I first encountered the term “Right Relations” in a UU context at the General Assembly in Louisville in May 2015. A Right Relations Team was available to assist participants who took offense at comments made in presentations or if heated discussions seemed to be headed toward damaging conflicts.
I appreciated the recognition that—even amongst groups of “like-minded” individuals—we can find ourselves in opposition and so may need help working out differences in mutually acceptable ways. I felt gratified to be part of an organization that not only aspires to living according to certain values but also offers support for doing so.
Here at UUCBG, our Board established a policy about Conflict Resolution in March 2015 and two months later appointed Frank Snyder, Eileen Arnold, and myself to a conflict resolution team. The team was created primarily in preparation for addressing situations that have evolved into intense conflict requiring formal mediation or adjudication.
But it’s better to address issues before they become serious, and so this past February, I was pleased our congregation voted to adopt a Covenant of Right Relations. Soon after, the team decided to take the title and role of Right Relations Facilitators, and John Downing has since become a Facilitator, too. I know I am not alone in recognizing that, as sincere as our intentions may be, keeping our covenant with each other will prove challenging for all of us.
As facilitators, we hope to offer support to our church community members in building skills for working through disagreements. We will look to find ways to avoid an escalation into conflict that could be more challenging to address and could disturb our community.
As Right Relations Facilitators, we are available for consultations to offer empathy and provide guidance on resolving situations that have triggered feelings and created uncomfortable tensions with other members. We are willing to listen as you identify your feelings and clarify your needs so you can choose a strategy to pursue in moving forward. We might offer a practice role play or suggest that one of us facilitate a difficult conversation with another member. We hope you will accept this offer of support for stretching your capacity to deal constructively with disagreement and conflict.
The attitudes and practices laid out in our Covenant of Right Relations can be understood as both guides to how we behave and indicators of where a habitual response or the choice of strategy is failing to invite the understanding and collaboration we are seeking to establish with one another.
In upcoming newsletters, you will find discussions of the significance of particular pieces of our Covenant of Right Relations that contribute to us being the community we aspire to be.