Solving conflicts via mediation Print
Youth Column
Written by Karen Osborne, Catholic News Service   
Thursday, Mar. 06, 2014 -- 12:00 AM

The superheroes in the movies have it easy. They're usually extremely good at heart, committed to justice and peace. They fight the good fight against terrible villains -- men and women with evil thoughts on their minds, working to spread chaos.

If only real-life conflicts were as simple to understand.

No matter how much you try to avoid them, interpersonal conflicts and disagreements are inevitable, and one of the most important things people learn in life is how to work through them before they turn into a war. As much as we would like to live in a world where everyone gets along, perfect harmony remains a dream.

But one thing is true: In real life, the line between hero and villain is less obvious.

So what do you do when someone hurts or insults you? When someone won't do the work they were assigned? Or when the argument you're having with your best friend has no end in sight?

First of all, even if you feel as if steam is coming out of your ears, like a cartoon character, don't feed the fire. Solving a conflict quickly means staying calm and refusing to escalate the situation. While you may feel angry, don't act immediately. You'll probably end up doing and saying things that you'll regret.

In any conflict, try not to act unilaterally. If someone confronts you, take a few breaths and count to 10 before answering. If you feel you have to remove yourself from the situation, do so. Avoid physical violence. If someone threatens you or you feel unsafe, get help immediately from an authority figure, a teacher, a parent, or the police. Don't engage with the other party. Not only will you probably get in trouble, but you may get hurt.

Even if you're convinced that you're right, try to see the situation from your opponent's perspective. It may help you understand where they're coming from and devise a solution that's acceptable to both.

Ask trusted friends and adults in your life for advice -- they may come up with ideas you haven't thought of yet. And if you feel like you're in over your head, call for help or a mediator. Don't face problems alone.

In the adult world, mediation is often used as an alternative to costly legal action. It can come in handy for teen conflicts, too. In a mediated dispute, a third party helps two or more clients solve their problems and devise a solution so both parties get what they want and everyone feels good going away from the mediation table.

It is important that the mediator does not have an interest in either side of the dispute so he or she can see both sides of the story without bias.

Mediation works in various situations, from disputes between friends to conflicts in class. If there's a conflict in your life that's driving you crazy, call someone who can serve as a mediator as soon as possible. This can be a teacher, a school counselor, anyone who doesn't have a vested interest. Some schools have mediation programs set up for students' use.

Conflict is a part of life. It's going to happen, even if you're the kindest, most easygoing person. The faster you master the fine art of conflict management, the more successful you'll be in school and in life.

Karen Dietlein Osborne contributes to “Coming of Age,” a CNS column series for and about youth. She is a staff writer for the Evangelist, newspaper of the Diocese of Albany, N.Y..


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