Category Archives: Articles

CONSIDER FACILITATED DISCUSSION

By Janet M. Powers

Mediators are good at them.  We’re trained to lead two conflicting parties toward common ground and eventual solutions that please both sides.  But sometimes a full mediation is not needed.  Sometimes people who disagree on major issues just need help in talking about those issues to move forward.  They might be stuck on one point and unable to see beyond it.  Or they might need help in exploring alternatives other than the obvious ones.

Mediation Services of Adams County is now adding Facilitated Discussion to its list of available services. We’re doing so because we came to the conclusion that it’s a skill that is fast disappearing as more and more of us spend time on social media rather than in face-to-face conversation.  We’ve also had several occasions to provide facilitated discussions for situations that didn’t seem quite right for mediation but needed the sort of guided discussion skills that mediators provide. Recently, we’ve helped several families resolve thorny problems that at first seemed insoluble.

Often it is more than two people who need this sort of help, usually a group of some kind: a church congregation, a family, a club or a municipality.  Usually the group is split over one or more issues and unable to proceed.  Sometimes there are harsh words, a lot of interrupting and too much yelling.  If this description fits a group that you are part of, you might want to consider calling in a mediator for Facilitated Discussion.  Prolonged wrangling can be hurtful to any group.

Unfortunately, we don’t have good role models these days for civil conversation.  Just by turning on the TV or attending a meeting of a local governing body, we can watch people acting out irresponsibly.  Many talk show hosts and political debate moderators don’t seem to be able to calm down confusion when opposing viewpoints are being aired.  Mediators, however, always set ground rules and require participants to adhere to them by signing contracts.

Mediators are also expert listeners.  They can pick up suggestions or thinly veiled offers that may be lost in the general scramble for the speaker’s floor.  Mediators are also trained to turn what they hear into strategic questions or summary statements.  These comments can enable a group engaged in bitter arguments to begin negotiating with each other in a healthy way.   A good discussion leader is a godsend, but if you don’t happen to have one in your group, then perhaps calling in a mediator is the right answer.

Low-cost fees for Facilitated Discussion are similar to those which MSAC charges for Mediation and Conflict Coaching, based on a sliding income scale ranging from $5 to $50 per 2 to 3-hour session.  Why does it cost so little? The object is to make these services readily available for those on limited budgets. For more information about the various services offered by Mediation Services of Adams County, consult our website: www.mediateadams.org  or call our Help Line at 717-334-7312.

A TRUE STORY: ELDER MEDIATION

By Janet M. Powers

The adult children were at their wits’ end.  Their aging mother was a generous soul, and when anyone phoned seeking funds for charity or a non-profit organization, she willingly agreed.  Money that might be needed for medical care or future move to a nursing home was flowing too easily from her bank account.  Her children wanted to put a block on her phone that would allow only designated callers to get through.  But she wouldn’t hear of it.  What to do?

A friend suggested that they contact Mediation Services of Adams County to see whether a mediator could help the family solve this problem.  Because it was an elder mediation, it took place in the family home.  And unlike mediations involving property settlement or custody issues (requiring two disputants and two mediators), this mediation involved a single mediator and a large number of family members.   Also significant was the fact that the mediator too was a senior citizen.

When a mediator knowledgeable about elder issues is on the family scene, it is often easier to tackle the big questions and help to steer discussion toward a win-win situation.  In this case, the mediator was able to identify with the problem of fund-raising calls and to encourage both parties to look for a way to lessen the number of calls.  After much discussion, the mother eventually agreed to accept the solution that her children had proposed and the problem was resolved.

Often, the presence of a neutral third party is enough to calm the conflict and bring about productive discussion. What did the mediator do that the children were unable to do? For one thing, mediators are trained to reframe a conflict, to put the comments of both sides into language that is less likely to raise hackles.  In this case, the mother also saw the mediator as someone her own age, someone who was an ally, unlike her children who seemed like adversaries.  Even though the mediator was neutral, she was perceived as someone who understood the senior citizen’s point of view.

Mediation, based on a sliding income scale, is an inexpensive way to solve family conflicts. For $10 – $50 per party, a 2- to 3-hour mediation can take place. Even more important for family, there are no winners or losers in mediation.  Rather, the goal is a solution that is agreeable to everyone concerned.  All parties go away satisfied, which makes for continued good relationships.  Possible alternatives, letting the problem fester or going the expensive legal route, may lead to just the opposite: an ongoing family feud.

