glitches in everyday operations. Problems with clients, customers or supervisors farther up the chain also stand in the way of smooth-running interaction. Some of us face problems with family hostility, neighbor indifference, or divisions among church members. When individuals acquire essential skills in conflict resolution, communication will improve at all levels and go a long way to encourage the sort of collaboration that leads to productive change.
Because we believe that a little education can make a big difference, Mediation Services of Adams County offers an annual 22-hour workshop in mediation and conflict resolution. We learn about conflict styles and practice through role plays essential communication skills, negotiation techniques, and collaborative problem-solving. It’s the same Basic Conflict Resolution course offered by community mediation centers across the country, usually at a much higher cost. In fact, some of our participants come from other counties farther afield in Pennsylvania because our training is priced right. (cf. PA Council of Mediators website (www.pamediation.org).
Because we also believe that this training should be as accessible to the community as possible, we try to keep the cost down ($180, or $150 early bird before March 10) and offer non-profit organizations and churches the opportunity to send one participant for a mere $50. This year’s workshop will begin Friday evening, March 25 (6-10 PM) and continue all day on Saturday, March 26 (9-5, lunch included); Sunday afternoon, March 27 (1-5PM) ; Friday evening, April 1 (6-10 PM), and Saturday morning, April 2 (9AM-1PM), at the Gettysburg Hospital community rooms.
To register for the workshop, call 717-334-3871, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or go to the MSAC website to obtain a form: www.mediateadams.org. For more information about the workshop, or to schedule a mediation, call our help line: 717-334-7312.
Janet M. Powers is MSAC presiding officer and Professor Emerita at Gettysburg College.