Nov. 16, 2007
By Laura Yates
The human instinct may be fight or flight, but neither of these approaches works well in the long run -- or in the workplace. Rather, conflicts are best addressed through constructive communication.
A valuable resource in this approach -- and one that is free to Ohio University employees -- is offered by the Athens Area Mediation Service. Two 15-hour mediation training sessions are planned in the coming months: an intense, three-day session in early December and a once-a-week offering in January and February.
More than 400 faculty, staff and administrators, as well as some students, have attended past mediation training sessions, which center on role-playing and small group discussion.
"This is different than an academic class," said Athens Area Mediation Service Director John Schmieding. "We're not trying to grade or evaluate people; we're just trying to give everyone a chance to experiment. The program is very participatory with lots of chances for people to share their own experiences."
Most conflict is largely unnecessary and could be prevented with better communication skills, Schmieding said. Mediation involves attentive listening to resolve conflicts and diffuse emotional situations. The purpose of the training is to instill knowledge and fundamental skills in mediation.
Jared Vorkavich, communications group leader for the Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs, is among many individuals who have found the program beneficial.
"It was an excellent experience; very low pressure," Vorkavich said. "The program provided an opportunity for me to make mistakes and ask questions in a way that was really helpful."
The training has helped Vorkavich in the workplace, where he must understand the various needs and expectations of individuals within the university, government and small businesses.
"The program teaches you how to deal with these communication problems between people and helps you understand when a problem exists," he said, noting that he learned that "every problem is a communications problem."
After completing the training, participants are able to work with the organization as volunteer mediators. About 35 of the 50 trained mediators are Ohio University employees, Schmieding said.
Mediation classes are open to community members and students. The fee is $275, although some scholarships are provided. The fee waiver for university employees is made possible through funding from the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost.
This winter, two training sessions will be offered: from 8:15 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Dec. 4 through 6 and from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Tuesdays from Jan. 22 through Feb. 19. The Athens Area Mediation Service also offers customized mediation assistance for university departments.
For more information, contact the Athens Area Mediation Service at 740-594-6169 or firstname.lastname@example.org.