Senior citizens are sometimes perceived by their adult children as stubborn and unwilling to do the reasonable thing, such as downsizing or moving to a retirement community. An elderly relative may feel overwhelmed by children ganging up on him/her. But the elder outlook, feeling vulnerable or fearing change, gets full attention in mediation when the mediator insists on hearing both sides of an issue.  Being heard and respected is often the key to resolution of conflict, and a mediator can make that happen.

For more information, call 717-334-3712 or check out the MSAC website: www.mediateadams.org   Leave an e-mail for the MSAC Intake Coordinator at mediationac@yahoo.com

Janet M. Powers is an MSAC Board Member and Professor Emerita at Gettysburg College.

WHETHER YOU SHOULD CONSIDER MEDIATION

By Janet M. Powers

Not everyone makes a good candidate for mediation.  For one thing, you need to be willing to sit down with your adversary in the company of a third party to talk through the issues.  That means you can’t be so angry that you’re out to “get” the other party or speak in such a way that nothing but nastiness comes out of your mouth. If you are unable to talk in a civil way without constantly interrupting, it won’t work.  In a nutshell, angry people don’t make good candidates for mediation.

For another thing, you need to want sincerely to bring the issue to a peaceful conclusion.  Perhaps the problem has been going on for a long time, and you feel things need to be settled, finally.  Or perhaps something is coming apart – a relationship, a marriage, a business contract – but you don’t want everything to end in pain.  If you are someone who cares about the future and other people in this way, you’ll have success with the mediation process.

Finally, you need to be open to new information from the other party and up front with your own.  You will have the opportunity to tell your story in detail and to explain how you have been wronged and what you would like to see happen next.  At the same time, you will need to be able to listen to what the other party is saying and to modify your demands if unexpected information should surface.  If you think you’re the kind of person who is able to listen and help find solutions, you are a good candidate for mediation.

But what if you are the right person to try mediation, but you’re not sure about the other party? Several possibilities are still available through Mediation Services of Adams County.  When you dial our help line 717-334-7312, our Intake Coordinator will listen to your concerns.  It is then our responsibility to contact the other party to see whether in fact he/she would be willing to try mediation.  Contact can be made by telephone, e-mail or letter to invite disputants to the mediation table.

If the other party refuses outright to participate in mediation, you can meet with one of MSAC’s trained conflict coaches to explore possible solutions to the problem.  A conflict coach can help you examine the pros and cons of hiring a lawyer, pressing charges with a district magistrate, continuing on with the status quo, or taking other steps to help resolve the issue.  Helping you to find a low-cost way forward, one that you are comfortable with, is the goal of the conflict coach.

The important idea to hang on to is that inexpensive help is available on a sliding scale for citizens who have a sincere desire to resolve disputes without anger, hurt or dishonesty.  It’s no secret that what makes mediation so special is the people who opt for it!

You can find out more about MSAC on our website:  www.mediateadams.org

CONFLICT RESOLUTION TRAINING OPPORTUNITY AT MEDIATION SERVICES OF ADAMS COUNTY

Conflict Resolution Training

Conflict Resolution Training

Rev. MATTHEW JURY

January 29, 2016

Conflict Resolution Training Opportunity at Mediation Services of Adams County

A football team trains regularly to handle the pressure of a game situation. While the athletes may study tapes of their opponents to learn their strategies and tendencies, they cannot predict exactly what the other team will do in a game. Training helps a team to explore alternative plays so they understand how to act and to respond under pressure.

We all face pressure daily, some of which we cannot predict or prevent. Few pressures weigh more heavily on us than conflict with others. Sometimes the stress is easily and quickly handled. Other times, the problem continues day in and day out with no end on the horizon. The uncertainty of conclusion itself aggravates us. What do you do when you have tried everything you know to do and said everything that needs to be said?

Consider conflict resolution training. Classes taught by certified trainers guide the class through the different steps of conflict resolution, also called mediation. You will learn about different perspectives and conflict styles. One session teaches skills such as overcoming communication blocks or barriers, using listening skills and reframing statements for clarification.

