Preventing and Resolving Conflicts
If you have taken the time to develop a relationship with your neighbors that is built on trust and mutual respect and if you abide by Bellingham’s laws and ordinances, you will undoubtedly enjoy living off-campus, free from conflict and confrontation. However, we don’t live in a perfect world, and you may just find yourself in the midst of a conflict.
While you can’t always prevent conflict, you can learn how to effectively manage and resolve it to the mutual benefit of you and your neighbors. The following strategies can help you to greatly improve the likelihood that problems will be understood, solutions explored, and agreements negotiated within a relatively constructive and stress-free environment.
Clarify the Problem and Desired OutcomesWhat is the root of the problem? For example, is it that unsightly old couch on your porch or the argument that you and your roommate had at 2:00 am while sitting on it?
Take a Listening StanceWhen engaged in a conflict, we can have a tendency to get defensive immediately or think that others are unreasonable. The process of “active listening” is a tool that may help you understand where your neighbor is coming from, which can in turn help you to resolve the conflict. Being an active listener yourself can also facilitate having your ideas and feelings heard as well.
When listening to your neighbor, try taking an active stance by:
Build an Agreement that WorksIn the process of crafting a solution to your conflict, make sure you and your neighbor take the time to agree to uphold the agreement. Here are some questions to help build an agreement that works:
If you both still agree with the solution, you have successfully navigated the waters of conflict resolution. Congratulations! It’s often helpful to build into your agreement the opportunity to check back with each other to see how well the solution is working. For future reference and to avoid any misunderstanding, you might consider writing down your agreement. The patience, flexibility, and respect that you showed your neighbor during this process will have long-lasting positive impact on your ability to live peacefully in your off-campus neighborhood.
If the conflict continues and you’d like some help dealing with it, contact the Whatcom Dispute Resolution Center at www.whatcomdrc.org or 676-0122. The center offers free and low cost mediation services.