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Conflicted by Ian Leslie

by Brent Stewart on Sunday, Jul 31, 2022

I recently read Conflicted by Ian Leslie. Leslie’s argument through the book is that constructive disagreement is an opportunity to get to know each other at a deeper level, but that most people avoid disagreement because it so easily tips over into conflict. I find this to be personally true in my profession, in my volunteer work, and in my personal life.

Leslie makes his points by studying some extreme examples, including hostage negotiators, Arab and Israeli diplomats, and the FBI team that dealt with David Koresh. His thesis is that arguments move forward only when we respect each other and create a space to listen.

How do we create that opportunity to listen? Leslie provides nine ideas, illustrated by the aforementioned examples. The first is to just connect - to show respect to the other person and find some element of common ground. For instance, you both may have daughters, like cats, or play guitar.

Book Jacket

Another idea is to “let go fo the rope” - to not make the conversation into a win/lose proposition. Acknowledge when the other person is right, search for what they know that you don’t, and focus the conversation on both of you emerging with a better understanding. Make truth more important than a win.

I also appreciate the idea of “making wrong strong”. Leslie talks about the opportunity to connect that comes when we acknowledge our mistakes openly. Mea Culpa can be an opening for the other party to acknowledge their own mistakes, or to forgive.

Leslie’s writing is engaging and his examples make the concepts real. In my opinion, using such extreme examples made the chapters entertaining but also made the application seem a little more abstract. In the “connect” chapter, he relates an story about a tow-truck driver that helps bring his ideas into a stressful but more everyday realm. Suceeding chapters don’t alway have that.

Conflicted also is told from a first-person perspective. Again, this can make the ideas easier to read, but it also moves the book toward opinion. Of course, any book on relationships involves opinion and personal perspective, but I think that decision runs counter to some very interesting research that is being related.

Conflicted is an interesting and thought-provoking book. After I finished it, I wanted to share the ideas with my family, particularly my daughter who is studying Psychology. It’s worth the read if you are thinking about your relationships, business or personal.

Book Backgrounds

I’ve started created desktop backgrounds that summarize important books I’ve read. I set them to rotate so that I’m periodically reminded of ideas. If you like Conflicted, the images are in a github repository and you are welcome to check them out!

I’ve been very purposeful in the last few months to spend less time “doom scrolling” and more time doing things I enjoy and that matter. For me, that’s meant more time with my family and more time reading books. Reading has always been a passion and I feel like I’m a better and more interesting person when I make time to read.

I’m still doing interesting technical things, but the blog has slowed down a little as my attention turned. I wanted to share these interesting books and - when I decided to add book reviews - I decided I might as well include an Amazon associate link.

I’m only reviewing books to share things I enjoyed. That said, if my review was helpful, clicking the above link will help me buy more books. Thanks!

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