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That is Surprising – Reflections of a New Mediator

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In my last blog post, I discussed the benefits of utilizing community mediation in the area in which you live. I mentioned that many states have community mediation centers and those centers will train volunteers in their process. In June 2016, I was trained in the inclusive mediation model to become a community mediator in my county, and it has been an educational and rewarding experience.

Every mediation I have either mediated or observed has been entirely different, which is both exciting and a little nerve-racking.  It is exciting because no situation or issue is alike which can be challenging. But, it is also nerve-racking because you never know what to expect. Some sessions you may assume will be low-conflict with minimal arguing, and then it turns out to be the opposite.

In this week’s post, I thought I would reflect on what I’ve found surprising thus far from this volunteering adventure.

One, the number of times participants come to the mediation table with a competitive mindset and try throughout the process to convince the mediators they are right. The beautiful thing about mediation is the Mediators are neutral third parties, and they cannot take sides. Although this is explained several times at the start of the session, still participants try to persuade the neutral third parties of their stance.

Two, I find it surprising how often new insights on a particular conflict are unearthed by the participants in a mediation session. In the inclusive model, we are taught to listen for feelings, values, and topics and then use a technique called reflecting to illuminate the participant’s point of view and check to make sure what is being heard is what they mean to say.  I have observed one participant learning that the other party felt isolated and alone during a particularly challenging time. When these feelings were recognized and heard, it changed the tone of the entire session and conflict.

Third, not entirely surprising but fascinating occurrence is the way both parties share a different “truth” of the conflict and believe that the way they see it is more accurate than the other’s version. I’ve heard the saying, “There are three sides to every story, yours, mine, and the truth” so this occurrence isn’t that surprising. But, I find it fascinating because we often assume that because we are involved in the same conflict, we are experiencing it the same way. When the other party shares their version of an event, and they mention parts that you didn’t see, feel, or hear, our natural inclination is to believe they are not truthful. Instead of recognizing that everyone experiences things differently.

Finally, I have been surprised by how often I leave a session feeling energized by the work the participants are doing. A resolution isn’t always achieved, but more often than not the participants have found themselves communicating more and closer to a solution than they had been before.

I have learned a lot in this last year, and I am excited about the knowledge I will acquire going forward. I hope I continue to be surprised.

 

Abigail R. C. McManus M.S. Negotiation and Conflict Management

Guest Blogger

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Resolving Conflicts Constructively – Trust Me, It’s a Thing!

traffic-lights-466950_1920People deal with conflict every day of their lives. Conflict stripped down to bare bones is merely a clashing view on a particular topic. However, most of us when we hear the word conflict we think, yelling, name-calling, slamming doors, silent treatment, cold-shoulder, avoidance, etc. Conflict does not have to be this way. You can have a conflict with someone and through listening, discussing, negotiating, and empathizing you can resolve the conflict constructively. The constructive way to resolve conflict seems far fetch, doesn’t it? I thought so in the beginning when I first started to learn about conflict resolution.

The reason I believe that we find the concept of constructive conflict resolution so improbable is because we have never seen it done properly. We often learn from the world around us how to manage conflict, and most often our examples do not do it well. Think about what your household was like growing up, did your parent’s communicate well? Try to remember a time when there was a disagreement, did they yell over top of one another? Speak in absolutes, “You always cut me off, why should I listen”? Or did they do the opposite, where rather than discussing it at all they simply gave one another the cold shoulder and then eventually at some point the conflicts resolved? How your family managed conflicts growing up is likely how you approach conflicts today.

Changing how you approach conflict can be tough especially if you do not have any idea how to go about doing it. What if I told you there is a way to resolve your conflicts constructively for little or no cost? Community mediation is an awesome resource that many people do not realize is available to them.

What is Mediation?

Mediation is a process involving a neutral third party that facilitates communication between two or more opposing parties in hopes of achieving reconciliation and resolution.

Mediation allows both sides the opportunity to be heard and also to control the outcome of their conflict as opposed to going to court where a lawyer will speak for you, and a judge determines the outcome. Mediation is also a much cheaper option than going to court where costly fees for lawyers and such can rack up quickly.

What is community mediation?

Community mediation centers exist in just about every one of the fifty states. Many centers serve specific communities and regions within their state. They are often free or low-cost, efficient and timely in regards to scheduling and availability, and most often voluntary meaning, you are in charge of the process and can stop mediation at any time. The mediators that facilitate your conflict are often volunteers that have gone through your center’s particular training program. They are neutral third parties, which means they are unable to take sides or give any advice to you. Also, mediators are bound by a confidentiality agreement. The best and most important thing I believe about this service is it is your process; you are in control; the mediator is simply there as a guide.

What’s the point of having a mediator present if they are only facilitating and can’t tell me what to do?

Just the presence of another person who is neutral and unattached to the conflict can change the entire dynamic of the disagreement and how the parties approach one another. We tend to behave better when another person is present. The mediator will ask questions and will use reflection to assist one side in further clarifying their feelings, needs, and wants to the other side. When we are entrenched in our conflicts, we often say things we don’t mean, by having a neutral third party there to parrot back to you what you just said it gives you the power to edit and rephrase your message in a clear and concise way.

The most amazing thing about all of this is once you witness constructive conflict resolution, you’ll have the tools and be more mindful of what to do in future conflicts to achieve the same results.  Consider the option of reaching out to the community mediation center in your area next time you experience a conflict and take advantage of a service that could help make your life easier! In fact, we have some podcasts on community mediation. Listen now!

 

Abigail R. C. McManus M.S. Negotiation and Conflict Management

Guest Blogger/ Host

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Community Mediation: Empowerment and Dialogue

 

In many communities around the country there are community mediation centers supported by volunteer mediators.  Community Boards of San Francisco is the oldest community mediation center in the country, started in 1976.  The philosophy of community mediation centers is to empower community members to resolve their own disputes rather than resorting to courts or other outsiders to do it for them. Participants in mediation have found that the process helps them feel heard, and increases their understanding of themselves and the other person as well.  Community Boards has handled thousands of cases in its 36 year history, and has helped 85% of those who use their mediation services reach a successful agreement.

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The State and Growth of Community Mediation

Each year, community mediators help nearly a million people in conflicts all manner of vexing variation. From schoolyard bullying to co-worker conflicts, nuisance neighbors to deeply personal family fights, community mediation programs bring constructive conflict resolution services to the masses. They mediate, facilitate, coach, train, and much more. These programs and volunteers do all this with industry-leading credentials and dogged dedication, but, often, not much more. Tune in to hear Justin R. Corbett, Executive Director of the National Association for Community Mediation, speak about the State of Community Mediation within the U.S. Hear about the many ways local community mediation programs serve those in conflict and discover how you can directly connect with their helpful services.

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