Main Content
I. Peacemaking in Our Lives and World (B)
International Engagement & Building Peace

B. Interpersonal Conflict and Peacemaking

"Be the change that you want to see in the world."
—Mohandas Gandhi

This section is based on the premise that peacemaking depends on individuals and their ability to encounter and handle conflict effectively and without violence. Peacemaking is not synonymous with lack of conflict since conflict exists wherever there is tension over differences (of ideas, emotions, etc.). Examining differences often leads to clarity and improvement. The resources listed in the categories below are intended to help individuals build awareness and skills to be better peacemakers at home, at work, in their congregations, and in the world at large.

Human Perception & Mental Models—we each own only a small slice of reality

The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook: Strategies and Tools for Building a Learning Organization, by Peter Senge, Charlotte Roberts, Richard B. Ross, Bryan J. Smith, Art Kleiner, Currency, 1994.
Provides concise explanations of mental models and the ladder of inference as well as exercises to help you understand how they affect your own responses and tools to help you avoid abusing them unwittingly.

See No Bias, by Shankar Vedantam, Washington Post Magazine, Sunday, January 23, 2005; Page W12.
Explores recent scientific research demonstrating that biases thought to be absent or extinguished remain as "mental residue" in most of us. Focuses on the work of Mahzarin Banaji, Richard Clarke Cabot Professor of Social Ethics at Harvard and Carol K. Pforzheimer Professor at Harvard's Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, who is one of three researchers who developed the Implicit Association Test to measure this "hidden bias."

Implicit Association Test (of Hidden Bias). Psychologists at Harvard, the University of Virginia and the University of Washington created "Project Implicit" to develop Hidden Bias Tests—called Implicit Association Tests, or IATs, in the academic world—to measure unconscious bias. Take the Implicit Association Test.
Here you may assess your conscious and unconscious preferences for over 90 different topics ranging from pets to political issues, ethnic groups to sports teams, and entertainers to styles of music. At the same time, you will be assisting psychological research on thoughts and feelings. Sessions require 10-15 minutes to complete. Each time you begin a session you will be randomly assigned to a topic. Try one or do them all! At the end of the session, you will get some information about the study and a summary of your results.

Can You Believe Your Eyes?, by J. Richard Block & Harold Yuker, Robson Books Ltd., 2002.
Two Hofstra University professors of psychology present over 250 illusions and visual oddities with concise explanations to help you see the alternatives in each image. Images are designed to stimulate imagination and expand awareness.

I'm Not Crazy I'm Just Not You: Secrets to How We Can be so Alike When We Are so Different, by Roger R. Pearman & Sarah C. Albritton, Davies-Black Publishing, 1997.
Explains the "habits of mind" (also known as psychological types) popularized by Myers and Briggs and based on the theories of C. G. Jung. Provides insights into how to develop balance in self, and value differences in others.

Privilege, Power, and Difference, by Allan G. Johnson, McGraw Hill Companies, 2005.
Exceptionally clear, accessible, and non-threatening explanations of the systems and mental models underlying privilege, power, and oppression based on perceived differences (such as race, gender, class) with practical prescriptions for action. It is engaging and hopeful. Illustrations and explanations lead without guilt to compassion and an understanding of what we can all do to stop supporting "the system" and why we should. Check out the author's website for video clips of his lectures and interviews.

Compassion (for self and others) and Forgiveness

Soul Without Shame: A Guide to Liberating Yourself from the Judge Within, by Byron Brown, Shambhala Publications Inc., 1999
Clear and accessible language shows how self-judgment (the judge or inner critic) can be damaging rather than helpful in peacemaking. Provides simple exercises to develop compassion and awareness of the inner critic so that its advice may be explicitly evaluated. Illustrates how "knee jerk" criticism that leads to self-violence can be managed with compassion.

Finding Forgiveness: a 7-step Program for Letting Go of Anger and Bitterness, by Eileen R. Borris-Dunchunstang (Foreward by Dali Lama), McGraw-Hill Companies, 2006.
Dr. Borris-Dunchunstang is the director of training for the Institute for Multi-Track Diplomacy in Washington, D.C. Outlines her proven, seven-step program for shedding emotional baggage associated with loss, betrayal, or resentment. Modifying the techniques she uses to resolve international conflict to address personal issues, Borris-Dunchunstang gives you the tools to break free of anger and bitterness and find your path to healing.

Emotional Intelligence (EI)

In 1995 Daniel Goleman popularized the concept of Emotional Intelligence by drawing from the work of others to identify the 5 factors needed for effective and peaceful interpersonal relationships.

Working with Emotional Intelligence, by Daniel Goleman, Bantam, 2000.
Defines and focuses on the five EI competencies: Self-Awareness, Self-Regulation, Motivation, Empathy, and Social skills (handling relationships.)

