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Wednesday
Dec032014

A Quick Thank You

Dear NVMS,

Thank you for recognizing the importance of teaching conflict resolution to today’s youth.

When I was a junior in high school, a freshman student I knew from my church youth group killed himself after a particularly rough week at school.  Knowing him from a very early age, I knew he had some rather severe emotional issues that made it challenging for him to communicate effectively with fellow students as well as teachers.  However, despite my understanding of his background I chose to avoid him and his problems rather than engage or try to help him.

The guilt I carry from that chapter of my life resurfaced recently while leading conflict resolution training with NVMS for the Alexandria Youth Leadership Conference and mediation training for the Fairfax County “Peace-it Together” Summit for high school and middle school aged students.  During these experiences I listened to sincere and thoughtful youth question the issues surrounding their lives and discuss ways in which they could make them better.  They wanted to learn ways to help those in need.  They wanted to make positive changes to their families, their schools, and their communities.  And they were willing to give those of us in the field of conflict resolution a chance to help them satisfy their noble desires. 

NVMS graciously offered its services to these outstanding events and I was honored they allowed me to participate while I finished up my Master’s in Negotiations and Dispute Resolution from Creighton University.  The experience and guidance NVMS provided contributed to outstanding reviews and feedback from students at both events.  Which makes me wonder…

If I had been given the opportunity to learn more about identifying conflict and the variety of ways to productively engage in conflict, would I have used what I learned to confront the troubled student I knew was struggling day in and day out?  Knowing what I know now, could I have asked the right questions or uncovered the interests driving the actions and outbursts of the kid everyone perceived as an outcast?  Would I have had the confidence and courage to speak up?  Would it have made a difference?  Would my friend be alive today? 

I’ll never know the answers to these questions, but I do believe that even providing a basic understanding of conflict resolution to our youth has the power to prevent them from having to ask themselves the same questions in the future.  I don’t have the data to back it up, but common sense tells me that students are the first line of defense in stopping the tragic violence we see happening at schools and communities across the nation.  They are the ones who know who is struggling.  They are the ones who see what’s happening when the adults aren’t looking.  And they are also the ones who are free from bureaucratically driven mandated processes and procedures for handling complex and personal situations.  However, they’re unlikely to grasp the skills of our field of study on their own. 

So all of this to say, thank you.  Thank to those who dedicate their time and their careers to the field of conflict resolution.  Thank you to NVMS for all that you do in the Northern Virginia area.  Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to work with you and participate in such ground-breaking and what I hope were life changing events for our community’s youth.  I can’t go back in time to give myself the knowledge, confidence, and courage needed to help my friend.  But we can give these gifts to someone else.  So once again, thank you for doing what you do.  And please know that you make a difference.

Sincerely,

Chris Piercy, Creighton University Graduate Student

Wednesday
Dec032014

Interacting with Parties during Mediation

by Ben Jacewicz

Mediation involves four formal stages.  First, the mediator introduces the parties to the process.  Second, each party presents a narrative detailing her perspective.  Third, the mediator engages the parties in problem-solving activities, such as identifying mutual interests and brainstorming.  Finally, in the event the parties reach a settlement, they prepare a written agreement setting forth its terms and conditions.

Mediation also includes interactions outside of this formal process.  An example is the mediator speaking separately with each party before the mediation commences.  In doing so, he begins to learn about the dispute and demonstrates his commitment to working with the party to resolve it.  In addition, the party receives an opportunity to raise questions and concerns she may feel uncomfortable discussing in the other party’s presence. 

Conversations during breaks in the mediation are another example of interactions outside of the formal process.  When the parties have no personal relationship, which frequently is the case in strictly commercial transactions, the more relaxed atmosphere prevailing during these breaks should facilitate getting to know one another beyond the parameters of the current dispute.  The parties may discover that they share a common hobby, have children of similar ages or have traveled to the same places.  These discoveries can provide the impetus for building a foundation of mutual respect and trust, which are necessary ingredients to reaching an agreement.

Tuesday
Jun172014

Duties of the Mediator: Remaining Unbiased

Ben Jacewicz

A mediator must prevent any perception of bias on her part.  The response when faced with a party whose good faith in negotiating is questionable illustrates this imperative.  

The need to preserve her neutrality does not bar the mediator from questioning a party about his good faith because such action seeks to protect the integrity of the mediation process, which entails no taking of sides.  The mediator, however, also must keep in mind that a party may well perceive her to have turned against him in questioning his good faith.  In such a situation, she has lost her standing as a neutral and thwarted the process she has sought to protect. 

The mediator should respond in one of the following ways when confronted with this situation.  First, if she believes the party is incapable of negotiating in good faith, then she should terminate the mediation.  Second, if the mediator believes the party will negotiate in good faith, but also considers her neutrality to have become irreparably compromised, then she should withdraw from the process.  Finally, if she believes that she can be neutral going forward, then she should secure informed consent to her continued participation.  Because the last of these responses brings into play other ongoing duties of the mediator, I will explore it in a future post. 