Participants are taught to identify problems and mutual interests as well as how to evaluate problem-solving ideas. The classes also learn how to prepare a written agreement with specific, measurable steps for both sides of a dispute. Between the course sections are enjoyable and practical break out sessions and role-playing scenarios. Elly Cleaver, retired Federal Government Alternative Dispute Resolution Specialist, will lead this year’s training.

When you complete the twenty-two hour course, you are a certified mediator. You will be surprised how often you use your negotiating skills in daily life. You will also have the option to volunteer your skills to Mediation Services of Adams County (MSAC). As need arises, our intake coordinator contacts individuals on our mediation team to negotiate between parties that contact MSAC. We offer other opportunities to advance your negotiating skills through other training events.

Who would benefit from mediation training? Anyone involved in customer service, sales, management, teachers, volunteers in community service agencies and organizations, and local government officers would benefit especially. The conflict resolution principles also benefit couples and families. In short, if you deal with people daily, you would find great value in the training sessions. As a pastor, I would encourage church leaders at all levels to consider conflict resolution training. Peacemaking lies at the heart of church leadership, and training will equip you to bring peace to a situation in your ministry.

The next MSAC training classes will be held at Gettysburg College’s Glatfelter Hall on April 1 from 1-5 pm, April 2 from 9 am – 5 pm, April 8 from 1-5 pm, and April 9 from 9 am – 5 pm. A registration fee of $275 is due by March 18. We offer one $75 scholarship for each non-profit organization represented at the training. For further information, please visit us online or send an email to mediationac@yahoo.com or call our helpline at (717) 334-7312.

Rev. Matthew Jury pastors Grace Bible Chapel in York Springs, PA and serves as a board member and certified mediator for MSAC.

THE GOLDEN OPPORTUNITY IN CONFLICT

Golden Opportunity in Mediation

Golden Opportunity in Conflict

 

Rev. Matthew Jury

September 2015

The Golden Opportunity in Conflict

Entrepreneurs Joe and Bill attend Rock Church. Both men occasionally do business with each other. Along the way, Joe refused to pay Bill for services rendered to the tune of several thousand dollars. Naturally, tensions rise between the men. Channels of communication close quickly. Before long, the two men sit on opposite sides of the church auditorium during worship services, pretending the other doesn’t even exist.

The problem festers, affecting the entire church. Some in the church refuse to take sides. Others throw themselves behind one or the other. The church leadership team says, “We’re not getting involved.” Ignoring the elephant in the room always creates more problems. Before long, the church finds itself divided over an issue it did not create.

Finally Joe stomps out of the church, taking some of his supporters with him, but the original problem remains unresolved. Both men sense disillusionment about church. Those who took sides lick wounds inflicted by others in the church family. Many wonder what happened to the church they love. The leadership team wonders what it could have done differently.

Conflicts arise everywhere, including at church. The author and apologist Francis Schaeffer wrote that churches should be distinctly different in the way they handle conflict. “It is in the midst of a difference that we have our golden opportunity,” writes Schaeffer. He further explains that there is nothing to see as long as the church meets in its “holy bundle.” Problems become a golden opportunity to show how the church ought to be different. Handling problems with Christian love reflects integrity of faith and practice.

The Apostle Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 5.17-19 that Christ became The Mediator, setting the pattern of mediation and giving us the responsibility to mediate. The church stands simultaneously as a witness and a symbol of mediation. Worshippers gather at church because they believe that mediation works and makes a difference in their lives.

Of all places, church ought to be a place to confront problems squarely in the middle of conflict, leaving one church for another does not ultimately solve the problem. For this reason, clergy and laymen alike must involve themselves in the mediation process. Helping people to reconcile with each other lies at the heart of the basic function of church leadership. To fall or to refuse to participate in the mediation process abdicates one of the most basic functions of church leadership.

Mediation Services of Adams County offers annual training equipping people of faith with practical tools and skills to address conflict in ways consistent with their creed. Trained mediators will guide the attendee through the mediation process, resulting in certification. The attendee may then use their skills to contribute to the harmony of their church.

Rev. Matthew Jury, pastors Grace Bible Chapel in York Springs, PA and serves as a board member certified mediator for MSAC. Please visit us online or contact us at (717) 334-7312, or by email at mediateac@yahoo.com.

