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Minn. Politicians Embrace Conflict Resolution

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) - Understanding each other's perspectives and looking for commonality when there are differences is what conflict resolution is all about.

Recently we've seen government and even the Minnesota Orchestra involved in conflict that needed mediation.

The Conflict Resolution Center in Minneapolis sponsored a seminar where Minnesota lawmakers, both Democrats and Republicans, learned the art of mediation.

Rep. Pam Myhra (R) represents District 40H. She says mediation is a crucial for communication.

"The idea of mediation I think is very powerful, where people can come together and actually have a chance to communicate and express their concerns," Myhra said.

Rep. Carolyn Laine (D) of District 41B agrees.

"There isn't any other better way to resolve differences than working together," Laine said.

Karmit Bulman, executive director of the Conflict Resolution Center, says mediation is a way to tackle the major issues in our society with grace.

"We feel there is a real compelling need in our complex society to find peaceful, respectful, efficient ways to resolve conflict and to deal with some of our most pressing societal issues," Bulman said.

From conflict between individuals, all the way to government and tribal disputes, Bulman says mediation saves taxpayer dollars, increases access to justice and helps us sustain our communities in a peaceful and respectful way.

Role playing exercises are used to teach lawmakers what it will take to work with their counterparts on the other side of the aisle.

Rep. Mike Benson (R) of District 26B says mediation helps to foster mutual understanding.

"It does give you some extra tools to be a better listener, to try and understand where the other person is coming from before you just potentially write them off," Benson said.

These lawmakers hope they can avoid gridlock by taking what they've learned at the seminar to the Capitol.

"It improves the respect of the dialogue. I think for it to have a meaningful difference, we're going to need to put more people through the process," said Benson.

Several lawmakers are working with the Conflict Resolution Center to write a bill to create an Office of Collaboration and Dispute Resolution.

They hope it will give cities and counties access to mediation as well as help lawmakers deal with disputes that tie up resources and hurt the people of Minnesota.

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