Monday, September 26, 2011

Donna Hicks's "Dignity: The Essential Role it Plays in Resolving Conflict"

Donna Hicks is an Associate at the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard University. She also works as a consultant to corporations and organizations, applying her dignity model to everyday business and relational situations.

She applied “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Dignity: The Essential Role It Plays in Resolving Conflict in Our Lives and Relationships, and reported the following:
Page 99 of my book, Dignity, represents one of the central messages in the book: Don’t take the bait: Don’t let the undignified behavior of others determine your own. Here is a direct quote:
The temptation to respond to a threat with a threat, to take the bait, as it were, may be an illustration of the downside of mirror neurons. Earlier in the book I described the discovery of these special cells in our brain that enable us to feel what another person is feeling. These neurons help us read the emotional experience of others. When someone else is feeling sad, these neurons automatically stimulate the same neurons in us, making us feel sad, too. It is a wonderful gift when these neurons enable us to feel compassion, to connect us with others in primal empathy. But the neurons also have the power to incite in ourselves the anger, hatred, and negativity that someone else is feeling.
The natural reaction to want to lash back and defend oneself when someone had done us wrong is part of our self-preservation instincts. They propel us into action without having to think about it. The problem is, returning an indignity with another indignity makes us perpetrators. So much violence is committed when we feel we are righteously justified in returning the harm. What we don’t see at the time, because our fight instincts have taken over, is how undignified our own behavior is. In cases like this, holding back that impulse for revenge or to get even is our greatest challenge. The better part of dignity is restraint. In order to live a dignified life, we often have to hold back those instincts, such as not taking the bait, and other times, we need to assert ourselves when our instincts tell us to do nothing. For example, when someone treats us badly, we need to fight the all-too-familiar tendency to say nothing and avoid confrontation with the person who has harmed us. But there is a big difference between defending your dignity when some hurts you, and lashing back. The book illustrates how to defend your dignity without violating the dignity of the person who harmed you.

The book is filled with practical demonstrations of how to honor the dignity of others, as well as how to embrace our own dignity. So many people I have worked with over the years had suffered from a feeling of worthlessness and self-doubt. This book walks readers through simple steps to recognize the many ways that we undermine our own dignity, as well as the dignity of others. Dignity has the power to turn self-doubt into a genuine feeling of well-being. It also has the power to transform relationships, even relationships that have broken under the weight of conflict, into strong, healthy, and mutually satisfying connections. The most important thing to know is this: if indignity tears us apart, dignity can put us back together again.
Learn more about the book and author at Donna Hicks's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue