Monday, November 14, 2016

I am a Mediator, a Peacemaker

by Veera Mahajan, M.D.R.
Master of Dispute Resolution
Spiritual Coach

I am a mediator, a peacemaker, and I am always looking for an alternative dispute resolution.  Conflict is an inevitable part of our lives when we’re interacting with other people on a daily basis. We don’t always know what the other person’s situation or mood is when we say or do something in their presence and we don’t know how it will affect them. It could make them happy or upset. Maybe they’re already upset at something else and their reaction has nothing to do with you. So, taking everything personally and pushing back aggressively without a thorough investigation may be unfair and could just make things worse.

Of course, we don’t roll over and let someone treat us badly, but fighting back, yelling or
reacting to someone else’s lack of self-control or tact isn’t the answer.  I believe if we take time to listen to each other’s grievances, we can figure out what might be bothering us below the surface or what we might be doing that is causing the conflict.  Sometimes just asking can be the answer.  Don’t ignore the situation: that usually doesn’t work.  Misunderstandings linger and conflicts can get bigger.

Sometimes the problem has nothing to do with what either one of us is doing or saying. Perhaps there is something completely unrelated to us that is causing tension. If we agree to communicate and trace our paths when things started getting uncomfortable, we can usually find out where or what the problem may be.

As an example, imagine two young boys who have started attending a new school.  They have an argument and end up in mediation. They have never been in mediation. They don’t know that mediation is unlike going to the Principal’s office where they have to either stay quiet, accept punishment or tell on someone else and get someone else in trouble. In mediation, they are encouraged to talk and tell their side of the story. They are given enough time to think, remember and communicate.  As they talk, they are reminded that their conversation is confidential and stays in that room. The purpose of mediation is to find a solution that helps all, not get someone in trouble.

During the short mediation session, these boys become sympathetic to one another, realize they both are anxious because they don’t understand the other students, some teachers, school rules or the school culture at large. Both boys were worried that they were not being accepted by peers, and that the teachers did not understand them. They realized they were ‘in the same boat’, being new in school. They agreed to watch out for each other and felt good that they had a choice to come to mediation if they find themselves in another conflict. They realized they didn’t have to fight, hit each other, get anyone else in trouble, or fear being sent to the Principal’s office.

What would you do if you had only one orange and two of your children are fighting over it? Would you scold them, not give either one the orange and punish them for fighting?  Or to be fair, would you cut the orange in half and give each of them one half? What if you later find out that one really wanted to eat the orange and the other really only needed the peel for a project and didn’t even like the orange.  Half a peel is found in the garbage and so is half the orange.

If we take the time to think, communicate and listen carefully to one another, we can figure out and satisfy our real needs. (And give all the peel to one and the whole orange to the other!)  That is the power of mediation.  That is my passion and that is what I do.  I am a mediator.  

Yes, it works in adult conflicts also!

Veera Mahajan
310 456 7935 or 248 961 3322

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