In this time of cultural polarization, we hear people on all sides of the political spectrum ranting about the opposition, blaming each other and threatening dire consequences. Even those with human rights on their side may believe so strongly that they occupy the moral high ground that they lose sight of those struggling on the plains below. Rushing to judgment is usually a mistake, no matter how justified the action.

One thing emphasized again and again in mediation is the importance of hearing all sides of a dispute. Indeed, mediators bend over backwards to silence interruptions so that a full story can be told by each party to the conflict. Often, in the telling, disputants hear unexpected explanations for actions or opinions, points that they had previously opposed or brushed aside. Hearing these can result in an “aha” moment for the parties.

Janet M. Powers is presiding officer of Mediation Services of Adams County and professor emerita at Gettysburg College.

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