Practicing Right Relationship: Skills for Deepening Purpose, Finding Fulfillment, and Increasing Effectiveness in your Congregation, by M. Sellon & D. Smith, Alban Institute, 2004.
Compelling stories illustrate components of EI. Clear explanations of how emotional intelligence promotes right relationship and peacemaking. Excellent exercises provided for developing each component of EI—suitable for individuals, and book groups or covenant groups.

The Fear Book: Facing Fear Once and for All, by Cheri Huber, Keep-It-Simple, 1995.
A small book written as a dialogue between students and a guide. Provides practical and moving advice (with a Buddhist flavor) for healthy coping with fear and anxiety.

Behavioral Covenants in Congregations: A Handbook for Honoring Differences, by Gil Rendle, Alban Institute, 1998.
Alban Institute Senior Consultant Gil Rendle explains how to use behavioral covenants to live creatively together despite differences of age, race, culture, opinion, gender, theological or political position. Book describes practical methods of establishing behavioral covenants—including sample retreat agendas, resources (visual models, examples of specific covenants), and small-group exercises.


Messages: The Communications Skills Book (Second ed.), By M. McKay, M. Davis, and P. Fanning, New Harbinger Publications, 1995.
Updated version of an old self-help classic—accessible explanations and exercises covering listening and listening blocks, expression (e.g. whole, uncontaminated messages), body language, paralanguage & metamessages, hidden agendas, and assertiveness (and much more.)

Zen of Listening: Mindful Communication in the Age of Distraction, by Rebecca Z. Shafir, Theosophical Publishing House, 2000.
Shafir, chief of speech pathology at Massachusetts's Lahey Clinic, defines listening as "the willingness to see a situation through the eyes of the speaker." She offers clear exercises, activities, and strategies to improve awareness, provides illustrations, gives examples from her clinical experiences, and manages to inspire. She concentrates on "Mindful listening" and "Getting into the other person's movie [story]," but also covers how to listen to one’s self, listening under stress, boosting listening memory, and helping others to listen better.

Listening: The Forgotten Skill: A Self-Teaching Guide, by Madelyn Burley-Allen, Wiley, 1995.
An interactive learning approach with work-sheets, charts, graphs, and self-tests that help you pace and monitor your own progress. Written mainly for the business audience, but applicable to every situation. Burley-Allen spends the bulk of her time explaining how to listen, and is very good at explaining scenarios and solutions. Covers how to eliminate distractions and improve concentration, cut through your own listening biases, interpret body language, ask constructive, non-threatening questions, and get others to listen to you.

Are You Really Listening?: Keys to Successful Communication, by Paul J. Donoghue, Ph.D. and Mary Siegel, Ph. D., Sorin Books, 2005.
Donoghue and Siegel, psychologists in private practice (featured in the NYT, CNBC, The Today Show etc.) demonstrate the value of listening and present a clear step-by-step process for how to listen. Book has rules of thumb for listening and being heard. Authors isolate the factors that tend to keep people from listening, showing how to identify one's own tendencies to tune out what others are saying—from the "Me Too" syndrome that tends to tune out the speaker and refocus the conversation on the self, to learning how to be heard, to how counterproductive defensiveness can be (defending oneself signals that the time of listening to the speaker's concerns have ended).

Sacred Art of Listening: Forty Reflections for Cultivating a Spiritual Practice, by Kay Lindahl, Amy Schnapper (Illustrator), Skylight Paths Publishing, 2002.
Lindahl is the founder of the nondenominational and omnifaith Listening Center, an institute dedicated to the skill of listening to others. Book offers forty meditative reflections about listening, each in a two-page format of essay accompanied by mandala-like illustration to help focus your reflection.

Practicing the Sacred Art of Listening, by Kay Lindahl, Skylight Paths Publishing, 2003.
Practical, easy-to-follow advice and exercises to enhance your capacity to listen in a spirit-filled way. Examines the varied ways we are called to deep listening, including: Contemplative listening, Reflective listening, Heart listening, listening in groups, listening in conversations, and more.


Nonviolent Communication, by M. B. Rosenberg, Puddledancer Press, 2003.
Excellent explanation of all aspects of the Nonviolent Compassionate Communications with practical examples and exercises (including a discussion of answers) for each step of the model: observations, feelings, needs, and requests for specific action.

Nonviolent Communication Companion Workbook, by L. Leu, Puddledancer Press, 2003.
Exercises suitable for individuals, small groups (book groups or covenant groups) or classroom study (complete with a discussion of answers).

Dialogue and the Art of Thinking Together: A Pioneering Approach to Communicating in Business and in Life, by William Isaacs, Currency, 1999.
Isaacs headed the MIT Dialogue Project when he wrote this book. It presents his model for group dialogue, an essential tool for opening minds and options in conversation. Isaacs defines dialogue as “a conversation with a center, not sides.” Includes many case studies, but does not contain steps for implementing dialogue sessions. For practical dialogue exercises, Isaacs was the primary contributor of the “Team Learning” chapter of The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook by Peter Senge et al (see above Mental Models Section).

