Category Archives: Articles





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.





How Mediation Skills Can Help Improve Your Relationships

We all have many relationships–with family members, friends, coworkers, and others. Sometimes misunderstandings can cause relationship breakdowns. Regardless of the closeness and importance of the relationship, good communication can improve good relationships and help repair broken ones.

Many skills that are used in mediation are simply good communication skills–including listening, eye contact, understanding body language, paying attention in conversations, using I-messages, and encouraging further communication by asking open-ended questions. Unfortunately, these skills don’t come naturally to everyone; but fortunately, all people can learn them.

It can be challenging to communicate with other people in English because of homophones, those words that sound alike but have different meanings, and different uses of words that bring in other meanings, making it harder to understand. So, one of the most important communication skills is listening to the words the other person is saying. If someone says something that you don’t understand, a good response is “Can you please explain that?”

For good communication it is very helpful to be able to see the person so you can observe the facial expressions and body language. So something definitely is missing in text messages and other electronic contact. Hearing a person say, “What a day!” gives one understanding of the words if the speaker is smiling and excited, but quite a different perception of those same words if the person saying them is sad with shoulders slumping. Looking in the person’s eyes to show interest, saying “Tell me about your day” and listening for the response can bring out more information. You might learn not only about what happened, but also how the speaker feels about it.

Open-ended questions are questions or statements that cannot be answered with a single word answer, but invite the person to provide more information. In addition to the examples above, others are “Please give me an example of that;” “What would be helpful to you?” and “It seems you are upset about….” It is good to be prepared to hear things that might cause some discomfort.

Human beings can control their responses and actions, so it’s not accurate to that say another person or “the devil made me do it.” Taking ownership of feelings is less threatening than accusing another person of causing those feelings. One way to take responsibility is to say, “I feel angry when you don’t appreciate….,” rather than, “You make me so mad….”

We are more likely to listen if we believe that what people say is important. On the other hand, some attitudes get in the way of good communication. It is better to avoid some things, like: giving advice–“You should just…;” being judgmental–“You’re wrong about….” ;” and avoiding the subject–“I’d rather talk about your…..”

May you communicate well with your loved ones and avoid misunderstandings and conflicts that can bring stress and problems to your life.

Mary Kay Turner is a teacher, who is a trainer, mediator, and board member for Mediation Services of Adams County (MSAC).                                                                                                      



It’s Time for Flamingos!

Janet M. Powers

May is always an important month for Mediation Services of Adams County.  That’s when we launch our flamingo flocks and begin our four-month fund-raising campaign.  Now that it’s June, flocks of pink flamingos have already begun turning up in local yards with tags asking for a small donation in return for having the flock removed and sent on to someone else.  If you should suddenly find five pink flamingos in your yard, one of them will bear a tag explaining the purpose of their visit.

The message is simple: “YOU HAVE BEEN ‘FLOCKED’ BY MEDIATION SERVICES OF ADAMS COUNTY! For a suggested donation of $15 or more, you may negotiate to have these birds removed from your yard and/or sent to someone else’s yard.  Call (flock tender’s number is listed) to make arrangements for payment and removal.  We appreciate your contribution to fund creative conflict resolution in Adams County.”

“What is creative conflict resolution?” you ask.  It’s also known as alternative dispute resolution or ADR: finding ways to resolve conflicts without fighting, turning to the courts or alienating friends and family. MSAC provides facilitated mediation, using highly trained mediators, to help disputants brainstorm for win-win solutions.  It can be used for virtually any type of conflict – family, workplace, contract labor, annoying neighbors, amicable divorce, child care or asset division.  Mediation is an inexpensive way to resolve thorny issues and still retain control over the outcome.  For people who can’t afford a lawyer, it’s an ideal way to get help.

“So if you charge for mediations, why do you need to raise funds?” you ask. Mediation through MSAC is inexpensive so that those with lower incomes can afford it. Based on a sliding scale, the cost for individuals may range from $0 to $25 per session for each party.  Mediations involving agencies, local government or businesses range from $25-$35.  Because the expenses of our non-profit organization can’t be met solely by mediation and training fees, we are obligated to raise funds to cover such expenses as telephone bills, anti-bullying materials, web maintenance, and the work of our Outreach Coordinator.  If you were flocked previously, you’ll receive a letter offering the opportunity to purchase “flock insurance” to avoid a repeat flamingo visit.  Our mail campaign avoids the hands-on surprise of unanticipated lawn ornaments.

One amusing aspect of being flocked is the opportunity to send the pink ones on to someone else.  We always suggest that you pick a friend with a sense of humor, as our birds have in the past had some close encounters with garbage trucks and the police.  So if the pink creatures should appear in your yard, we hope you will call us rather than taking more drastic measures. MSAC board members will be happy to remove the birds and deliver them elsewhere. We will certainly understand if you do not care to donate, but we do hope that you will enjoy your brief experience with the MSAC flock.

