Sunday, February 28, 2010

Do Fences Really Make Good Neighbors?

Ever wished you had another way of communicating with your neighbor about their unwanted pet traffic on your property besides glaring at each other from over the fence? Ever had a roommate, landlord or tenant that you just couldn’t communicate with in a civil manner? If you’ve ever wished for a better way to handle conflict situations, I’m here to help. Recently I attended a volunteer training for community mediation with Resolutions Northwest. It opened my eyes to a whole realm of possibility – solving conflicts by talking them out and learning how to communicate better in the process.

But you don’t have to be trained to enjoy the benefits of mediation. A group located in the nearby Hollywood district, called Resolutions Northwest (RNW), might be your answer to enjoying the benefits of mediation.

According to their website, “Resolutions Northwest’s Neighborhood Mediation Program provides neighbors and families in Portland with a confidential and compassionate process for resolving conflicts in a positive and personal way” ( Our society has a strong tendency towards settling disputes through lawsuits, and sometimes that’s our only option, but I would urge anyone dealing with a situation of conflict to consider this fact. Although 100% of court cases see resolution (a ruling one way or another), a low percentage of those involved are actually satisfied with the process, even those that had the ruling go in their favor. And while mediation doesn’t guarantee resolution of the issue (there is no judge or jury making a ruling), around 95% of people who go through mediation are satisfied with the process. What’s the difference? With mediation, the two parties sit down (yes, that’s the hard part, ending up in the same room), and with the help of a neutral, third-party mediator, they talk things out. Novel, isn’t it? Well, perhaps not, but it certainly seemed like it to me, as a volunteer mediator-in-training. I think the best word to describe it is, inspiring.

Sandy Bacharach, Spanish Language Mediation Specialist for RNW and Sabin resident has this to say, “At Resolutions Northwest, we know that community members are capable of solving your own disputes, with guidance and support from us! Our goal is to get people talking, even when it’s hard. Mediation has helped me personally in my own life- with my own neighbors – and (I hope) it’s made me a better Sabin resident!”

I challenge you, if you think you have a conflict with a friend, neighbor or housemate that won’t ever be resolved, think again; and give mediation a try!

Resolutions Northwest:
Phone: 503-595-4890
Address: 1827 NE 44th Ave, Suite 300

Even if you (or your neighbor) “se habla espanol” – they can help. Oh, and another great feature about this service, it’s free!

-Naomi Lambertson
Sabin Resident and Volunteer Mediator-in-Training

1 comment:

opinion essay said...

So says Robert Frost in his famous poem, mending wall. I wonder if it's true. I wonder if my neighbor builds a fence. Or wall. It's really hard to tell what a person thinks. After 9 years of my life back to back, we really can not figure it out. We all know that when we were both in yards or passing cars, he carefully puts his head down to avoid eye contact, and so since we moved in.