Posted by: Nick Voss | November 28, 2013

Conflict Mediation Workshop

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HARVEST FEST– One of the many workshops that took place during Harvest Fest was a conflict mediation workshop. Workshop participants got a glimpse into the field of conflict mediation, ranging from interpersonal conflict skills, to structured mediation techniques. At the conclusion of the workshop, students walked away with some new tools to see conflict differently, and to work each day to build inner and outer peace.

All too often in work and home settings, conflict is seen as a scary, threatening thing that must be avoided. The workshop challenged this notion from the start, suggesting that conflict is an opportunity for more expanded, deeper relationships than we can currently imagine. To really value this deeper relationship, however, we must tell ourselves that we really wish to pursue it. This inner decision takes place before conflict is confronted, acting as a structure to help keep calm, centered, and open when conflict does arise. To respond to the shortness of breath and skipping heart beat brought on by unexpected conflict, students learned how to bypass the immediate emotion and consequently see the conflict more clearly.

To assist with this interpersonal approach to conflict, the workshop analyzed the various coping strategies that people usually resort to. These coping strategies attempt to re-establish our values and needs in the face of conflict, but if not harnessed properly, they only add to the conflict. Distraction, dominance, devotion, or dependence may all be different options to deal with conflict. These coping strategies then become a “mask” to what our “inner rage child” is trying to tell us, as author Ruth King explains in Healing Rage: Women Making Inner Peace Possible. When we understand our “inner rage child”, we can then understand what we need to do to not only avoid conflict, but to transform it into a deeper relationship that’s in tune with our core values and needs.

Once students had thought about their inner conflict strategies, they moved into a mediator role to test how their inner peace can carry over to others. Students learned key mediator skills such as setting a tone, keeping a sense of neutrality, and re-framing statements. Students learned to see the difference between a “position”, which is a specific statement concerning an immediate problem, and an “interest”, which is a deeper value or need that helps create the position. The mediator’s goal then, is to reach the realm of interests. How might students test this in a workshop? Role play! Stepping into character, students enjoyed the challenge of disputing, creatively discussing, and mediating conflicts.

In the end, students realized that because society’s daily mindset is often so far removed from conflict transformation, one hour and a half workshop sets them up to be a peace makers well ahead of the curve. The contexts and situations in which to apply these conflict transformation skills are indeed endless.

-Nick Voss, Academic Coordinator Grad Fellow

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