A very fascinating and well written exploration of the potentialities of the compassionate higher mind structured in an easy-to-follow and lucid style. It must be said, though, that one might have expected a less popularlistic approach from the Faculty of Divinity at Cambridge University, in that this book could ideally be included in every hotel room, every school and every place of work.
Solving any conflict in relationships can be challenging, and the processes outlined are a set of elevatory explanations and exercises that have to be modelled with a fair amount of self-application and open mindedness. Recent research is given as evidence that much of the material presented works particularly well in the field of inter-church relations - the background of the authors.
However for someone who does not have a practising faith or a strong sense of humanism, keeping true to one's self-realised world-view in holding to higher ideals of inclusivity might be more germane. Living in what can be confusingly described as a relativistic post-modern world of shifting 'truths', the major advantage this book seems to offer is the awareness to help overcome inherited biological weaknesses. At the heart of the matter is the recognition that when we see 'Code Red' we are governed primarily by the limbic system: snap judgements and instant reactions based on fight, flight, freeze and faint.
Part 1 mainly covers Peter Suedfeld's theory of IC or Integrative Complexity, which in a crude summing up is like a series of expanding levels, starting at an egocentric point of view and moving up and outwards to a higher universal awareness. Parallels can be drawn from the work of Clare Graves, Abraham Laslow, Ken Wilber, Lawrence Kohlberg and the increasingly well-worn route of the evolutionary triune brain. IC levels 1 to 3, for example, biologically relate to the attract-repel responses of the brain stem (egocentricity) as well as the mammalian-like social responses of chunking the world into us and them (ethnocentricity). The higher IC levels involve more of the grey matter of the neo-cortex and the subtleties of thought that break out of the binary oppositions, received notions and dehumanised generalisations.
To assist in climbing the ladder of conflict resolution there are a number of inner-game strategies which can be applied, from assessing another's conflict style and personality traits, to using techniques borrowed from counselling (mirror, validate, and empathise). The concepts of 'branching' into another persons world-view and eventually 'weaving' or synthesising both views together into a win-win situation seeks to underpin the whole system.
Part 2 explores more general topics. For example, one chapter is a pocket guide in how to recognise a 'difficult' customer, that is, someone who takes no responsibility for their negative doing in any situation whatsoever. Though impossible to put forward a complete treatise on the subject of personality disorders in the space available, the gist is enough to help the reader recognise that they are not alone when encountering obstructive people and this gives hope that a work-around solution can be reached, even if this means getting out now!
Attaining higher joint IC levels is where the true (some would say spiritual) power of negotiation resides and both parties have to be at least climbing the ladder to achieve a lasting compromise. By the time the conclusion is reached, the sober recognition of the practicalities of IC does little to dampen the ideal quest of conflict resolution in slowing down and priming emotional responses with understanding instead of reacting or attacking. Cannot recommend highly enough.