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


Dennis R. McGoughFight or Flight?

Dennis R. McGough, Ph.D.

We are all familiar with the phrase, “Fight or Flight”.  It was popularized in the book, The Wisdom of the Body, written in 1932 by Walter Bradford Cannon, M.D., a department chair and professor at Harvard Medical School.  This reaction to stress occurs in many animals when they face a perceived threat or attack and they prepare to “fight” or “flee”.

The reaction is physiological and triggers an immediate secretion of hormones into the bloodstream of the threatened animal, preparing it to fight or flee from the perceived threat.  Heart rate and blood pressure increase, in order to send maximum blood to the muscles.  Skin veins may constrict, allowing more blood for muscles and causing the “chill” we may feel when we are under stress.  Large muscles tense, ready for fighting or fleeing.  Tiny muscles attached to hairs in the skin grow tense, causing the goose bumps we may experience during these times.

Picture a gazelle peacefully grazing on a savannah somewhere in Africa.  All of a sudden, the gazelle senses (sees, hears or smells) the presence of a lion.  This sensation triggers the fight or flight response in the gazelle.  Successfully fleeing from this threat will require all of the body’s systems to function at maximum efficiency to support the tremendous muscular exertion necessary.  Stress reactions are complex.  Many animals will attempt to flee if threatened.  However, they will fight to-the-death if cornered.

Prehistoric human beings faced very real threats from animals and even perhaps other humans.  Their survival depended upon their ability to respond immediately to potential threats.  Planning wasn’t all that helpful, responding instantly was.

Fortunately, we don’t have to outrun lions, but when we find ourselves in a conflict situation with family members, neighbors, contractors or merchants, we may experience our own version of the fight or flight response.  We may come to believe that our only options are “fight” or “flight”.

Interestingly, neither of these options typically leads to a satisfactory solution.  If we choose to “fight”, the conflict usually escalates, leading only to a more serious situation.  This escalation can cause a potentially manageable state of affairs to spin out of control, virtually eliminating any real hope of a meaningful resolution.  In addition, if the fight turns physical, possible injury and very real legal consequences await.

If we choose the “flight” option, we may indeed escape the immediate problem, but we are then plagued by resentment and anger, because the conflict still exists.  Escape, it turns out, is only temporary.

Great news!  There is a solution that doesn’t require fighting or fleeing.  It is mediation, a process whereby both parties in a conflict work with a trained mediator to develop a solution acceptable to both parties.  Mediation Services of Adams County is dedicated to helping people resolve disputes.  MSAC provides trained mediators, whose goal is to help individuals develop agreeable 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 a MSAC board member, retired business executive and member of the adjunct faculty of the Graduate School, University of New Haven, West Haven, Connecticut.


JanPowersHow Are You Feeling?

Janet M. Powers

When we at MSAC offer Conflict Resolution Training, one of the first things we do is to ask our prospective mediators to think about a personal conflict, something that may have been bothering them for awhile.  They have an opportunity to reflect silently about apparent surface issues as well as the issues underlying a difficult relationship or some other troubling situation.  We ask them to think about why the issue matters and what values might be involved. Whether we are aware of it or not, most of us are invested emotionally as well as intellectually when a conflict disturbs our sense of well being.

Feelings surround every human interaction, even those that seem to be practical aspects of everyday life. Conflict can produce heightened feelings, such as anger, hurt, or anxiety.  When disputants take positions and refuse to budge even an inch, conflict is deepened.  Although stubbornness, rigidity, or fierceness may appear to come from strength, in reality they stem from deep vulnerability.  People who intimidate others may in fact be deeply wounded.  They may or may not realize that they are actually frightened behind a façade of outrage.

Often, even though a current situation provokes fear and insecurity, these may trigger deeply-rooted, even unconscious memories of past injuries from others.  Many of us bring a great deal of childhood “baggage” with us into adulthood. Although facilitated mediation can not heal those psychological wounds, mediators learn how to promote healing and to create an environment in which it can occur. The mediator empowers parties to state their feelings directly to each other, which very often provides an opportunity for healing.

Feelings are an essential part of every mediation session. As mediators are trained, they learn how to get parties to respond constructively to their own feelings as well as those of the other side. The mediator acknowledges the feelings of both sides without passing judgment or implying right or wrong. An important step is to assist disputants in clarifying what they may need in order to experience healing, especially in regard to immediate issues. If deeper wounds lie with others, the mediator will assist parties to find whatever help they need.

But no mediator feels an obligation to heal others.  The challenge for mediators is to be helpful to both parties without creating an illusion of “miraculous problem solver” or setting up a dependent situation. The turning point on the road to personal and spiritual maturity comes when individuals recognize that they, and no one else, are responsible for overcoming the wounds of life. Sometimes mediation draws out those deeper feelings and results in emotional growth. And when that happens, it’s deeply satisfying to all concerned.

