I have taken 48 classes while here at EMU, covering topics from population to program evaluation. Of all the courses I have enrolled in dur- ing these four years, none have been more useful than Mediation and Con- flict Transformation.
In that class, which I took with Jane Ellen Reid, we learned three things. First, we covered our identity: who we are, how we work with others, and how we respond to conflict. Self- awareness of these things is important and helpful when entering into tense situations. The second element of the class was communication: learning how to listen and how to speak. The main tool for this is Nonviolent Communication, a system developed by Marshall Rosenberg. Lastly, the class taught about cooperation. Co-mediators and the conflicting parties must work together to help those in conflict find a solution that works for them. I do not claim to be good at the three things we learned; there are times when I forget, and there are times when I fail. Even so, they are still helpful.
I took the class in my sophomore year and first realized its usefulness when I was on the Middle East Cross- cultural. I did not use the skills to medi- ate conflict, but the mindset was help- ful in navigating and understanding stressful situations.
Equally important was the observation I made; techniques meant to aid communication also help span cultural and linguistic barriers. Things like summarizing and paraphrasing, used in mediation to clarify emotions and needs, are equally adept at confirming thoughts and intentions.
This was reinforced further during my Peacebuilding Practicum in which I worked with World Vision Albania. Most of my coworkers in the office spoke lit- tle English (my role was mainly English language support), and I often needed to clarify what they needed from me. Nonviolent Communications’ gentle manner of asking proved invaluable.
I also find mediation impacting how I treat my role as Weather Vane Co-Editor in Chief. My role is split in two categories: working with staff and interfacing with the broader campus community. I would like to think that mediation has made me a better su- pervisor. I have to make sure that the needs of the paper and the needs of the staff can both be met.
Mediation is also useful when I find myself in arguments with my friends. When discussion gets heat- ed, we stop and clarify how we are feeling and how we are reacting to it. If mediation techniques were even more ingrained into my behavior, con- flicts would happen less frequently.
Not many people are going to go into group facilitation. But one does not need to be heading towards me- diating professionally to find mediation useful.
The skills taught are broadly applicable and helpful when it comes to engaging with people in any capacity. I encourage all who are able to take Mediation and Conflict Transformation; it will show its usefulness.