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  • Claudia Kenny

Conflict Mediation

By Claudia Kenny


Conflict Stress

Conflicts are stressful and over time can have destructive effects on our relationships. During a conflict, we feel stressed, annoyed, confused, hurt, mad or vulnerable and this is normal. Any information we receive that does not confirm us makes us uncomfortable. We want to be right. We want everything to fit into our version of reality - the meaning we attribute to our experiences. Conflicts are stressful because they challenge our need for stability. Anything that shakes our stability creates the conditions of a threat.


Our brains are always scanning for threats - asking, “Am I safe? Do I matter?” and sorting present-day experiences to identify similarities to difficult or dangerous situations from the past. The brain sounds the alarm when it finds a match. Activation happens very quickly. In this “activated” state our brain’s neural circuitry to the prefrontal cortex which rules logic and reasoning shuts down. We struggle to recall data from memory, analyze and reason, take in new information and make decisions. Our capacity is limited.


Mediation Can Help

When our capacity is limited and we feel stuck and without options, mediation is a way for people to talk about their disagreements and to consider ways to move forward. A mediator is a “multi-partial” support person who suspends their own judgments and hopes both parties have positive outcomes. During a mediation session, the mediator listens to understand each person’s experience and point of view. The mediator reflects this back to the speaker to check for understanding and to learn more. This gives the speaker a chance to fully express what is most important to them about the situation including emotions. While the mediator is listening to understand one party, the other party has the opportunity to listen to what the speaker has to say twice - once from the speaker and once through the mediator’s reflections. The mediator will listen to the second party in the same way.


Brain scientists have discovered that naming emotions, articulating what is most important about a situation, the big picture stuff, and being understood with the warmth of unconditional regard can help to settle our brain's “activated” state. When our brain’s alarm mechanisms settle we regain our full capacity as our neural circuitry reconnects to our regulating pre-frontal cortex.


Brain scientists focused on conflict describe our neural reality as a balance between stability - the need for coherence - and plasticity - the need for learning, growth and change. We need coherence (a clear version of reality) and can become alarmed when challenged with disconfirming information - like another’s version of reality. At the same time, our brains have neuroplasticity so our capacity and our potential as humans to learn and change is vast.


With a supported conversation a sense of the threat can often shift for participants, opening possibilities for the future. Participants in mediation begin to take in new information, build understanding, problem solve and make decisions. Participants are often able to come up with some agreements for moving forward constructively.


If you are struggling with a conflict, consider mediation. Conversations are confidential.

About NYS Ag. Mediation Program

NYS Agricultural Mediation Program (NYSAMP) was established in 2001 and is one of forty-three states with USDA-funded mediation programs designed specifically to serve the farm community. Since 2001, over 9000 participants have chosen our services as a way to work through a difficult situation. Trained and experienced mediators provide effective ways to help people solve problems themselves and mitigate the stress of escalating conflict. NYSAMP provides the agricultural community an opportunity to get mediation support for unpaid bills, machinery and supplier credit, farm-neighbor disputes, interpersonal farm family issues, farm transitions, farm leases and farm labor issues.


NYSAMP provides services in every county in New York. Mediation is always voluntary and confidential. Services are free or low-cost and customized to each situation to meet the needs of the participants.

For more information visit our website www.nysamp.com

Call us for a free consultation: 866.669.7267


Claudia Kenny: Co-Director, NYS Agricultural Mediation Program

Claudia brings over 25 years of experience as a farmer and food system activist working on agriculture-related projects with diverse stakeholders in the Hudson Valley. She and her husband own and operate Little Seed Gardens, a 97 acres family farm in Chatham, NY. As a farmer, Claudia is aware of the economic and social challenges and stressors unique to farming. Claudia holds a Masters's Degree in Conflict Analysis and Engagement with a concentration in environmental conflicts. She is a trained mediator & facilitator. She is a passionate lifelong student and teacher of Compassionate Communication. She brings empathy and understanding to her work in the farm community and years of process expertise in helping people with challenging conflicts


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