It’s unlikely that this sort of growth will occur with typical forms of conflict resolution, such as litigation, revenge or pressing charges. Mediation, however, can accomplish a great deal when power is not one-sided or threat of violence is not an issue. It’s time to recognize the many situations when ADR or alternative dispute resolution would be appropriate and to make use of those community resources – MSAC, mediation-trained attorneys, and Family Group Decision Making – which allow for kinder, gentler and less expensive ways of solving conflicts.

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




Time for a Little Change!

Rev. Lynn Cairns

Spring-cleaning necessitated dusting off my bookshelf and sorting through some publications that I was willing to pass on to other potential readers.  I took a few to an adult class I participate in at church and held them up as offers to other readers.  When I showed one book there was instant recognition and laughter by nearly half of the class.  The title was Who Stole My Cheese?

It was an interesting story transpiring in ‘’mouse kingdom” where one insightful mouse discovers that the community supply of cheese is dwindling at an alarming rate.  Although the alarm is sounded, there is not much response from the majority.  Thus, one little industrious mouse goes off in search of another source and of course finds it.  Then there is a scenario of responses to his invitations for change that you can pretty well predict, based on traditional responses to change.  Some resist vehemently, to their own future peril.  Others see need but are not happy about it, and others recognize the need for immediate response.

I am sure that you too know the story well from your experience in personal relationships, whether in family, work or other communities of which you are a part.  Mediation Services of Adams County (MSAC) has been involved in the Gettysburg community and beyond for many years as a facilitator for persons who find themselves in need of assistance in adjusting to life’s conflicts and changes.

Often we procrastinate, leading to even more difficulty rather than solutions.  Proactive response is a much preferred action.  MSAC is willing to work with whatever structure you represent — personal, family or small business – using our trained mediators.  Lack of response and not utilizing resources can resemble the result described in the old proverb: “For Want of a Nail.”

“For want of a nail the shoe was lost. For want of a shoe the horse was lost.

For want of a horse the rider was lost. For want of a rider the message was lost.

For want of a message the battle was lost.

For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.

And all for the want of a horseshoe nail”.

If you find that someone is moving your cheese and you are searching for a way to nail down a solution to your conflicts, MSAC can be reached at 717-334-7312.  Call and leave a message for the 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 the mediation.  Contact is available online at or

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



We’ll Teach You How To Resolve Conflicts

Janet M. Powers

We’ve launched our new website – just in time to make it possible to register online for MSAC’s spring Conflict Resolution Workshop! If you’re thinking that you have no need for such a workshop, think again.  What we’re offering are basic skills in communication, conflict styles, managing conflict, negotiating, facilitation, brainstorming, problem solving and coming to agreement.  Virtually everyone who is part of a group needs these skills, whether it’s a church, a human services agency or municipal government.

If you take a look at the Pennsylvania Council of Mediators website, you’ll notice that virtually the same workshop in Basic Mediation Skills is being offered at sites all over Pennsylvania.  But if you look at the cost of those workshops, you’ll also notice that many are priced at double or triple what we charge here in Adams County.  In fact, people often come here from other places in the state, or even Washington, DC, to take advantage of our reasonably priced workshops. We’re definitely offering a good deal!

Why do we charge so little?  Because we believe that conflict resolution skills should not be treated as privileged information available only to the very few who can pay big bucks to learn how to deal with disputes.  Why do we give scholarships to workshop participants from churches or non-profit organizations?  Because we believe that agencies and organizations that have difficulty raising funds should not be doubly penalized by having to pay full price for skills their volunteers and employees desperately need.

That said, let’s get down to details. Mediation Services of Adams County will offer a 22-hour Conflict Resolution Training workshop beginning Friday evening March 1 from 6-10 PM and continuing all day Saturday, March 2, from 9 AM – 5 PM (including lunch), Sunday afternoon, March 3, 1-5 PM; Friday, March 8 from 6-10 PM and finishing Saturday, March 9 from 9-12 AM. All sessions will be held in Community Rooms A, B and C at the Gettysburg Hospital.

The cost of the workshop is $180, but those who register by Feb.15 will receive a $30 discount on the workshop fee, which covers training materials, snacks, and one lunch.  Workshop scholarships are available on request to representatives from churches and non-profit organizations.  Each agency may send one participant at the cost of $50; additional participants from that agency must pay the regular registration fee.  Checks should be drawn on the account of the church or non-profit organization.

Professionally trained and certified mediators from MSAC will conduct all training sessions.  For more information, call 334-7312 or e-mail Registration forms are available at the YWCA and the Adams County Library in Gettysburg.  Prospective participants may also register online at our brand new website: Additional information about Mediation Services is also available there – including frequently asked questions about mediation and a remarkable archive of previously published Times mediation columns. Check us out!

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