We All Need To Be Better At Managing Conflict

OAK would like to say a resounding ‘well done’ to the Mediation community in Ireland for turning up at more than 45 nationwide events to spread the good news rights across every community in every county in Ireland – to families, to workers, to neighbours, to businesses. They even managed to get leading members of the Judiciary to declare their whole hearted support for Mediation. And not only all of that, they involved the youth – the budding young mediators in the first ever All–Ireland Young Mediator Competition which was hosted by The Law Society last Saturday. You can’t beat the young for energy and enthusiasm and it was definitely there in abundance. They tried and tested their new found skills with challenging community disputes involving noisy neighbours, dogs fighting and GAA club members at war with each other. All aspects of society were there and that is where Mediation and the adroit skills of the Mediators are tested to their limits. What better challenge for our youth?

I would like to say a special word for Community Mediators. They are unsung and unpaid heroes. Conflict exists everywhere two humans cross paths. It is in our workplaces, in our homes, in our businesses and in our communities. Community Mediators enter places where no man should go and with their ultimate goal of bringing peace. They go out there out of the kindness of their hearts and with their own agenda which is to fine tune their own skills and make themselves the best mediator they can be. Sounds like a good deal for all?

The community benefits by fixing disputes in a humane and user friendly manner. The Garda, the Courts and the County Councils benefit by having their workload reduced by the intervention of the Mediators. But the Mediators work for nothing – not a good deal for them.

The State runs a highly successful Family Mediation Service to help separating couples who do not have the money to pay legal costs. The State should look and provide funding for Community Mediation Services that already exist and which currently run on a shoe-string. The return of investment would be compelling.

The basic issue for society at large is that we are all poor at handling conflict. We allow our emotions to control our behaviours often with catastrophic results. But we can learn to choose constructive behaviours that succeed in de-escalating conflict. These constructive behaviours also draw the creative energy that can bring all the benefits of people working together in search of task – focused common goals. We must look to train and educate ourselves, our colleagues, our leaders, our managers, our youth to manage conflicts constructively rather than defaulting to the costly and uncertain restitution processes that our society provides.

We would love to hear your thoughts on this!


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