RESOLVING CONFLICT AT WORK

 

Mediation ends Conflicts

Mediation ends Conflicts

ELLY CLEAVER

December 9, 2015

RESOLVING CONFLICT AT WORK

Are you experiencing conflicts in the workplace? Is it difficult to communicate with a co-worker, a supervisor or manager? When you get ready for work, do you get that sick feeling in the pit of your stomach?   You are not alone. Conflict is inevitable and while it occurs in all aspects of life, workplace disputes often have a negative effect on productivity and work relationships.

Conflicts develop when our individual needs, wants, methods, goals, and values are different. A conflict is different from a disagreement because it is almost always accompanied by feelings of anger, frustration, and anxiety. Relationships fail or break down when the parties involved ignore or avoid the conflict, but in work situations, people normally have to continue to work together. Many employers recognize that managing conflict effectively is an essential skill for maintaining a cohesive and productive work environment.

As an employee there are some things you can do to deal with conflict more effectively. Conflict can be managed by learning and applying good communication skills and problem solving skills in your day-to-day interactions. In some conflicts, we become emotionally charged and our focus is on blame, fault, and responsibility (our positions). As we become entrenched in our positions, we unwittingly, “feed” the conflict by accusing, blaming or finding fault.

If we focus on individual needs and desires (our interests) and work with each other rather than against each other, we have a better chance for resolving the conflict. While uncovering the interests of each person in the conflict helps to pinpoint what triggered the conflict, problem solving techniques help us solve each issue the parties discussed. Most of us use problem-solving techniques at work every day. Unfortunately, we don’t realize that those same skills can be used to resolve conflicts.

If your attempts to solve the conflict are unsuccessful, then as an employee, you may use the traditional, formal systems available to you to settle a dispute such as the grievance process or Equal Employment Opportunity process. In recent years, mediation has increased in popularity because it is an informal problem solving process that saves time and is cost effective. The mediation process is designed to assist individuals in conflict with creating a mutual solution to their dispute.

Mediation is also helpful in improving communications and repairing relationships. Mediation differs from court processes because it is not designed to determine who is right or wrong. In mediation, the parties create their own agreement while the mediator acts as a facilitator. Unlike court proceedings where a judge decides the outcome, nothing is decided in mediation unless both parties agree to the terms.

If you elect to use a more formal process such as a grievance or other type of complaint process, someone else will decide the outcome for you. However, in the mediation process, you and the other person maintain control over the outcome. Which would you rather choose?

Elly Cleaver is MSAC Board Member and a retired Federal Government Alternative Dispute Resolution Specialist.

 

 

COMMUNICATION: THE LINK TO BETTER UNDERSTANDING

 

Communication is key to dispute resolution

ELLY CLEAVER

JULY 6, 2015

COMMUNICATION: THE LINK TO BETTER UNDERSTANDING

Have you ever wondered why it’s such a problem to communicate with some people more than others? Do you find yourself avoiding people because you don’t want to deal with them? Well, you are not alone and here’s why….

Robert Fisher, author of Getting to Yes, says it this way: “Poor communication can lead to misunderstanding, unhelpful emotions, distrust, sloppy thinking, and poor outcomes”.

As we look at the process of communication, it seems there is responsibility on both the person speaking and the listener. As speakers, we must communicate a clear message while the listener is responsible for ensuring that he/she clearly understands what is being said.  As listeners, one of the things we can do is try to understand what the other person is thinking or feeling. The use of active listening skills may help you to begin understanding the other person’s message.

Active listening involves two important components: 1) restating what you think you heard and 2) reflecting your understanding of the message back to the speaker. Speakers, on the other hand, may stop periodically and ask if anyone has questions or understands what he/she is communicating.

Another dynamic involved in our daily communications, is our body language or nonverbal language. Rolling our eyes, putting our hands on our hips, raising an eyebrow, smiling, and nodding are all forms of nonverbal communication and have a huge impact on our communications. Being aware of the impact body language has on our communications with others may help us become better communicators.

Some body language is encouraging such as smiling or nodding while others, like putting our hands on our hips or working on another task may be distracting or seem confrontational. “The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said,” observes Peter Drucker.

