Author Archives: MSAC


If a person gets caught in a conflict in which the other disputant refuses to discuss issues, minimal interaction may be adequate in a casual friendship. However, in a close relationship, the lack of honest sharing because of underlying discord can make life difficult. So what can one do in such a dilemma?


Harriet Lerner, who has a PhD. in psychology, wrote Why Won’t You Apologize? Healing Big Betrayals and Everyday Hurts and other books about relationships. She suggests that apologizing may help restore the relationship. It may be embarrassing to make an apology, for example, if a person forgot to return something borrowed. A reminder from the owner months later would likely at least bring return of the borrowed item; however, it is better to take responsibility for behavior, admit to being inconsiderate, and speak or write an apology for any inconvenience.


Usually one sincere apology is enough for a misstep, and overapologizing, saying “I’m sorry” repeatedly, can be irritating and disruptive to relationships. A person might accidently break or stain something, and feel that all is well if the “I”m sorry” is met with “No problem.” In this case it would be better to also offer to pay to clean, repair, or replace the item.


It may be tempting to say, “I’m sorry, but it’s hard for me to resist correcting inaccurate statements,” or “I’m sorry you feel that way.” It would be better to be accountable for the action or words and say, “I was out of line with that …., and it will not happen again.” It is necessary to follow through on that to maintain the relationship .


It is important to remember that you can control only your reactions and feelings, not those of anyone else. Being late for an event important to a someone close to you and saying “I’m sorry; please forgive me” puts additional burden on the person who was hurt. It would be better to acknowledge that the anger is reasonable and realize that patience may be needed to repair the relationship.

A major betrayal, as in a marriage, would require much more than a simple “I’m sorry.” It would be necessary for the one who neglected the promises to listen with an open heart as the injured person expresses the pain and effects of the deception, and to be willing to share that pain and accept consequences in order to heal the relationship.


When someone offers an apology, the best way to accept it is to say, “Thank you for the apology.” If feeling hurt, it would be better to just accept the apology then and possibly talk about the hurt later.

Another way to deal with a resistant disputant is to use Conflict Coaching, a service provided by Mediation Services of Adams County (MSAC). The person explains the conflict to the Conflict Coach, who listens and helps the person find ways to work with the adversary and deal with uneasy feelings.


Contact MSAC: call 717-334-7312, email, and website to learn more about mediation or training, or to schedule a mediation for help resolving conflicts with family members, neighbors, contractors, landlords, etc. for an economical fee based on income. Mary Kay Turner is a retired teacher, who is also a trainer, mediator, and board member for MSAC.


Today we generally think of a threshold as an opening or a doorway. Earlier use of the word referred to a lip of wood or stone that held the threshed grain in its storage place. I recall them from the granary in the barn from my childhood farm. I had to step or stumble across it into the storage space. You could trip over it and have a Humpty Dumpty fall.

In a similar way, we can face many “threshold experiences” in life and struggle to cross over them successfully into a new venture or challenge. This can often happen when we face a transition or crisis in our families. Such was my family’s situation as our ninety-seven-year-old mother fell and broke her hip requiring surgery, rehabilitation and then moving permanently to an assisted living facility. This meant dividing and donating nearly two-thirds of her earthly belongings. My siblings and I had quite a time arguing and debating about who would get the conch shell that had been in the family for several generations. “I played with it most often as a child”, said I. “Yes, but Mom let me take it to bed and listen to the sea sounds so I could get to sleep, so I should have it as it is comforting to me.” Said my sister. “And about that mirror, it fits with the dresser she gave me.“ “Yes, but while in high school I used it to dress and look in the mirror to brush my hair every day so I should have it as you have the dresser.”

And thus the arguments can go and become rather divisive.   I am happy to say that the above was fabricated and we had no such disagreements in handling the shell or mirror, but that is not often the case in the distribution of family treasures. When faced with very difficult decisions that affect a loved one and call for a meeting of the minds, there can be conflict and disagreement over important and serious decisions.