Dialogue: Rediscover the Transforming Power of Conversation, by Linda Ellinor & Glenna Gerard, Wiley, 1998.
Views dialogue as a compelling way to generate openings where collective wisdom can manifest in any partnership, team, or group setting. Good starting point for practicing dialogue and learning ways to introduce it to others. Practical reflections and exercises.


Moving Your Church Through Conflict, by Speed B. Leas, Alban Institute No. OL82 (Downloadable online).
Presents well known theory of conflict levels, and spells out appropriate responses for clergy and lay leaders at each level of conflict. Easily applicable concepts and practical strategies.

Healing the Heart of Conflict: 8 Crucial Steps to Making Peace with Yourself and Others, by Marc Gopin, Ph.D. and James H. Laue, Rodale Press, 2004.
Drawing on his two decades of experience in the field of conflict resolution worldwide, including the Middle East, Northern Ireland and Africa, Gopin, a rabbi and director of the Center for World Religions, Diplomacy, and Conflict Resolution at George Mason University, presents an eight-step way to address and resolve conflict. He believes that destructive conflicts "are based on primal emotions and cannot be solved by rational discussion and negotiation." Rather they need to address and heal feelings of dishonor and humiliation, which in turn requires "self-examination and spiritual growth." Gopin presents eight primary steps, including recognizing the emotions at the heart of the conflict, learning how to listen to all sides of an issue, setting goals that represent the future needs and desires of all parties and keeping dialogue open and ongoing. Using wide-ranging anecdotes, he illustrates how these principles can be applied in work situations, within family relationships and in local community dynamics.

Coping With Difficult People, by Robert M. Bramson, Dell (Reissue edition), 1988.
Sound advice, helpful stories, and practical scripts for coping with many different kinds of difficult behavior (bullying, sniping, silent treatment, etc.). Author uses stereotypic names for his “difficult people” but treats them with respect by focusing on understanding and addressing behavior not intent. Dr. Bramson has a second book, Coping with Difficult Bosses, which provides sound advice and scripts for dealing with people who out-rank you in the power structure.

Difficult Conversations, by D Stone, B. Patton, & S. Heen, Penguin Press, 2003.
Terrific advice on how to create “learning conversations” that solve problems rather than attribute blame. Includes practical tips on how to convert three special conversations: the “what happened?” conversation, the “feelings conversation,” and the “identity conversation” (when your sense of competence or worth seems to be questioned.)

Mediating, Facilitating, Negotiating

Resolving Conflicts At Work (revised edition), by K. Cloke and J. Goldsmith, Jossey-Bass, 2004.
Excellent explanation of eight strategies to shift from impasse to resolution & transformation. Inspirational and practical advice on achieving win-win resolutions, listening, integrating emotions to solve problems, separating what matters from what gets in the way, and how to stop rewarding difficult behavior.

The Skilled Facilitator, by R. Schwarz, Jossey-Bass, 2002.
One of the best books on the facilitative process including facilitative leadership and coaching. Integrates values into an approach that focuses on developing the skills of the group members emphasizing mutual learning rather than unilateral control. Plenty of practical examples and tools such a essential ground rules for groups and tips for intervening in a respectful way based on the principles of validated information, transparency, curiosity, free choice, and accountability.

Getting To Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In (2nd edition), by R. Fisher, W. Ury & B. Patton, Penguin, 1991.
Offers a straightforward universally applicable method for principled negotiation, also called Win-Win negotiation. Helpful stories and examples illustrate every step in this respectful and peaceful method. Also offers principled ways to deal with tactics that are not principled.

Beyond Reason: Using Emotions as you Negotiate, Roger Fisher and Daniel Shapiro, Viking Press, 2005.
Although addressed to the process of negotiation, this discussion of the role of emotions in the discussion of complex issues where people have divergent views is a helpful guide for remaining open to the concerns of others. Through their research, Fisher and Shapiro have identified five key emotions—appreciation, affiliation, autonomy, status and role—that must be addressed before people can engage in a rational discussion of complex issues.

Students Resolving Conflict: Peer Mediation In Schools, by Richard Cohen, Good Year Books, 2005.
A thorough, step-by-step guide to designing, implementing and operating a peer mediation program—one of the most effective methods for conflict resolution. Especially designed for the middle and upper grade levels, it includes forms, readiness tests, session transcripts, and more. For grades 6-12.

Creative Conflict Resolution: More Than 200 Activities for Keeping Peace in the Classroom, by William J. Kreidler, GoodYear Books, 1984.
Easy-to-use format. User-friendly lessons including role-plays to use with youth around effective communication, conflict escalation, with anger escalation, etc.