Can You Benefit from Mediation Training?

by Janet M. Powers

Every day we pick up the newspaper and read about local disputes that cost those involved a great deal of money. Some involve the Borough of Gettysburg, some involve local businesses, and others involve individuals. Typically, I shake my head and wonder, “Why did they let that conflict escalate?” Wasn’t there someone around to mediate?”

Conflicts have a predictable pattern: what starts as a disagreement often turns into personal antagonism. Then new issues crop up and proliferate. As a result, disputants communicate less and less. They begin to talk “about,” not with the other person. Their antagonism turns into outright hostility, and soon other people begin to take sides. What church congregation has not experienced this sort of polarization?

Most businesses and local government bodies could in fact benefit greatly from conflict resolution training. Knowing how and when to intervene in a small dispute can prevent it from getting out of hand and becoming a conflict that requires thousands of dollars to litigate. Even when groups of people are involved, using techniques of conflict transformation can make a huge difference in group behavior and outcomes.

Human services agencies likewise have need of staff personnel who can deal with troublesome clients who do not fully understand the terms of the services they are receiving. Most organizations rely on staff with a natural bent for dealing with difficult situations. Even better, however, are staff which have been formally trained in conflict transformation skills and feel confident to tackle disputes.

Whatever the nature of a business or organization, problems such as personality conflicts or annoying behavior can diminish productivity and/or make the workplace an unpleasant place to be. How much better it would be if someone has the skills to deal with minor conflicts before they explode, and is designated to do so as part of the workplace team.

Mediation Services of Adams County will offer a 22-hour Mediation and Conflict Resolution Training workshop in early March. Workshop emphases will be conflict styles, active listening, communication skills, negotiation, and mediation skills. The upcoming workshop is scheduled for Friday evening, March 5, 6-10 PM; Saturday, March 6, 9-5 PM; Sunday afternoon, March 7, 1-5 PM; Friday, March 19, 6-10 PM; Saturday, March 20, 9-12 in Community Rooms B and C at the Gettysburg Hospital.

The cost of the workshop is $165, but those who register by February 20, 2010 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 Mediation Services of Adams County will conduct all training sessions. For more information, or to obtain a registration form, call 334-7312 or e-mail mediationac@yahoo.com. Additional information and registration forms are available at the MSAC website: https://www.mediateadams.org

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