This is where Adams County Mediation Services can be of assistance. We provide trained mediators to meet with parties who have disagreements over varied issues that might concern you in the workplace, with neighbors, and even among family members. If the party who is at odds with you will not agree to meet with mediators, we also provide conflict coaching to guide you through the situation.

If you find yourself at such a Threshold and would like to avail yourself of such services, call 717-334-7312 and leave a message for the Mediation Services Intake Coordinator. MSAC will give a call back with more information and schedule an appointment with all parties concerned. Moderate fees, based on a sliding income scale, are charged at the time of mediation. Contact is available online at or

Rev. Lynn Cairns is a retired UMC pastor and MSAC board member.

PS The flamingo flock has just arrived from the southland and will be appearing in local neighborhoods. Donations are accepted by MSAC.

Resolving Conflict to Create Better Relationships

Conflict is a normal, necessary and natural part of life. It is uncomfortable for all the people in conflict and often for other close friends as well. Conflict presents two possibilities: opportunity for amazing growth in the relationship as well as possibility for additional problems. The challenge is to learn how to creatively work through the conflict to improve the relationship. Conflict is often more difficult to deal with when the disputant or opponent in the situation is a relative or good friend about whom one cares deeply. To keep the big picture of the relationship in view I will use “friend” when talking about the other person in the conflict.

It would be good to agree at the beginning of the conversation that both friends will work on the issue at hand and speak respectfully and honestly with each other. Paul Tillich said, “The first duty of love is to listen.” The most important task in a conflict situation is to listen to the friend, to learn and understand how s/he is feeling and is affected by what has happened. This can be difficult, as people tend to be ready to defend themselves when they have been hurt.

In talking with this friend it is important to use I-messages, which is saying how the situation affects you, rather than you-messages, which seem to come naturally, and tend to accuse or blame the friend, as in “You made me….” A good way to deal with this is to honestly tell the friend that certain words or actions were hurtful. It is essential to be ready to listen to the answer openly, willing to accept some criticism the friend may share.

A step that may be hard is to accept responsibility for your role in the cause for the conflict. In constructively dealing with the situation it is good to do everything you can to fix the source of the conflict. In an example of an item that was broken, this could include paying for, or sharing the cost, to fix or replace it.

Conflict often causes a break in the relationship, and that can be resolved with both friends accepting responsibility for words and deeds, then agreeing to share action to come back together. One priority to repair the relationship is to apologize for anything you may have done to cause the problem. Other steps might be to request forgiveness for any fault on your part and to offer forgiveness for any error by the friend.

Mediation Services of Adams County is available if you need help with this. MSAC wishes you a fulfilling year in 2017, full of love and peace, creating constructive resolution for all your conflicts.

Mediation Services of Adams County will present a 22-hour Mediation Training Friday/Saturday, March 24-25, and 31-April 1. For more information, please contact MSAC: phone 717-334-7312, email, and website Find information about communication seminars we present and trained mediators available to help people resolve complicated conflicts with family members, neighbors, contractors, landlords, etc. for an economical fee based on income.

Mary Kay Turner is a retired teacher, who is a trainer, mediator, and board member for MSAC.


Respect and good communication, which includes listening as well as talking, are essential in healthy relationships. Fear, hate and anger are obstacles to healthy relationships and good communication. Bullying happens when one person or group shows disrespect or contempt for another person or group. Bullies speak, but they do not listen to or value other people.

Does bullying happen on a national scale? We all know that this primary season has been much different from anything before, as some people in the news have displayed disrespect and contempt for other people. We have heard name-calling, threats, talk of building a wall, deporting people, and banning people of certain cultures from entering the country.

The Southern Poverty Law Center’s Teaching Tolerance program provides curriculum materials to teach students about different groups of people. This knowledge helps students understand students who are different from them and learn to treat all students with respect.

In March 2016 Teaching Tolerance in a voluntary survey asked teachers, observing before and after the presidential campaign began, if they agreed with statements about increases in 1) anti-immigrant sentiment, 2) anti-Muslim sentiment, 3) uncivil political discourse at their schools, and 4) concerns by students about what might happen to them after the election. Responses here are from the publication “Teaching the 2016 Election” by Maureen B. Costello.

