In my last article, I wrote about the first step to skillful conflict resolution being awareness. You watch how you unfold in the world in response to conflict situations. Through the act of observation, you then disrupt your stimulus-response “programs.” Your programs are the dominant conflict resolution style that you have adopted during your early years even though you are not aware that it is a program. Notably, it lacks strategy, and largely underserves both you and the greater collective good of humanity.   

Research tells us that children are the most susceptible to downloading programs including programs in relation to conflict resolution because their brains display the lowest electrical activity. Their brain waves being delta and theta waves are the same brain waves that are displayed during focused meditation and prayer and their dominance has been linked to a state of “increased suggestibility.”

As children, we watch cartoons that pit good guys against bad guys. We watch our leaders respond to conflict by starting wars. We watch politicians blame opposition parties for the problems we face. We watch protestors engage in angry, violent protests. We watch our parents resolve conflict unskillfully and ineptly. Aggression or passivity are all that we are ever taught. We adopt a conflict resolution program based on division and an “us” versus “them” paradigm that, in reality, is misguided, largely underserves our biological imperative, that is our very survival as the human race and keeps us from realizing our full potential as humans.  

Central to our conflict resolution behavior is our relationship to power. That is, at the same time as never being asked to pay attention to how we behave in conflict situations, we have also never been asked to observe our relationship to power. I define power as a sub-conversation because it is not directly observable. What is observable is the expression of power, which I call a power behavior. Assertive self-expression is a display of power and it is one of what I call “high leverage” behaviors of effective conflict resolution. Understanding power is at the heart of increasing personal and interpersonal effectiveness.

Central to what I call the inner dimensions of power (as opposed to worldly or outer dimensions of power) is optimism. Optimism is the ability to choose “hope” despite the conditions in which you find yourself. To Victor Frankl, the prominent psychiatrist who survived the atrocious camp conditions during World War II, it made the difference between those who survived the egregious camp conditions and those who didn’t. Optimism is connected to resilience. You don’t deny the situation in which you find yourself, but you choose to have hope and rise above it notwithstanding the conditions.

Just like the 80/20 pareto principle, there are a handful of “high leverage” conflict resolution behaviors that produce the maximum effect. Maximum effect is measured by whether two people engaged in a conflict situation get their needs met, without leaving any value on the table in terms of how they could have solved a problem, while maintaining balance and well-being. This is never done without sufficient power. You require sufficient power both to display and invite the type of high leverage behaviors that leads to effective conflict resolution.

In scientific terms, the power of optimism is the power of mind over matter. Studies suggest that “suggestion” plays a role in the display of physical symptoms. The burgeoning field of psychoneuroimmunology has evolved from this work. That is, the mind controls the brain, which in turn, controls the immune system.

In this era of extreme hyper vigilance about health as a result of the coronavirus, remain increasingly aware of your own susceptibility to suggestion in order to maintain a strong immune system, which is needed for fighting the virus. Remain optimistic and resilient.

This inner power of optimism coupled with many other sources of inner power can always tip the power equation to your side even where worldly or outer dimensions of power favor the other side in a conflict dynamic.