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Dignity: The Essential Role It Plays in Resolving Conflict in Our Lives and Relationships [Hardcover]

Donna Hicks , Emeritus Desmond Tutu
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Book Description

2 Sep 2011
The desire for dignity is universal and powerful. It is a motivating force behind all human interaction - in families, in communities, in the business world and in relationships at the international level. When dignity is violated, the response is likely to involve aggression, even violence, hatred and vengeance. On the other hand, when people treat one another with dignity, they become more connected and are able to create more meaningful relationships. Surprisingly, most people have little understanding of dignity, observes Donna Hicks in this important book. She examines the reasons for this gap and offers a new set of strategies for becoming aware of dignity's vital role in our lives and learning to put dignity into practice in everyday life. Drawing on her extensive experience in international conflict resolution and on insights from evolutionary biology, psychology, and neuroscience, the author explains what the elements of dignity are, how to recognize dignity violations, how to respond when we are not treated with dignity, how dignity can restore a broken relationship, why leaders must understand the concept of dignity, and more. Hicks shows that by choosing dignity as a way of life, we open the way to greater peace within ourselves and to a safer and more humane world for all.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (2 Sep 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300163924
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300163926
  • Product Dimensions: 21.1 x 14.7 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 479,717 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


Shortlisted for the 2011 Zocalo Public Square Book Prize, as given by Zocalo Public Square--Z calo Public Square Book Prize Shortlist "Z calo Public Square ""

About the Author

Donna Hicks is an Associate, Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, Harvard University. During nearly two decades in the field of international conflict resolution, she has facilitated dialogue between communities in conflict all over the world and has worked as a consultant to corporations and organizations, applying the dignity model.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Compulsory reading for all 10 July 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book is unpretentious, user friendly and clear in the lessons it teaches. It has truly changed my life for the better. Should be compulsory reading for everyone as we live in the world, particularly for anyone with children.
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By A. Atar
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Her clarity and subtlity of relating the concept of dignity and conflict resolution gives us deeper understanding of how to manage or, if we lucky resolve, the conflict. The extremely good examples of conflicts around the world have given us some insight to what is involved when attempting resolution. Also her incredible good description of the group dynamics when during those sessions of conflict resolutions.....Ala Atar
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4.0 out of 5 stars thoughtful analysis for conflict resolution 27 April 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is for all those who want to know the most important element in resolving conflict written by an academic with hands-on experience
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Down to the basics 5 May 2013
By Abuliam
Donna Hicks' s book reminds us that which we should not be reminded; that recognising our inherent dignity is the cornerstone of healthy relationships. It is a must read for anyone involved in work with people. Or maybe just a handbook for life.
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Amazon.com: 4.9 out of 5 stars  37 reviews
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing, insightful, and relevant book! 17 Aug 2011
By Debi C. - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Just finished this wonderful book! As an elementary school administrator, I feel this book could also be describing an essential leadership model and guideline for social living in general. The need to acknowledge the crucial role dignity plays in all aspects of our lives and interactions transends all subcategories. The dignity model should not only be viewed as a model for resolving conflicts. In my job I see it as an approach to being a more effective instructional leader. I can see my teachers using it as an approach to creating more effective relationships with their students as well as the parents of their students. Regardless of your profession, experiences, or goals, the dignity model can guide you in your efforts to make the very most of your relationships with others. I'm very excited about this work and its potential impact on so many!
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An amazing teacher, inspiring and helpful 5 Dec 2011
By Doris Sater - Published on Amazon.com
I read this book with great interest and have been on a steep learning curve to gather its information throughly into my outlook. Donna Hicks is a great teacher. When the connection is made with her, a wonderful sense of well being accompanies the learning process as the reader takes in the elements of her dignity model. When she writes about dignity, Donna Hicks puts her heart and soul into it, and we are are treated with great dignity as she develops the thought and the language of dignity. In her exploration, she discusses the relationship between evolutionary forces and conflict. She researches and teaches the role dignity plays in healing and reconciling. She writes about what is really going on in a conflict, and in clear explanation she shows us that if indignity can tear us apart, then dignity can put us back together again. She encourages us to make the practice of dignity a way of life, and she provides a useful guide to anyone wishing to improve the quality of his or her life and relationships.

In his introduction of her book, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu provides a key to enable us to know the extent of her work, moving from creating peace in our lives with the practice of dignity to creating peace on earth through dignity. He has experienced her insights and abilities as they, together in Ireland, facilitated meetings of warring parties. The dignity model in use allowed a poignant moment, a miracle, as the parties resolved to reconcile with dignity. She holds his highest praise. It is comforting to know that Donna works in unofficial (stated) diplomatic approaches in conflict resolution among our world leaders.
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Book Every Leader Should Read 10 Dec 2011
By clubresources - Published on Amazon.com
A little personal history:

In 1988 I took on the challenge of reinvigorating an historic university-owned hotel in the grip of a downward economic spiral. The deteriorating physical condition of the property was an issue which could be fixed with time, attention, and money. The larger problem was the need to improve the efforts of a demoralized staff.