About 2,000 K-12 teachers across the country responded to questions about the effects of the rhetoric of the campaign on their students. More than 2/3 of the teachers reported that many students of color have expressed concerns about what might happen to them and their families after the election. More than 1/2 have seen an increase in uncivil political speech. Teachers are troubled by use of half-truths and lies in speeches. Passion for candidates and loss of rationality in discussions concern them. More than 1/3 have seen an increase in anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim incidents. Students are calling other students names, even the n-word. Students have told teachers that name-calling and “trash talk” aren’t bullying, just “telling it like it is.” Teachers report that gains from years of anti-bullying work have declined in a few months.

Educators reported: A kindergarten student fearfully asks every day if the wall is here yet. Young students wonder why people can hate them without even knowing them. One teacher in a diverse school wrote that her students feel that America hates them. Students are confused by seeing that certain campaigns are allowed to encourage racism, violence, anger and hate. Many teachers wrote, “It breaks my heart.”

Students are scared, dejected, and hurt. Some African-American middle school students fear for their safety after seeing Trump rallies on the news. Students fear that they will be deported and that other students hate them. In Ferguson, MO, 90% of the students are African-American, and some students wonder if all white people truly think what they are hearing.

What does it say to us and our students when some candidates and people campaigning display behavior that is not even acceptable for students in elementary schools? Where is the respect?


Mary Kay Turner is a retired teacher, who is a trainer, mediator, and board member for Mediation Services of Adams County (MSAC), which has trainers for communication seminars and trained mediators available to help people work to resolve conflicts with family members, neighbors, contractors, landlords, and others. An economical fee based on income is charged. If you would like to learn more about mediation, please contact MSAC: call 717-334-7312, email or check our website



November is traditionally the month associated with being thankful. As families and friends join together on Thanksgiving, we still have much to be thankful for here in America. We have freedoms and rights and many advantages that people in other nations only dream about.   Many people in other lands do not have freedom of religion or the right to vote, let alone basic necessities such as food, clean water, and shelter.

While ours is not a perfect country, we do have systems in place to help those in need. In our own community, we have organizations such as Gettysburg Help, South Central Community Action Program (SCCAP), the Soup Kitchen, Ruth’s Harvest, and the Rescue Mission to help those in need. As members of the community, it rests on each of us who are more fortunate to lend a hand. And lend a hand, we do. One of the things I noticed when I moved to this area 2 ½ years ago is that the people of Adams County step up and help their fellow citizens by supporting any number of community organizations, supporting food drives and by volunteering. Another great example of support is the annual Giving Spree to be held on November 15th from 4-6:30PM at the Gettysburg Middle School. The Giving Spree offers each of us an opportunity to contribute to one of the many service organizations within Adams County.

However, holidays, even Thanksgiving, are often accompanied by stress. One way I have found to reduce stress associated with holidays is to write something I am thankful for each day. We can begin by being thankful for our faith, families, friends, our job, a good lunch, time spent with a friend, or just happy the sun is shining. Another way to express our thankfulness and improve relationships is to write something we are thankful for about a person or persons with whom we may have a strained relationship. Writing positive things about another person will help to lift our own spirits during the stressful times. Even if the only thing you think of at first is “I am thankful that Sally is organized” or “I am thankful that Pete always comes in on time”, it is a beginning. You will be surprised how much happier you will be doing these exercises each day. To add to our general well-being, we might want to follow Melchor Lim’s advice – “Talk about your blessings more than you talk about your problems”.

Stress during the holidays often leads to family conflict. If we are unable to resolve the conflict on our own, there are low cost resources available to help us. Mediation Services of Adams County (MSAC) offers mediation, conflict coaching, anti-bullying and mediation training to assist members of our community. Don’t let holiday stress and conflict get you down. Look no further than MSAC as a resource to help you get through a conflict so you can fully enjoy your holidays.

Elly Cleaver is a retired Alternative Dispute Resolution Specialist, trainer, mediator, and a board member of Mediation Services of Adams County (MSAC). If you would like more information about mediation and other services available, please contact Mediation Services of Adams County, 717-334-7312, on line, or check out the website,


Mediation Services of Adams County (MSAC) has elected a new President. Dr. Dennis R. McGough takes over from Dr. Janet Powers, who recently received an award from the organization for her dedication, leadership and many years of service as President.

