By Mary Kay Turner
Mediation is a structured process in which people involved in difficult conflicts meet with trained mediators to help them communicate better and solve their issues. The trained objective mediators work with them to resolve a conflict that they are unable to settle on their own.
Mediation Services of Adams County (MSAC) provides mediation to help people work together to create solutions to their conflicts. Two weeks after a mediation one of the disputants told us, “We have started to communicate better and are currently talking. We appreciate your help for getting us on the same page.”
In a mediation, the disputants first sign an agreement to mediate, respecting all the people there and the mediation process. The mediators listen and guide the discussion as each person listens to the other person’s story of the situation and tells a personal perspective of the conflict without interruption. The mediators help the people in conflict to hear each other, understand how the problem affects the other person, sort out the issues, and build a resolution that allows them to move forward and communicate positively with each other.
They work together toward a common goal, such as providing support for children or an elderly parent. The mediators guide the disputants to discover the interests that are most important to each of them and let go of positions they have developed as they have argued about the situation. Each person shares ideas that would help resolve the conflict and what is needed to move forward. The disputants brainstorm possible solutions and talk about likely consequences. With guidance from the mediators they work to create an action plan that fills the needs of all the people involved as much as possible. The disputants resolve their problem in a way that works for them.
MSAC also schedules trainings to educate people and certify them as mediators. Recently we received this message from a mediator we trained two years ago, then from north central PA:
“I still use my mediation skills from the Adams County Mediation Center today! I am now Executive Director of the Fair Housing Center of Washington (in WA state) and use my skills to help clients obtain reasonable accommodations with their landlord/property management. I’ve been able to impart some of the key questions we learned about position vs. interests on our employees which has increased our effectiveness in advocating on behalf of clients, presenting case findings with less bias and getting more useful information when investigating cases of potential discrimination in housing. We have a local mediation non-profit around here, and I’ve already begun looking into training for our employees because I found the Adams County class so useful.”
It is exciting to see some of the impact that MSAC is having as mediators continue to use the concepts they learned in our training.