Wednesday
Apr162014

Mediation International!

Not many of these blog posts focus on the international realm. But if you're interested in how mediation has been used to great affect abroad. Take a look at this intriguing article that places emphasis on "[the] importance of mediation as a peacebuilding tool".

http://www.internationalpeaceandconflict.org/profiles/blog/show?id=780588%3ABlogPost%3A924937&xgs=1&xg_source=msg_share_post#.U06O8vn-Nyx

 

 

Monday
Mar312014

How ADR techniques and Mediation could increase the value of your home.

This interesting article from money.cnn.com explores the opportunities one can enjoy and employ when dealing with disruptive or destructive behaving neighbors. These easily adaptable and obtainable steps can not only improve the quality and value of your home, but may also help improve the relationships you have with your neighbors. 

http://money.cnn.com/2013/07/01/news/home-value.moneymag/index.html

For more techniques and skills expressed in this article, I encourage you to take advantage of classes offered at our offices for your convenience, such as "Performing Under Pressure: Becoming the Calm in the Storm" on April 11th.

You can register online here or you can contact our Training Program Manager: Izabela Solosi at (703) 865-7261 or training@nvms.us

Tuesday
Feb252014

Should traditional ground rules be changed?

Author:

Ben Jacewicz

Ground-rules, such as a pledge by the parties not to interrupt each other, can facilitate the mediation process.  They, however, also pose several risks that a mediator should consider in deciding whether to ask the parties to agree to them.  As an initial matter, the process of setting ground-rules can precipitate disputes that divert time and energy from the conflict giving rise to the mediation.  In addition, ground-rules may become the basis for gamesmanship.  For example, a party might accuse the other side of violating a ground-rule at a critical juncture merely to deflect attention from the current discussion’s focus.  

            Other practices can achieve the same objectives as ground-rules while avoiding these risks.  For example, the mediator can provide each party with pen and paper to take notes while others are speaking.  If a party is busy taking notes, then it is less likely he or she will interrupt or otherwise be discourteous. 

            The mediator also can go into caucus in the face of the parties’ indecorousness to explore the reasons for it, explain how it hinders the process, and help each party identify strategies to express interests and concerns without rancor.  Like an agreement to adhere to ground-rules, this approach makes the parties responsible for their own behavior, which in turn should lead them to take the initiative in resolving their conflict.

Tuesday
Feb112014

FREE Seminar: We Need to Talk: Better Family Conversations About Aging Issues

Is your family having trouble discussing sensitive topics related to the transitions of aging?  This seminar is for you!  Learn tips for improving conversations about care giving, independence, finances, medical decisions and more.  Learn what to say and what not to say, so your family can reduce stress and move toward solutions.

Speakers: Jeannette Twomey, Virginia Certified Mediator and Conflict Resolution Specialist; and Sharon Schroer, Communication Coach and Conflict Resolution Specialist

Date: Thursday, February 27th, 2014

Time: 9:30am –11:00am

Fee: FREE, please RSVP by Monday, February 24th, 2014 at 703.865.7263 or clientservices@nvms.us.

Location: 4041 University Drive, Suite #101, Fairfax, VA 22030

Tuesday
Feb042014

Community Spotlight: Northern Virginia Aging Network (NVAN)

NVAN is made up of a number of advocates for Northern Virginia’s senior population and their families and caregivers.  The network was created to address concerns aging communities and organizations working closely with this population are facing and to discuss a regional approach to critical issues affecting elders in Northern Virginia.   The network is made up of a number of advocates and service providers in Alexandria, Arlington, Loudoun, Prince William, Fairfax and Falls Church. 

NVAN’s main project is to develop a state legislative platform which the organization does by sponsoring a legislative breakfast forum each year.  This Forum raises awareness about NVAN’s legislative platform and gives Northern Virginians a chance to speak directly with legislators about their concerns surrounding issues affecting older adults.  NVAN works to “enlightened policies and regulations that will make aging with dignity available to all older Virginians”.   The Network works hard to make sure the issues seniors decide are important get brought to the Virginia General Assembly in a legislative Platform.  For more information contact Terri Lynch at   terri_ray@verizon.net

 

Author: Stephanie Luckam

Thursday
Jan302014

Five Ways to Prepare to Meet with your Divorce Attorney By Anna Maher

A perceptive article in where author Anna Maher articulates five important steps to successfully identify the correct attornety for oneself in a divorce settlement.

Click here to read the full article.

Thursday
Jan092014

How to Market Your Mediation Skills

Although we refer to them largely as mediation skills, active listening, reframing, asking good questions, summarizing are more than just that. Effective communication skills can improve all aspects of our personal and professional lives, whether you choose to be a mediator or not.

In the video below, a number of the NVMS practitioners share their stories on how they are using the training and skills they have gained in their various positions. 

How to Market Your Mediation Skills

What piece of advice did you find most helpful? Are there other ways you have used these skills in your career?