Everyone has experienced conflict in their life, be it at home, in their community, or at work. The films we grow up watching promote a win/lose mentality, with physical violence or the stylized fight of the court room offered up as solutions to all life’s battles. Real life is more complex, and real people are not gangsters or superheroes. So what are the real life approaches to conflict resolution?
I spoke to Hen Wilkinson of Community Resolve, who provide mediation to communities and neighbours in conflict in central Bristol. I asked her to explain their approach to conflict resolution. She told me: “If conflict is handled properly, it can be very positive and an opportunity for change and growth and communication. The point is not to be too alarmed by it, but to take a deep breath and ask ‘What is going on for me, and for the other person here?’”
Hen gave me five tips which she believes help resolve conflicts in the early stages. She says:
1. Act on conflict early.
2. Use ‘I’ statements. Don’t say ‘you did that’, say instead ‘when this happened I felt angry because… do you think you could do it differently next time? Eg. “When you sent me that email I felt fed up because I thought it was rude, do you think you could word it differently next time?”
3. Don’t make assumptions; always ask. People always think they know what is going on in the other person’s mind, but we don’t realise how different the workings of each person’s mind are.
4. Keep an open mind.
5. Think about how you can alter YOUR behaviour, not someone else’s, because that is the only thing you have any control over.
Hen explains that if people can’t resolve conflict themselves, then a mediation service can step in. Mediation is often free for conflicts between neighbours, but it can be expensive for work-related conflicts. There are also mediation services for families and partners.
“When Community Resolve goes in to mediate we ask people four questions. They are: How do you see the situation? How would you like it to be instead? What is getting in the way of achieving that? What can you do differently to achieve that?’
If you think mediation would help you, here are some projects around Sparkland that you could check out:
• Community Resolve. The Old Co-op, 38 Chelsea Road, Easton, Bristol BS5 6AF. 0845 345 7461, see communityresolve.org.uk and the Bristol Gang Awareness Project 0845 223 5424
• Bristol Mediation Service, which is free (depending on your housing status), helps neighbours in dispute as well as helping resolve community disputes. 0117 935 0521. Email email@example.com. bristol-mediation.org
• Bath Area Mediation: a community mediation service that covers B&NES, West Wiltshire and South Glos. Email firstname.lastname@example.org 01225 482946. bathareamediation.co.uk
• Mediation at Work, PO Box 272, Bristol BS99 1RN. 0117 373 9192. Email email@example.com • mediationatwork.co.uk
• Gloucestershire Mediation Services, 27 Brunswick Square, Gloucester GL1 1UN. 01452 411843. Email firstname.lastname@example.org
First published issue 53 - summer 08
Disclaimer – details were correct at time of going to press, but may now have changed. Please make your own checks.
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