The organization composed of a board of directors and 20 certified volunteer mediators, provides training in mediation and negotiation skills, as well as conflict resolution services for individuals in the Gettysburg area and beyond. This year, the organization added Conflict Coaching and facilitated discussions to the services it provides.

Besides the appointment of Dr. McGough, other newly elected MSAC officers include: Elly Cleaver, Training Director; Bob Smith, Finance Chair; Mary Kay Turner, Intake Coordinator; and Patricia Forsythe, who serves as the new Treasurer.

Dr. McGough is a retired senior human resources executive with more than 40 years of professional experience. He was Vice President, Human Resources for Olin Corporation, a manufacturer of chlor-alkali products and Winchester ammunition, headquartered in St. Louis, Missouri. Dr. McGough worked with the company for 31 years.

In addition to his professional human resource work, Dr. McGough was Distinguished Lecturer for the MA program in Industrial/Organizational Psychology at the University of New Haven for 31 years. In this role, he taught a variety of courses, including negotiation and mediation, organizational change and human resource development. Most recently, he was the Interim Coordinator for the Industrial/Organizational Psychology program.

Dr. McGough earned a Ph.D. in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from the Union Institute and University, an MA Industrial/Organizational Psychology from the University of New Haven and a BS in Psychology from the University of Pittsburgh. The University of New Haven has awarded him a Doctor of Humane Letters honorary degree.

Dr. McGough is currently a member of the Board of Governors of the University of New Haven and the Board of Directors of Big Brothers and Big Sisters of New York and Adams Counties, as well as Mediation Services of Adams County. Dr. McGough and his wife Donna live in Gettysburg; they have 3 grown children and 9 grand children.

Mediation Services of Adams County is a non-profit organization with expertise in mediation services. Its team of certified mediators trains organizations, businesses and individuals in negotiation skills and conflict resolution techniques. For information on the organization, visit their website at You may also contact MSAC by phone: (717) 334-7312 or by email:

Adeyemi Oshunrinade

July 26, 2016





Bullying Can Expand Online

Parenting may be the most important job in our society, even though it is an unpaid position. It brings opportunities for parents to grow, learn new things, and develop wonderful relationships with their children; but it also brings challenges, frustrations, and fears for the safety and well-being of those children. These days, social media is extremely important in the lives of our children, especially teens. It is scary for parents because neither teens nor parents can control what happens on social media, and teens just do not understand all the possible consequences of what they post on social media sites.

The days when parents provided privacy for kids are history. Now teens can “webcam” friends right into the house. This allows them to interact live online with friends–and with strangers– without parental knowledge. It is startling to learn that hackers can use malware to get into your computer operating system and actually take pictures of you or your child, using the webcam on your computer, possibly without anyone knowing. Using this, someone could watch every action in front of the computer.

Cyberbullying is the repeated use of technology to harass, humiliate or threaten. This is done mostly by teenagers who are not fully aware of the consequences of their online actions. Regardless of actual behavior, others may post things online, labeling a girl as “slut” or “bitch,” or labeling a boy as “gay.” These actions are destructive, whether they are true or not.

Nearly every teen has a cellphone or small computer with a camera. Teens like to “capture the moment” without getting permission from the people involved. It is important to know that a file remains, even on websites that say the image will disappear. Like spoken words, they can’t be “put back into the tube” after they are posted.

Nothing breeds irresponsible behavior like anonymity. Thousands of applications (apps) are available for electronic devices; some promise anonymity. Teens are realizing that Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are public; parents and colleges can see what they post there, so they go to apps. Twitter has “subtweets” where teens can use codes only “insiders” know, making it difficult for adults to track. There are online sites “below the surface” that are harder to track. Students who are victims of this slander carry deep hurts that can be hard for adults to help. For more information see the article, “Exposed” in the spring, 2014 issue of Teaching Tolerance at

Abbreviations are important in online communication. Some that help young people hide what they are doing from parents are: CD9-Code 9, means parents are around; KPC-Keeping Parents Clueless; MOS-Mom Over Shoulder; P911-Parent Alert; PAW-Parents are watching; PIR-Parent in Room. You can find these and more at

A basic value of mediation is respect for people with whom we disagree. It is essential to respect people of all ages, cultures, creeds, and colors, and to model respect in our behavior and speech. Children, parents, teachers, and all other people deserve respect.

