During Pre-Service Training, Volunteer Maryland Coordinators learn how to manage the transition into their new role and how to begin working with new or well-developed volunteer programs. They learn the basics of volunteer management and the important reality that not everyone in their organization may be thrilled about the changes they are instituting. A month into their service year, many VMCs have already started recruiting and training volunteers and some may have come up against opposition, whether from a long time volunteer who does not like the idea of change or from a staff member who has different ways of doing things. Conflicts like these are inevitable in human relationships because everyone has unique thoughts, ideas, and methods that do not always mesh with those of their co-workers or supervisors. The key to successfully surviving these workplace conflicts is knowing how to handle them.
Knowing how stressful it can be to deal with workplace conflict when you are new to an organization, we brought Erricka Bridgeford of Community Mediation Maryland to VM23’s first in-service training (this past Wednesday, November 3) to talk about conflict resolution. Erricka talked about strategic listening and shared insights from her experience as a community mediator on the best ways to deal with conflict. Listening is key to conflict resolution. Think about the last time you were in a conflict. When the other side was talking, did you spend that time thinking about how you would respond or did you stop your thoughts to hear what they were actually saying? Did you consider the emotions that person was actually expressing or did you respond to the emotions that you would have felt if you were them? Did you focus on the topic of the conflict or did you respond in a way that placed blame? Did you address the values of the other party, the things that are important to them that may have brought about this conflict in the first place? You may not know the answers to these questions; after all, it is difficult to think rationally in the midst of a conflict and to consider the viewpoint of the other party; however, if you can consider these questions now and think about how you may address them in future conflicts, it will help you to resolve conflicts more easily in the future.
What if you come across a conflict that you just can’t resolve yourself? There are 18 mediation centers in the state of Maryland that provide free mediation services! Interested in learning more about how to become a community mediator? Check out CMM’s website for more details!