It is safe to say most of the world is eager to say goodbye to 2020! Although 2021 brings much uncertainty, we look forward to a new year beginning.
Much has happened and continues to happen across this country and the world, and we are eager to put 2020 behind us. While the media seems to highlight the negativity of 2020, we can benefit from recalling the positives: People coming together to feed their communities, swiftly adapting learning platforms, expanding Wi-Fi access in parking lots, learning to use new technology, a resounding call for social justice, supporting local and small businesses and finally, the return of toilet paper and disinfecting wipes.
Even this election season, as contentious as it may have been, conveyed a unified message of encouraging and supporting voter engagement. As I participated in early voting in Carroll County, I was amazed not only at long lines of people willing to wait an hour and a half, but I was amazed by the community spirit. Wearing masks and social distancing, community members, family, and friends, enjoyed the opportunity to vote together.
As we head into the holidays, family gatherings and community celebrations will likely look very different. An abundance of controversial and challenging conversations are ahead of us, and whether they happen in person, on the phone, or online, we need to focus on listening to understand one another, without judgment.
In uncomfortable discussions our brains go to fight, flight, or freeze. Very likely we start to focus on how we can rebut what we are hearing, how we can we get out of this conversation, or how can this person be saying what they are saying? The real work is listening to understand someone we disagree with. It is easy to decide we have nothing in common, or we just don’t see things the same way and leave it at that.
This year, instead of counter-arguing or trying to change someone’s opinion, we should try listening to understand and ask questions. What experiences has this person had to lead them to believe what they do? What is important to this person about this issue? Too often, we focus on the things that divide us. In 2021, let us focus on the things we have in common: A desire to return to some form of normalcy, the ability to safely gather with friends and family, and the desire to be heard and understood.
The Carroll County Community Mediation Center, which operates under the auspices of Carroll Community College, is a valuable and easily accessible resource during this time. The Mediation Center offers conflict management coaching, mediation and facilitation services at no charge to the Carroll County community.
Services are offered online and in person seven days a week between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. to support people in conflict and having challenging or difficult conversations. For services or more information call the Mediation Center at 410-848-1764 or email CCCMC@Carrollcc.edu or visit our website at www.carrollcc.edu/mediate.
Patricia Ryan is the director of the Carroll County Community Mediation Center.
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