Communication Style is another factor that impacts our communications with one another. Most of us tend to speak in either a direct or an indirect style. A direct communicator is straightforward in his/her communications; the goal is simply an exchange of information. If you use an indirect form of communication, your listeners may have to read between the lines. If preserving harmony and strengthening the relationship is very important, the use of an indirect communication style can be beneficial.

Direct or indirect communication styles are used in a variety of communication settings. For instance, direct communication is important in an emergency, while indirect communication may be preferred when discussing a sensitive matter. Most of us use both communication styles; however, some of us have a tendency toward one style or the other, and these differences may lead to conflict.

What can you do to improve your communications with others?

Elly Cleaver is MSAC Board Member and a retired Federal Government Alternative Dispute Resolution Specialist.

 

 

THE ULTIMATE IGNORANCE

 

Mediation helps

Mediation helps

JANET M. POWERS

June 11, 2015

THE ULTIMATE IGNORANCE

Not long ago, I came upon a quotation by Dr. Wayne W. Dyer (whoever he might be), but the truth of it struck me as saying a lot about mediation: “The ultimate ignorance is the rejection of something you know nothing about yet refuse to investigate.”

In many communities across the US, citizens know nothing about mediation, at least in part because the legal community rejects it. We are fortunate in Adams County in having a handful of lawyers who are trained in mediation and willing to practice it with their clients. But “handful” is the optimum word here.

Those of us who understand and practice true mediation, which has nothing to do with deciding the outcome of a dispute for the disputants, wonder why it’s not more popular as a method of conflict resolution. Are we so deep into the notion of winning and losing that we are afraid to try a method in which both parties win? Are we so in love with power that we would rather find a high-priced lawyer who will sue the other guy for big bucks, rather than schedule an inexpensive facilitation? Or are disputants so lazy that they want someone else to do the hard work of finding a solution?

“Just listen to us and decide.” That seems to be the attitude of many people who are embroiled in conflicts. Not too long ago, Mediation Services of Adams County had a human resources director take our Basic Conflict Resolution Training and discover that she was doing just that – failing to empower the disputants. In fact, police departments and corporations often talk about “taking a problem to mediation,” when they’re not doing any such thing. If the “mediator” listens and makes, the decision, that’s arbitration.  Mediation is a whole different ball game.

With its roots in the Bible, as well as Confucian and Native American thought, mediation involves forgiveness, reconciliation and community. The very act of coming together in the presence of a trained facilitator is a huge step in the direction of reconciliation. Agreeing to listen respectfully to each other — without interruption — means recognizing each other’s dignity and beginning to re-build trust. Working together, with help in thinking outside the box, is a lesson in how to create community. Although forgiveness doesn’t always happen, disputants nearly always hug or shake hands at the end of mediation, and often there is an apology.

The outcome of mediation is usually an agreement, but sometimes not. Or it may be a partial agreement, which disputants will take to a lawyer for further action, after having done much of the difficult work inexpensively, with the help of a mediator. But mediation offers some stunning by-products as well. Particularly for individuals who share the same workplace or have adjoining backyards, mediation may establish trust and strengthen relationships. Or if a relationship is being terminated, mediation can help to make that happen in a way that minimizes costs and emotional harm.

If you are in need of help with a conflict, do your homework. Find out more about mediation. Check out our website or e-mail us at mediateadams@yahoo.com

Janet M. Powers is MSAC Presiding Officer and Professor Emerita at Gettysburg College.

 

WHEN SOMEONE IS A PAIN IN THE NECK

JANET M. POWERS

August 13, 2015

WHEN SOMEONE IS A PAIN IN THE NECK

When we are in conflict with another person, or even moving in that direction, most of us have a tendency to begin to find fault with that person. We might say to ourselves or to others that he or she is “getting on our nerves.” The next step is for us to find negative motives in the other person’s behavior. Then avoidance kicks in. We may stay away from that person or show the emotions we are feeling in various unpleasant ways. We might actually begin to view him or her as a “pain in the neck.”

This sort of pain does not call for a chiropractor because it’s not physical. And it’s not limited to individuals. We may come to regard an organization or even another country in much the same way. But why the neck? It’s an idiom, of course, a more polite way of saying “pain in the kiester,” a German –based expression for pain in one’s nether regions. But pain in the neck suggests that the head is also involved. It’s hard to hold up one’s head confidently when carrying the burden of conflict.

