The times we are living in are challenging for many, and conflict can happen quite easily, but one Anne Arundel County organization is here to help, and only a phone call away. The Anne Arundel Conflict Resolution Center (AACRC) in Annapolis offers free assistance with all kinds of fights that arise.
“We are a nonprofit mediation center,” said AACRC community case manager Morgan Richards. “We provide professional facilitators who help navigate that conversation.”
AACRC helps resolve all kind of conflicts—arguments between neighbors, trouble between couples or family members and even strangers on the street. They even facilitate larger group mediation for businesses and organizations.
“We do it with anyone,” Richards said.
If you have an issue with someone you’d like to have mediated, you can call 410-266-9033. Or reach them through email at Programs@AACRC.Info .
The only conflicts that are excluded from mediation are those where there is a real danger of a physical altercation. According to their records, AACRC has probably helped mediate over 200 interpersonal conflicts in 2020 alone.
Services provided by the center are not counseling. Instead, two professional mediators will sit with the parties involved—either in-person or over Zoom—and help transform the language of the arguments into less hostile, more understandable, language, for the parties involved.
“We try to make sure they can actually be heard, so they can move toward resolution in a peaceful mindset,” Richards explained. “We never give judgment. We’re like a mirror. You have people on different pages and they don’t feel validated.”
The free mediation service can take from just a few sessions to over 20. Those arguing, work towards a written agreement that eventually they can sign, and put the conflict behind them. Specific issues of the disputes are identified, turned into topics, and then participants brainstorm ideas that can lead to a resolution.
Richards said the majority of times the process is effective in providing a peaceful resolution to the dispute.
The intake procedure for getting the conflict mediated is fairly simple. One of the fighting parties contacts the center and they explain their side of the story. Or they can go to the website and fill out a form. The AACRC acts as an intermediary that contact the other party in the conflict. After gathering the required information the first meetings are scheduled to get the process started.
The first two sessions usually revolve around going over the conflict with those affected and understanding the feelings and perspectives of each of the parties involved. The process goes from there.
The pandemic has disrupted our society and created plenty of opportunities for trouble, even in our location. But there has been a bright side for AACRC regarding society’s constructive response to the challenges of the pandemic. In one word—Zoom.
The center in Annapolis has been able to offer its services to those beyond the county border because they are able to mediate conflict through the Zoom video-conferencing platform. So far the AACRC has mediated pandemic conflicts through Zoom as far away as Canada and North Carolina, Richards said.
“Since it’s so flexible with Zoom, we can do mediation anywhere,” Richards said, “It’s kind of great.”
AACRC is funded through multiple donors and grants. It also relies heavily on volunteers, including those from AmeriCorps.. They are currently accepting new volunteer applications.
Richards defined some of the traits of a good mediator:
Is able to put their egos aside and meet the conflicting parties where they are emotionally
Someone who is good with expressing their feeling through facial expression, but not overly emotional
Someone who can be methodical, and has a good vocabulary of emotion-related words they can use to empathize with the parties involved
And they also have to be team players, as two mediators are involved in every sessions
Richards said the work was challenging but rewarding.
“It’s carrying the mental weight of everyone you work with,” she said. “It’s hard, but it’s worth it.”