This week, I´m focusing on a new book called The Anatomy of Peace: Resolving the Heart of Conflict in which lead authors Jim Ferrell and Duane Boyce of The Arbinger Institute examine the ways that people deny a truthfulness that can help them pinpoint the origins of conflict. If you´ve ever experienced conflict in the workplace (who hasn´t?) or in your personal life, then you´re likely to learn something from the principles set forth in the book. Here´s part one of an interview with the authors:
Q: Your book is titled The Anatomy of Peace. What is the central point of the book?
A: We normally think that peace is a function of how others treat us. The truth is peace is a function of how we treat others.
Here´s why: Whenever we mistreat others we begin to see them in a way that justifies our mistreatment of them. We exaggerate their faults, we see them as less than they are, we see them as deserving whatever we have done to them. To see people in this way is to be blaming. It is to be accusing and defensive. It is to have what we call in the book "a heart at war."
When we don´t mistreat others, on the other hand-when we simply honor them in our interactions with them-we have no need to justify ourselves. We have no need to exaggerate their faults or to see them as deserving whatever we have done. We have no need to blame or to be defensive. Free of such blame and defensiveness, we have what we call in the book "a heart at peace."
As you follow the characters in our book, this is what you see over and over: people discovering that the key to peace is different from what they have always thought it was.
Q: You mention "the characters" in your book. The book is written in fiction/story form. Why is that?
A: Over many years of working with organizations and with other groups of all kinds, we have discovered that people learn best from stories. A good story gives us all a chance to see ourselves in others, to relate our lives to theirs´, to discover what the characters discover-while they are discovering it! We think this is the most powerful way to share important and life-changing ideas. It also doesn´t hurt that a good story is interesting and memorable-all the better for remembering the ideas that the story illustrates.
Q: You close your chapter titled "Beneath Behavior" with the following: "If we have deep problems, it´s because we are failing at the deepest part of the solution. And when we fail at this deepest level, we invite our own failure." What do you mean here?
The first thing that the characters in our book discover is that there is something in us that is deeper than our outward behavior. It is our deepest attitude toward others, or what we call our "way of being." Now there are two fundamental ways of being we can have: one in which we see others as people, and one in which we see others as mere objects. What the characters discover is that any outward behavior can be done from either way of being. Suppose, for example, that I compliment a coworker because I´m trying to manipulate him-I´m trying to get something in return. Is that the same as complimenting him because I´m simply grateful for his contribution? No! But notice that I´m giving a compliment in both cases. This means that my outward behavior-in this case, giving a compliment-matters less than my way of being in doing it. Any behavior, no matter how outwardly acceptable, will be infected if the attitude beneath it is wrong.
So if you take a character like Lou in our book, one of the first things he learns is this: If I have deep problems it is because I am failing at this deep level: not in my outward behavior necessarily, but in my way of being. I am seeing others as objects and, to one degree or another, am "at war" with them. Now how does this invite my own failure? By inviting others to see and treat me the same way. They now see me as an object, and are at war with me. This is the story of conflict, and it´s a sad one.
Next time: part two