Mediation Services of Adams County (MSAC) has trained mediators available to help people work through strained family relationships, disputes with neighbors, contractors, landlords, and other conflicts for an economical fee based on income. If you would like more information about mediation, please contact Mediation Services of Adams County, 717-334-7312, on line, or the website, http: //

Mary Kay Turner is a teacher, who is a trainer, mediator, and board member of MSAC.


by Dennis R. McGough, Ph.D.

Have you ever left work at the end of a challenging day, got behind the wheel of your car and then after a time, found yourself in your driveway? You can’t remember the specifics of the drive home, but sure enough, you arrived safely. You might wonder, “How did I get here?” Experiences of this nature, while perhaps a little unnerving, demonstrate the power that habits can have in our lives. The drive home from work is repeated over and over again, to the point that we occasionally make the trip on “autopilot”.

In his excellent book, THE POWER OF HABIT, New York Times business writer Charles Duhigg explains that habits are formed through a psychological process called a habit loop. The habit loop has three parts, the cue or trigger, the habitual action, and the reward, something that our brain uses to help us remember the habit loop in the future. Once we have formed a habit, our brain uses the habit loop to determine what we will do in a particular situation.

Habits can be very useful. As detailed in the classic book, SEVEN HABITS OF HIGHLY EFFECTIVE PEOPLE, Dr. Stephen R. Covey, explains that habits allow us to deal with routine situations without having to think them through each time we face them. Habits can be good or bad. Most of us don’t have to think too long to come up with a few bad habits we would like to change.

Albert Einstein said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. While insanity might be a rather harsh descriptor, it’s clear that in order to change a result of an interaction, we must find a different way to deal with the challenge.

Everyone faces conflicts in his or her life. Some are minor and quickly get resolved, like who will pick up the kids after basketball practice. Others, however, are more significant, and may remain unresolved because we use the same habitual approach to deal with the challenge. As Einstein pointed out, we can’t expect a different outcome unless we find a new way to deal with the problem.

Mediation can be a fresh, new way to deal with a conflict. People come together in a neutral environment and work face-to-face with a trained mediator to develop a mutually acceptable resolution to their differences. Mediation Services of Adams County, a non-profit organization, is dedicated to helping people resolve their disputes. MSCA provides trained mediators, whose goal is to help individuals develop acceptable solutions to conflict situations. To explore how mediation could help you, contact MSAC at 717-334-7312, online, or see our website at

Dennis R. McGough, Ph.D., is an MSAC board member, retired business executive and retired faculty member of the Masters in Industrial/Organizational Psychology Program, University of New Haven, West Haven, Connecticut.





We Can Work It Out

Recently NAFCM, the National Association for Community Mediation, queried members as to songs about finding peaceful solutions to difficult problems. A barrage of e-mails followed, generating an amazing list of song titles. Just to share a few, let me mention “Nobody Right, Nobody Wrong” by Michael Franti; “Healing River” from Pete Seeger’s “I Can See A New Day” album; “Imagine” by John Lennon; “ Hard to Say I’m Sorry” by Chicago; “We Can Work It Out” by the Beatles;” and “We Just Disagree” by Dave Mason.

I wondered whether we could use these songs in a Conflict Resolution Training course? Or could we produce a remix CD to hand out to parties who successfully come to agreement after multiple mediation sessions? Although neither of these ideas is about to take shape, the long list of song titles (and there are many more) suggests that the core idea of mediation is at the heart of human experience. Why else would so many people write songs about hurting each other and trying to make amends?

