Families, communities, and nations are stronger when individuals know how to avoid and resolve conflicts. There are probably lots of books about this topic, but I am currently reading one that gets to the “heart” of the problem. In fact, it does say a lot about hearts.
The book is The Anatomy of Peace – resolving the heart of conflict, and its author is The Arbinger Institute. The Arbinger Institute is “the training and consulting company focused on the outward mindset and organizational transformation.” Last week I wrote about Mindset written by Carol S. Dweck, so I am interested in this organization that is working on “mindset.”
In the Preface to The Anatomy of Peace we are told that “company CEOs feel a greater need to improve their conflict management skills than skills of any other type” (p. vii). If company CEOs deal with a lot of conflict, we should consider how much conflict happens in families and other close relationships.
The Preface also reminds us about the confusion that comes because “the real action occurs where people are not looking” (p. vii). This is because “parties in conflict all wait on the same solution: they wait for the other party to change” (p. vii). Most of us think that we are right and refuse to consider that we may be at fault. As it is, “people in conflict value something else more highly than they value solutions” (p. vii).
We should ponder deeply those few statements. Company CEOs think that they need more help handling conflict than anything else in their company. Conflict brings much confusion because the “action” is happening off-screen. Most of us are not interested in finding solutions because we believe that we are in the right, which means the other person is wrong.
The book is written as a story about several sets of parents dealing with a wayward son or daughter. As a last result, they took their teenager or young adult to a camp somewhere in a desert where they will spend sixty days learning about life. Meanwhile, the parents are meeting together for several days, and they are basically told that they are a part of the reason why their child is wayward and need to make a fundamental change in their behavior.
One of the first things that they learn is that people with “hearts of war” are full of contention and an unwillingness to compromise. They criticize their spouse, try to fix their children, and correct employees. They drive people away from them because of their warring heart. An Influence Pyramid is introduced to them showing that the tip of the pyramid is labeled “Dealing with things that are going wrong,” and the other ninety percent of the pyramid is labeled “Helping things go right.” The pyramid shows that we should spend the biggest part of our time and effort helping things to go right. By doing so, we will have far fewer things to deal with that are going wrong.
We are all surrounded by people who do not always – maybe never – behave as we would like them to do. As an example – and as I have previously explained – most of my children do not agree with me politically because I am too conservative for them. Some of them lean conservative, while others lean liberal. We have agreed to disagree on politics because we value our relationship more than we want to argue about politics. This may seem silly, but we all have heard of family relationships and friendships that have been destroyed over differing political ideals.
The point of the book – or at least as far as I have read – is that we can each become an agent for change in our relationships. To do so, we must tweak our mindset to the point that we are willing to live our lives helping things to go right rather than looking for things that are going wrong. As a result of this tweak in our thinking, we will change our hearts of war into hearts of peace. Instead of being insulted or taking offense over something that someone has said or done, we can give them the benefit of the doubt and extend an olive branch of peace.
Everyone is stressed over something. COVID-19 has made life more difficult for some of us than for others, but we are all dealing with this thing called LIFE. Instead of being upset with the crying child in the grocery store and blaming the mother for whatever reason, we can offer a word of comfort and consolation to her. We can give her strength to deal with her child in a positive way because most of us have been in her place at some point in our lives. Instead of referring to the children on the street as juvenile delinquents, we should be grateful that they are friendly towards us. We can even apply this new thinking to other drivers on the highways.
In other words, we can put a positive spin on almost anything that happens in our lives. We can turn fixed mindsets into growth mindsets and hearts of war into hearts of peace. By doing so, we can strengthen our families, communities, and nations and make the world a more pleasant place for many people.