Whether in a workplace, in a family, or in a community group, the arrival of a dispute or conflict can grind forward progress to a halt. When a combination of combativeness and conflict avoidance leads to a standstill, it's easy to abandon important efforts or endeavors, or else see them waste away as participants move on to other tasks. At other times, these conflicts escalate, with multiple parties saying and doing things they later regret that damage their relationships moving forward.
These circumstances are not just devastating because they are difficult, but also because they are avoidable. With basic mediation training, participants in a conflict-filled organization can start the process toward recovery, healing, and forward momentum.
Mediation, in general, is the use of an impartial additional party, a mediator, to have a discussion about the two or more sides of a particular conflict. An example of how mediation might be used would be bringing in a mediator to discuss a minor crime committed by a juvenile offender in the court system. In mediation, the victim of the crime and the juvenile discuss what happened, how it happened, and why, as well as what they each see as an appropriate resolution to the conflict or restitution of justice.
Many times, mediation is more impactful than simply having an authority figure decide on the issue unilaterally. In our example, a judge could simply create a consequence for the juvenile, but he or she would have less opportunity to understand the impact of their choices on the victim of the crime.
Mediators have to be able to listen very carefully, use less charged language in order to keep a room calm rather than exploding with highly-emotional outbursts and ensure that everyone involved feels their side is being represented fairly. By moving slowly through the facts of the situation, mediators can often unearth misunderstandings, underlying causes, or past issues that may need to be resolved before productive forward-moving choices can be made.
Mediation is used, as mentioned above, in court settings, but it is also useful in many businesses and workplaces since interpersonal conflict can derail important projects and make it harder to handle stressful situations at work. Mediation is also used in families and couples where conflict has arisen, helping to find positive, productive ways to interact in future contexts. The goal is usually broader than simply resolving a single instance of a dispute by laying the groundwork for more respectful and positive relationships moving forward. While this is an excellent goal, it is wise to recognize that getting to such a point can require a lot of mediation and a substantial investment of time.
How Mediation Skills Help End Conflicts
Basic mediation training covers a variety of skills that help both those who are parties in a dispute and someone who is interested in being the mediator, since everyone in a mediation benefits from these skills.
Mediation training helps you understand the step-by-step process that mediators go through. The steps are intended to ensure a thorough and impartial procedure where all the facts are in play and everyone has a chance to be heard. To that end, basic mediation training also focuses on how we communicate as well as how we listen since strong listening and communication skills affect the outcome of the mediation.
There is an element of creative problem-solving in mediation, so mediation skills must also involve taking the information you gain by listening and considering whether there is a mutually-beneficial outcome that meets each party's core needs. When such outcomes exist in a gray area that isn't perfectly satisfying to both parties, you'll also need negotiation skills in order to help both sides see how a compromise is better than ongoing conflict or getting none of what they want. You'll also go through some of the scenarios of conflict that you may encounter and strategies for dealing with those eventualities.
Lastly, mediators can run into cross-cultural differences, both between their own cultures and those of the disputants, as well as between the cultures involved in the dispute. Learning about listening for potential cultural differences and working through them overtly is a key element of mediation. Finally, there are ethical dilemmas that can arise in mediation, so a mediation course can help you anticipate and understand how to behave as ethically as possible when in a position like a mediator, where your choices have weight with the conflict participants.
You can work with the powerful mediators who lead Portland Community College's Mediation coursework, benefiting from their experience and practicing your skills in a supportive environment that will both challenge you and help you grow. Your mediation training puts you on a path to be a voice of de-escalation when conflict arises, with the ability to slow down and discuss what is going on rather than letting tensions flare and efforts fizzle out. Even a basic mediation training will equip you to cope well with conflict and recognize signs that there is a way forward.