Becoming Better with Conflict
With the Conflict Resolution Center of Montgomery County
From politics to food to the workplace, conflict is part of almost every area of our lives, including the internal relationship we have with ourselves. Though conflict management is a foundational skill, it isn’t often taught or even made largely accessible to people. The cost of mediation, for example, especially through court or private mediators, is a common cause of hesitation. The Conflict Resolution Center of Montgomery County (CRCMC) is working to change that.
“We offer free mediation services, which makes it a lot easier for people to access,” Eral Diaz, Outreach Coordinator at CRCMC, told the Catalogue. CRCMC also provides bilingual assistance and mediation translators and interpreters. And because not every case requires mediation, they provide conflict coaching to help people learn about interpersonal conflict management skills as well.
“Being accessible to anybody in our community is a great thing,” Diaz elaborated. “We also love having such a diverse community with so many different people, and hopefully (our services) make their day just a little bit better.”
CRCMC was originally founded in 2001 after a group of Montgomery County citizens came together to help their neighbors — and each other — talk through community disputes without needing to fight or go to court. For more than twenty years, they’ve provided Montgomery County residents with free mediation services for a wide range of interpersonal conflicts, including familial, school, and workplace settings. In addition, CRCMC also holds conflict management workshops, youth programs to ensure that schools incorporate conflict resolution as a life-long competence, and group facilitation sessions.
So, what does conflict resolution and mediation actually look like? For CRCMC, mediation is a neutral process in which they guide members of the community through their communications to solve a conflict, with all parties hopefully coming to a final agreement. “Members of the community inform us of the conflicts they’re going through, then we let them know how the process works,” Diaz shared. “Being neutral is a very important factor — we always let anyone who wants to use our services know that we’re not here to represent or go against them.” After deciding if the situation calls for mediation, CRCMC will contact all involved parties and schedule mediators to meet with them in as many sessions as needed.
In addition to resolving disputes, the goal of mediation is also to rebuild relationships and empower people to resolve future conflicts. Take Parenting Plan Mediation, a recent program they’re offering that’s particularly focused on parental conflicts. Many conflicts between parents involve legally binding situations, but CRCMC’s processes don’t tend to be legally abiding. However, Diaz explained, mediation “opens up a private space for parents to create collaborative relationships and sustainable decisions while keeping the focus on the child’s best interests.” Going to court is stressful. Sometimes, it’s unavoidable. Learning to co-parent in a positive environment will always be a great resource for all parents.
Similarly, while dealing with emotions and how people communicate can be complex, interpersonal conflict management is a skill that can only help strengthen communities peace by peace.
If you’re interested in learning more, CRCMC has produced a series of Conversations on Conflict that cover a wide variety of topics. You can also sign up to volunteer with them, request their services, and/or donate to support their work.