This week’s guest blog is from Graham Boyack, Director, Scottish Mediation
When I look at how society deals with conflict, the usual responses are either avoidance or confrontation. Confrontation can build barriers to people engaging in a way that is likely to help everyone understand the cause of the conflict and then be in a place where they are prepared to talk about it in a constructive way. Avoidance can make things even worse by letting presumed reasons for actions simmer in people’s minds, such that when the issues are considered they have become worse and people can be more entrenched.
So why does this matter?
My view is that the better able we are to engage in conflict resolution, the better we will be at understanding each other and at creating solutions and ways forward that benefit all. For us to engage, however, I think we need to be equipped to do so, and that’s why I support the spread of mediation skills beyond mediators to as many people as possible.
An example – Peer Mediation in Schools
For me, the initiatives taking place in schools to train school students in mediation and then provide them with the opportunities to use those skills resolving conflicts between pupils is a great example of why mediation and giving people mediation skills works.
Scottish Mediation have been working with schools through our Young Talk Project, and the evaluation of our first two years’ work was clear: Children, young people and the school staff working with them consider that learning and practising peer mediation has helped them to develop their confidence and interpersonal skills across a wide range of contexts, such as school and elsewhere.
School staff also consider that peer mediation has a very positive impact on school life, notably in enhancing learning – including the Curriculum for Excellence, creating better relationships between pupils, reducing disciplinary referrals and suspensions from school, and freeing-up time for teachers.
What was more difficult for schools was resourcing the projects and sustaining the work over a longer period and through different cohorts of pupils.
Aside from the immediate impact of school students learning these skills, there is also the future impact of those skills being used through the rest of school and into adult life. How many more conflict situations might either be avoided or dealt with better when they occur and what impact might that have on future relationships in which people engage? There is great work going on to support families in conflict and to work with young people faced with homelessness. Peer mediation has the potential to have a preventative role, particularly when combined with the efforts of the Scottish Centre for Conflict Resolution to spread those skills more widely.
So, my message for Mediation Awareness Week is for support to be continued and if possible extended. It’s an investment that needs to be made.
Graham Boyack, Director, Scottish Mediation
16th October 2017