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Coachella: The Exchange - Strategies for Managing Conflict in the Community

posted May 18, 2012, 6:27 PM by Julio Zaldivar   [ updated May 26, 2012, 2:57 PM by Julio Zaldivar ]
"Build Bridges, not Walls".  That was the caption projected with the first slide shown at a 2-day conflict resolution training I attended in Coachella.  Through funding from the California Endowment (TCE), the National Conflict Resolution Center (NCRC) offered this unique training specifically to individuals and organizations participating in the Building Healthy Communities-Eastern Coachella Valley.  About 50 people representing various interest groups such as Inland Congregations United for Change, Californian Rural Legal Assistance, Riverside County Department of Public Health, Raices, Lideres Campesinas and many others were in attendance.

The dynamic presentations, hands-on workshops and lively discussions were designed to understand effective conflict resolution strategies such as listening attentively, responding respectfully and asking questions.  Listening involves not only hearing words, but also using eye contact; providing an undivided attention and genuinely listening with an open mind.  Responding respectfully requires demonstrating understanding by recapping the speaker's main concerns, acknowledging impact by reflecting on feelings and by identifying interests and needs.  Asking questions helps to get more information about the situation, to clarify points and to encourage the other person to express. 
Conflict resolution requires effective communication skills that go beyond speaking abilities.  "It is not what you say, it is how you say it what matters" This quote can better be defined by considering words, body language and tone of voice.  Moreover, effective conflict resolution entails respect for the issue, respect for the person and respect for the process.

We also learned a technique to mediate between two parties by holding individual meetings prior to discussing the issue at a joint meeting.  This strategy allows the mediator to gather enough information with the intention of building a common bridge that is grounded on understanding, positive thinking and respect.
I believe that this training has provided me with an invaluable tool that I can use not only in a professional setting, but also at home.  The presenters were truly experts in this field and had a really great sense of humor.  I would highly recommend this training to anyone looking to build bridges and not walls.

Miguel Vazquez, RCDPH

For pictures click here