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Thursday, January 28, 2021

Talk it out at the Whatcom Dispute Resolution Center

By Sarah McCauley

Conflict can be an uncomfortable part of life.

But it doesn’t have to be, according to Addie Candib, community engagement manager for the Whatcom Dispute Resolution Center.

“Conflict is a normal, healthy part of everyday life,” Candib said.

Resolving, understanding and coming to terms with conflict is what the WDRC thrives on. The center offers multiple workshops, programs and services to help people find ways to resolve conflicts in their lives, according to the WDRC website.

These services are essentially divided into two categories: conflict prevention and conflict intervention, Candib said. The prevention side of what the center does involves educational opportunities for community members of all ages. For post-conflict interventions, the center provides conflict coaching and mediation.

According to Candib, when individuals are able to sit down and have their needs heard, it can be a very positive experience, even if an agreement isn’t reached at the end.

“Mediation is really at the heart of what we do and it’s part of why we were originally founded,” she said. “About 81 percent of our mediations reach an agreement, but our level of satisfaction with the process is closer to 95 percent.”

On their website, the WDRC describes their goal: to make Whatcom County a community in which people can approach conflict in creative and healthy ways.

The WDRC is working toward that goal through community outreach. Their most recent program was a training for residents to help neighbors become more comfortable with conflict, according to their website.

Candib said she helps to facilitate these trainings and that the outreach programs have been a positive experience for her as well, not just those receiving the services. She said about eight neighborhoods in Bellingham have applied for the trainings and four have already taken place.

Bellingham Mayor Kelli Linville meets regularly with selected representatives from each neighborhood, in what is known as the Mayor’s Neighborhood Advisory Commission, Linville said. She said she is a big supporter of the WDRC’s conflict resolution work within the Bellingham community.

These workshops bring neighbors together in more ways than through resolving conflict. They also create an opportunity to foster connections by attracting new community members to their local neighborhood association board meetings.

“Neighborhoods are always looking for ways to get their meetings better attended to provide something with value,” Linville said.

Linville said her latest work with the WDRC involved asking their recommendation for ways she can make sure all Bellingham residents feel safe approaching her with problems they may have. Since this can be difficult, Linville said she wanted to find a way to create a space where people in conflict can make sure they feel their voices are heard.

Linville said the mission of the WDRC is one she resonates with: that conflict is inherent in human interaction, but it can be dealt with.

Senior Rebecca Hargraves has been interning with the WDRC for almost a year now. She said she had never heard of the center before finding a posting that they were seeking volunteers or interns for their youth program.

Now, Hargraves said she regularly helps with facilitating workshops for children to help them learn how to handle conflict early in life. In her opinion, those skills are especially important for kids, but valuable for adults too.

“I’ll be helping teach stuff in an elementary school classroom, and I’ll go home and be using it with my friends, roommates, family,” she said.

When it comes to handling conflict in life, Candib has an easy yet profound recommendation: stay curious.

“I would say most important thing is just to stay curious about conflict,” she said.

Staying curious about how both you and the other person are interpreting the conflict you’re facing, Candib said, can really take you a long way toward solving the problem.


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