Listening and finding common ground is part of the mediation process

Whether between neighbours or organizations trying to collaborate, conflict is to be expected at some point. Competing points of view can sometimes make finding common ground seem impossible. The Rat Creek Press, together with Alberta Avenue resident and mediator Deborah Fehr, will be hosting a conflict resolution workshop for any community member interested in becoming better at reconciling differences.

Mariam Masud, vice chair of the Rat Creek Press board, is organizing the workshop.

“In the past I worked in sustainable and community development, capacity building, and strategic planning. It’s good to be part of a community and be active and connected,” she says.

“Being part of the Rat Creek Press, it made sense to put on workshops to make the community stronger.” This is the first of a number of community workshops.

Deborah Fehr has lived in the neighbourhood for about a decade. She has a background in working with children, but she also has certificates for mediation and negotiation.

“Mediation is where you have a conflict between people who might not have the skills to talk it out themselves. So a mediator’s basic job is to help those two people or organizations listen to each other.”

Fehr uses a number of techniques to help people listen and to be heard, including using a talking circle inspired by Indigenous practices.

“When we usually have a conversation, I say something, you say something, and it goes back and forth. A lot of the time we’re thinking about what it is we’re going to say next. In a circle, the process is slowed down. It’s more about listening than speaking. A circle makes us all equal around the table.”

In Fehr’s experience, the problem as presented is rarely the real problem at the heart of the matter. What those real problems reflect are values. For example, when two neighbours are disputing where a fence should be built, the issue is not about the location of the fence, but what is important to each neighbour. It might be protecting some trees in the yard, or because the old fence is something someone built and is proud of. Once each person understands those reasons, they can start working on a compromise.

“There are going to be some people who are never going to back down, and you can’t solve everything. But you can resolve an awful lot by just stepping back and allowing people to be heard.”

Fehr says we need to learn to view conflict, not in terms of winners and losers, but of finding ways to meet people’s needs in a respectful way. Key to that, again, is learning to slow down and listen without being defensive.

“When you’re reactive, you want to jump on somebody, but your whole brain isn’t engaged when you’re angry or passionate about something. So the process allows a calming-down period, and you can get to the real thing that’s the issue, and you can have a conversation that is worthy of your time.”

Masud hopes to empower residents to be able to draw on conflict resolution skills to bring people together. “I think it leads to more resilience in the community. If we have a good way to address differences, over time, we grow stronger.”For more information on the topic of conflict resolution, as well as skills, events, and workshops, visit


Saturday, Nov. 9

10 a.m. to 12 p.m.

Spruce Avenue Hall (10240 115 Ave)

Space is limited. Free.

RCP memberships will be available for purchase.Register at

Featured Image: Conflict resolution can help people settle differences. | Pixabay