Among my initiatives to address the hotel's issues, I drafted a one page statement of standards - The Principles of Employee Relations - to guide the management staff in their treatment of employees. The first principle I wrote was, "All employees will be treated with dignity and respect." Though the word "dignity" came easily to mind, I had no true idea of its import and its critical role in human relations - that is, until now.

Donna Hicks and a deeper understanding:

Donna Hicks has given us a beautifully written and profoundly important book. Her nearly two decades of work in international conflict resolution as an Associate at Harvard University's Weatherford Center for International Affairs has provided her with a unique perspective on the dynamics of conflict.

Dr. Hicks has worked with such luminaries as Nobel Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu and Harvard Professor Herbert Kelman on some of the world's most intractable conflicts, the Palestinian Question, the Troubles of Northern Ireland, and the civil war in Sri Lanka. Based on her extensive research, she has formulated a unique and keenly insightful New Model of Dignity which allows us to explore the essential role of personal dignity in human relations. Her premise is that when a person's dignity is violated, as it so often is in various personal and public settings, deep-seated resentments then lead to conflicts seemingly beyond resolution.

According to the author, "When we are treated badly, we get angry, feel humiliated, and want to get even - often without being aware of the extent to which these primal reactions are driving our behavior." Despite the impressive intellectual achievements of our species, our psyches are quite fragile and easily damaged by both real and perceived slights.

But, as Dr. Hicks says, "We do not deliberately hurt each other just for the fun of it. We are often unaware of the ways we routinely and subtly violate each other's dignity." To overcome this universal behavioral failing we must do three things:
1. Become aware of the problem,
2. Learn that there are ways to handle the problem, and
3. Make the changes necessary to honor individual human dignity.

"If we continue to ignore the truth and consequences of [dignity] violations," says Hicks, "we will remain in an arrested state of emotional development." This simple, yet far-reaching truth can cripple the progress of relationships at every level of human affairs.

The book's structure:

In the book's introduction, the author explains The New Model of Dignity and the theoretical research supporting her conclusions.

She then lays out the Ten Essential Elements of Dignity and in successive chapters discusses each element with examples from her conflict-resolution experience.

To further illuminate the dignity model, Dr. Hicks also posits the Ten Temptations to Violate Dignity, and provides anecdotal support, powerfully moving in emotional content, to reveal how people come to grips with assaults on their dignity and how they struggle to find resolution.

The final section of the book entitled, How to Heal Relationships with Dignity, is a potent testament to the healing power of identifying dignity violations, acknowledging vulnerability, and making a genuine commitment to honor the dignity of others.

Why is this important to business leaders?

Beyond the moral issues of honoring each person's dignity - their basic human worth - there are important practical implications for the recognition of dignity in the business arena.

No business can operate efficiently or provide high levels of service to its customers without the willing commitment of its employees. But the leadership challenges of achieving this commitment are significant. As Roger Enrico, former Chairman and CEO of Pepsico said, "The soft stuff is always harder than the hard stuff."

So what are we talking about when we speak of the soft stuff? In short, it's the "people skills" - those aptitudes, abilities, and relationship skills employed to assure the significance of each employee's contribution. It is the exercise of leadership involving the highly nuanced interactions within a diverse workforce that results in motivation, high levels of morale, enthusiasm, focus, commitment, organizational cohesiveness, and group success.

Given the essential role that a person's dignity and sense of self-worth plays in an employee's contribution to any enterprise, leaders must become aware of the Ten Essential Elements of Dignity and the Ten Temptations to Violate Dignity. Finally, leaders at all levels of an organization must work to change their subtle and unintentional affronts to the dignity of others.

Bottom line - Because people matter, it pays to treat them well by honoring their inherent dignity, but leaders have to know how!


This is an important book with broad implications beyond conflict resolution. It should be read and studied by any leader who cares about followers and who wants to elicit his or her employees' highest level of commitment and contribution.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An educational model 4 Dec 2011
By S. Truesdell - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition
If preservice and current educators, along with school system administrators were to read this powerful and important book, supporting students and families who have been profoundly impacted as a result of dignity violations might be possible. Providing this critical information to families in an effort to understand the root cause of their personal challenges would create an empowering and healing partnership between the schoolhouse and home. As an administrator in the public school system, I plan to offer Dr. Hicks' dignity model to my school community with the hope of educating, supporting, and healing the wounds suffered through violations of dignity.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential 4 Oct 2011
By Ronald D. Culmer - Published on Amazon.com
I've spent time with Donna Hicks, with the hope of learning the art of dignity from her. She is a master teacher whose book delves into the very deep ends of the soul. The information found in her book is mission critical for a world that consistently tries to blow itself apart! But let the reader beware, this is difficult stuff! Her work will challenge you and if you are willing, change you.
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