From time to time, we are all embroiled in conflicts, sometimes over big issues, sometimes over small ones. We have an innate need to end our conflicts, but often we don’t know how. Some people find it truly difficult to say, “I’m sorry.” I remember speaking to a group of family caregivers and hearing one of the women say firmly, “I will never be able to forgive.” At the time I was shocked, but since then I’ve come to understand that it takes enormous courage to admit human weakness. It also takes hard work to address a thorny problem and arrive at solutions that work for both sides.

Because we believe that mediation is a superior way of dealing with conflict, the MSAC Board of Directors and MSAC mediators devote time and energy to providing varied possibilities for alternative dispute resolution. We offer inexpensive mediation because we want the public to have every opportunity to experience this way of solving problems. We deliver Conflict Resolution Training to individuals and organizations, and even offer scholarships for participants from non-profit agencies and churches. We make available, free of charge, anti-bullying information to parents and educators because we see a connection between children learning how to respect each other and adults being able to work out problems in a constructive way.

All of these efforts require funding beyond modest amounts paid for mediation and training. Enter our pink flamingos, a fund-raising scheme that has raised a few hackles but also raised much-needed funds for MSAC. It’s September, and although the weather is still tropical, the Mediation flamingos will be winging their way south very shortly. Typically, we close our fund-raising year with their final appearance at the Adams County Heritage Festival. Phoenicopterus ruber plasticus will not be sighted again until May 2015 when this extraordinary bird will arrive unexpectedly on the lawns of Adams County citizens.

We would like to thank those supporters who donated generously by responding to the flamingo challenge or paying for “anti-flocking insurance.” You continue to help us to keep this vital effort of community mediation alive in Adams County, and we are grateful.

Janet M. Powers is Presiding Officer of Mediation Services of Adams County and Professor Emerita at Gettysburg College. Contact MSAC at




March 15, 2015

Knowing When to Ask for Help 

How bad does it have to be before you ask for help? Whether it’s a matter of physical pain, verbal abuse or emotional discomfort, some of us are unwilling or unable to say, “it hurts and I need help.” Maybe it’s a matter of trying to be brave and strong, or fear of being thought a sissy. In the case of bullying or abusive relationships, the victim may be threatened with worse violence if he or she tells. Or one may have a strong sense of independence and believe that things will get better by themselves. Often they get worse.

As an only child for most of my growing years, I was a lone wolf, depending on no one but myself. I learned early on that even my parents were unreliable when it came to promises and advice. Because my father was transferred frequently, we moved to a different city every three or four years. The need to make new friends kept recurring, but finding the right people in a different context always took time and didn’t always work out.

Imagine my delight in college when I discovered Ayn Rand and Atlas Shrugged! I also read The Fountainhead and thought I had found the perfect philosophy for my independent world view. But then a few courses later, I read Hobbes’ Leviathan and came to understand a superior idea: the social contract. It finally dawned on me that I am part of a community; that I can participate in the common good if I contribute to it and give up some independence in return for help from others.

What a brilliant notion! It underlies the concepts of local government, paying taxes, public education, police protection, garbage collection, fire protection, snow removal, public libraries, zoning and more. Of course I have to give up some things because I live in the Borough of Gettysburg: I can’t keep a goat in my back yard or burn my trash. But clearly advantages outweigh disadvantages. I get an amazing array of services in return for taxes I pay.

Most important, if I really have a problem, I can ask for help. I can call the police if harassed by a peeping tom. I can seek educational perks for a special needs child. Firemen will pump out my basement during a major downpour. In each case, it’s not difficult to know that help is needed. But it may not be so obvious if a situation develops in a family or workplace that is not life threatening but makes life uncomfortable for all concerned.

How do you know when to ask for help? If you read newspaper advice columns, you frequently see letter-writer advised to “get counseling.” When problems seem insoluble, or seriously affect the quality of one’s life, getting help is the right option. Sometimes all that is needed is a patient listener. Other times, the wisdom of an elder, a clergyperson or a mental health professional will shed light on the problem and reveal new paths. When it takes two to tango, it may require the help of a mediator to mutually untangle the situation and work out a win-win solution.

To get help from a mediator, call the MSAC help line at 717-334-7312 or e-mail Janet Powers is MSAC Presiding Officer.