The source of the pain, which we attribute to another person who has annoyed us or hurt us in some way, may actually be oneself. Asking some hard questions might in fact help to relieve that pain in the neck. What did the other person do or say that led you to think of him/her as a pain in the neck? Can you describe in more detail what that pain feels like? How is this pain different from a physical pain? Can it be healed, by retracing the emotional steps that brought you to this point?

If a physical pain is severe, we would take steps to mend it: making an appointment to see a doctor or picking up a prescription for medication. Likewise, if a conflict does not resolve itself with time or thoughtful reflection, then it’s probably time to seek outside help. Mediation is a simple, low-cost approach to solving conflicts that will result in a win-win solution. If you call the MSAC help line, you will be connected with an intake coordinator who can listen to your problem and offer to set up a mediation session with that person who is such a pain in the neck.

Of course some people would rather continue in a cycle of pain rather than doing something about it. Maybe it gives them something to complain about. Bad-mouthing another person allows them the satisfaction of feeling superior. But that’s a cheap fix, at best. If your “pain” is someone who lives nearby or shares your workplace, it’s far better to sit down and talk over the issues that get in the way of a normal relationship. However, few of us can do that without the help of an impartial third party who will keep us on track and stop us from interrupting each other.

For assistance with a pain in the neck, call 717-334-7312 or e-mail MSAC at mediationac@yahoo.com. More information about mediation is available on our website.

Janet M Powers is MSAC Presiding Officer and Professor Emerita at Gettysburg College.

 

 

 

DO YOU NEED A COACH?

 

Mediation coach at work with Trainees

JANET M. POWERS

October 8, 2015

DO YOU NEED A COACH?

In many parts of our lives, we need experts to guide us in the right direction or help handle a problem that seems to have no solution. Thanks to a grant from the Adams County Community Foundation, Mediation Services of Adams County was able to send two experienced mediators for training in Conflict Coaching with the Good Shepherd Community Mediation Center in Philadelphia.

Rosie Bolen, a professor at Mount St. Mary’s University, and Bob Smith, a retired business executive, have both had practical experience in working with individual and community conflicts. With their expertise, Mediation Services is pleased to offer Conflict Coaching as a service for the community.

Who needs a conflict coach? For starters, if you would like to mediate but you think the other party might not, or will not, come to the table, a conflict coach can help you figure out what to do next, including the pros and cons of seeking legal counsel.

Conflict coaching is also useful for someone who is considering mediation but is unsure what it involves. Or maybe someone has asked you to mediate and you don’t want to, but you would like some help in taking the next step. Perhaps you think that counseling would be helpful but you’re not sure. If you want to take someone to court but aren’t sure about expenses, a conflict coach can help. Let’s say you want to help someone else through a bad situation but don’t have all the answers   — time to find a coach!

A conflict coach can help anyone with a difficult problem to figure out the next step. However, conflict coaching should not be confused with counseling as in behavioral health. Conflict coaches cannot mend broken marriages, resolve long-standing family arguments, or help someone find a way out of depression. Coaches can, however, provide a sounding board for someone who is baffled by alternatives or needs to find clarity concerning conflict. A coach can help you explore options and think through the advantages and disadvantages of each.

You may decide to pursue the legal route after meeting with a conflict coach. You might opt to press charges through a district justice or hire a lawyer to help solve the problem. Others may elect to pursue some other form of alternative conflict resolution, such as arbitration, family group decision-making, or just “talking things over” with the other party. The point is that a conflict coach, while understanding the ins and outs of disputes, also has a good knowledge of community resources and can make much-needed referrals.

When someone seeks conflict coaching, the coach tries to understand the individual’s needs and goals. The individual and the coach may discuss the situation in question, how people behave in conflict situations, different approaches to conflict, and options to aid resolution. Each session lasts an hour and a half to two hours, depending on a party’s needs.

How can you make arrangements for conflict coaching? To speak to an intake coordinator, call 717-334-7213 or contact MSAC by e-mail: mediationac@yahoo.com. Conflict coaching is not expensive. We operate on a sliding scale according to income, with rates beginning at $10 and going up to $50 per session. Check us out!

Janet M. Powers is MSAC Presiding Officer and Professor Emerita at Gettysburg College.