By Maggie Baldwin
Mediation strives to find an action plan for parties who are working through conflict. When done thoroughly, the mediation process provides not only an action plan for the participants, but also new skills in which to better communicate moving forward.
Perry Smith in his book Rules and Tools for Leaders listed Squinting with the Ears as one of the fundamentals to leading. That imagery has always resonated with me. Imagine someone listening to me so intently that they are squinting their ears to hear me! They are not only listening to what I am saying, but they are listening for what I am NOT saying. They are watching my body language and my facial expressions. They hear my tone and can feel my emotion. They are summarizing what they are hearing – to be sure they heard correctly. AND, they are open to hearing what I have to say, even if they do not agree with it. After a conversation like that, I feel as if my voice really does matter and that I was heard.
In a successful mediation, those skills are used in many ways. One can see why this kind of “conducted” conversation may be helpful to those in conflict. Mediation becomes an opportunity for all participants to become better communicators because of the experience. Becoming a mediator, or at least being trained as a mediator, is an opportunity to learn more about this communication style and how to implement this skill into daily conversations.
Fortunately for our community, Mediation Services of Adams County provides this training on an annual or as needed basis. The training is designed to prepare individuals to be mediators – a neutral third-party who demonstrates these effective listening skills and encourages the participants to do so as well.
Mediators also act as coaches. If someone is having difficulty in a relationship of any kind, but one or both of the parties is not ready for mediation, a coach can be helpful. Coaches teach these communication skills and help the participant think through the situation from the other person’s perspective to anticipate and prepare for possible outcomes of a conversation.
If you feel that this type of training would be helpful to you either professionally, personally, or both, please consider the upcoming Mediation Training being held on March 13-14 and 20-21 at the Methodist Church, High Street, in Gettysburg. The course will meet Fridays from 5-9 PM and Saturdays from 9 AM to 5 PM under the direction of Ely Cleaver, retired mediator for the federal government, Department of Agriculture. MSAC will provide twenty (20) Continuing Legal Education credits under the auspices of the Pennsylvania Council of Mediators for attorneys who attend.
For more information, call the MSAC Help Line at 717-334-7312. Further materials and registration forms are available on the MSAC website: www.mediateadams.org
As a trained mediator, I have seen the peace that these skills can provide for individuals and the common ground that can be found by teaching people how to squint with their ears. Can you imagine a world in which we all could listen so intently?