Living with others can be challenging even in the best of circumstances, but living with others while residing in a stressful environment — like a homeless shelter – can be doubly challenging. Melissa Connelly, a case manager from the Salvation Army Shelter in Chester, PA decided to deal with the issue head on: she called Tracy Hornig of the Center for Resolutions (“CFR”), to provide conflict resolution training for the residents.
Over the many years that this shelter has been in Chester, they have taken in hundreds of residents and offered them shelter, food, clothing and life-strategy services. These residents are from all walks of life, different cultures and backgrounds, and range in age from late teen to elderly.
CFR organized a 2-hour communication and conflict resolution workshop, in which approximately twenty of the residents participated. During the workshop, the participants engaged in such varied activities as: understanding conflict, effective listening, communicating using I-statements, and finding commonalities.
Participants were challenged with trying new techniques for effective listening and communication. They learned ways to present themselves in a non-threatening manner by communicating their feelings rather than by immediately communicating blame. They learned that through effective communication, problems can easily be solved and new friendships can grow within their close-quartered community.
Participants found the workshop eye-opening. After the activity involving commonalities versus differences, one resident commented, “This was a new experience for me. I don’t feel so all alone after talking with others and realizing some of them are dealing with the same issues as me.” And after an effective listening exercise, another resident exclaimed, “I never looked at it that way!” Two other residents were pleasantly surprised when they were arbitrarily paired for an activity and realized they had lived on the same floor for two years and had never spoken to one another. During the workshop they actually struck up a pleasant conversation- possibly the beginning of many future conversations.
By the end of the workshop, many of the residents were conversing openly and looked like a small weight had been lifted from their shoulders. In two short hours, participants lowered their guard enough to engage in meaningful conversation, listen to one another without judgment, and approach conflict from a place of concern, not blame. Center for Resolutions strives to promote non-violent means of conflict resolutions with workshops, trainings, their community mediation program, and Youth Aid Panels.