Negotiating the Nonnegotiable (2016) offers insights into a new framework that can be applied to solve stubborn conflicts in both our personal and professional lives. The blinks emphasize the importance of the “tribal mind,” while also illustrating how we actively address emotional pain and examining the role of identity in conflict resolution.
We’ve all had an argument at some point. But to resolve conflicts, we need to understand the complex dynamics at play.
Traditionally, it's believed that two main factors contribute to conflict, namely rationality and emotion.
We generally begin an argument by appealing to rationality. The side of our personalities that appeals to rationality and rational decision making is known as the homo economicus, which, naturally enough, is a concept taken from the field of economics. This concept posits that we act as individuals. We try to maximise our own gains, as well as those which are mutually beneficial, especially when it comes to money or time.
The other factor at play is emotion. Emotions, such as fear, anger or trust, are often irrational but can nevertheless dominate our perception. A good shorthand for this part of our personality is homo emoticus.
However, beyond the two factors of rationality and emotions that are generally cited as the core of conflict, there's a third factor to consider that is often overlooked: identity.
Identities are formed by our self-conception and by our search for meaning in existence. We’re as much homo identicus as we are homo economicus or homo emoticus.
Identity is also the foundation for tribes, which are defined as groups united by similar ideas, values or religious beliefs.
But let’s make this idea more concrete by looking at an experiment, conducted by the author, to show the power of tribe identity in conflicts.
A total of 45 participants were randomly divided into six groups, with each group then being asked a series of questions on a range of themes. What were their opinions on capital punishment, or what did they consider the most important values of each tribe?
After 50 minutes of discussion, the groups had to choose just one tribe out of the six to represent all of them. If they failed to do so, the earth would supposedly be destroyed.
The author repeated this experiment around the world with many different groups, and despite the high imaginary stakes, the earth was only “saved” a handful of times!
It's clear that participants became so wrapped up in their new identities that they preferred to destroy the planet rather than take on the identities of another group. New tribal bonds formed so strongly and so quickly that the conflict simply couldn’t be resolved.