The Anatomy of Peace: Resolving the Heart of Conflict
The Arbinger Institute
Berrett-Koeler Publishers, Inc., San Francisco, 2006
Lou and Carol have just dropped off their son at a wilderness retreat for troubled youth. After watching a few other couples drop off their own delinquent teens, Lou and Carol grudgingly walk inside for a mandatory two-day seminar for parents. The seminar leader, Avi, asserts that the parents, not the children, are of primary concern in changing their children’s delinquent behavior.
“And why are we your primary concern?” Lou asked pointedly.
“Because you don’t think you should be,” Avi answered.
Lou laughed politely. “That’s a bit circular, isn’t it?” The others in the group, like spectators at a tennis match, looked back at Avi, anticipating his reply.
Avi smiled and looked down at the ground for a moment, thinking. “Tell us about Cory, Lou,” he said finally. “What’s he like?”
“He is a boy with great talent who is wasting his life,” Lou answered matter-of-factly.
“But he’s a wonderful boy,” Carol interjected, glancing warily at Lou. “He’s made some mistakes, but he’s basically a good kid.”
“Good kid’?” Lou scoffed, losing his air of nonchalance. He’s a felon for heaven’s sake – twice over! Sure he has the ability to be good, but mere potential doesn’t make him good. We wouldn’t be here if he was such a good kid….” (p. 12)
“So Lou,” Avi said, “Cory is a problem. That’s what you’re saying.”
“He needs to be fixed in some way – changed, motivated, disciplined, corrected.”
“Absolutely.” (p. 13)
The seminar leaders promise that by the end of the next day, they will have presented a detailed strategy for helping others to change. How do these seminar leaders keep their promise? The rest of the book finishes the fictional story of what happens to Lou, Carol, Avi, and others during those following two days.
The principles they learn can be broadly applied: Is there someone in your life who you wish would change? A spouse, a parent, a child, a colleague, or a neighbor? Do you wish any of these people would change the way they treat you? Do you think there are any religious or ethnic groups that should act differently than they currently do? Do we belong to a country that wishes any other countries would change?
Perhaps we, like Lou, have actively tried to change/lead the people that need changing. Or perhaps we, like Carol, have given up trying to change anyone, resigning ourselves to live with the conflict and troubles that others inevitably bring into our lives. The authors of this book assert that both positions will only result in perpetuating or even aggravating contention. A better way, they propose, is to understand how peace can actually be created.
The presenters tell story after story to teach their method of creating peace. Applications range from the domestic to business to international relations. A fascinating number of problems become indistinguishable when exposed at their most basic level: fear of public speaking, abuse, eating disorders, marriage problems (including apathy), wayward teens, wayward parenting, loneliness, racism, world wars.
The writing style of this fictional story would be considered poor if its purpose were to entertain; however, the story is obviously didactic. The writing serves this purpose well. The unambiguous stories teach in a clearer, more memorable way than any lecture could, no matter how well-organized or concise the lecture.
The ideas in this book are presented in a secular way. There is no discussion of religion or spirituality as a way to solve problems or create peace.
This book follows the Arbinger’s successful publication of Leadership and Self-Deception in 2000. The Arbinger Institute’s website (www.arbinger.com) lists Jim Ferrell, Duane Boyce, Paul Smith and Terry Warner as the international leaders of the Institute. Based on their individual publications within the LDS market, I’m assuming that Ferrell, Boyce and Warner are all active LDS. I didn’t find as much immediate information on Paul Smith, except that he works with the Anasazi Foundation in Mesa, Arizona.
Warner’s writing, in particular, has profoundly influenced me in the past. I am glad to have read this new book, for the refresher course on concepts that I’ve already tried to internalize. I highly recommend this book to anyone who has yet to discover either Warner’s or Arbinger’s ideas.
I’ll end this review with the top blurb found on the back cover of my copy of Anatomy of Peace:
“The Anatomy of Peace is a brilliantly written, stimulating read with a rare clarity that awakens reflection and compels action. I recommend it without hesitation to anyone interested in finding solutions to conflicts ranging from the personal to the global.” (Gilead Sher, former Chief of Staff of the Prime Minister of Israel and chief negotiator with the Palestinians)