Tag Archives: What to do in a conflict

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.