Every so often you come across something that resonates.  It may be that it has been around a while, and it just happens to have crossed your path at an opportune moment when it brings just what is needed. Or it might be that it is a brand new “take” on something – or something totally new altogether.


Alec Grimsley’s “Vital Conversations” has been a useful tool used across the NHS and his book is now selling well on Amazon.  His approach to dealing with those challenging conversations we tend to put off is practical, pragmatic, and relevant in today’s NHS.


He has recently been testing out something that has an international track record, but is particularly high profile in the USA – The Arbinger Institute’s “The Anatomy of Peace” – or how to resolve the heart of conflict.


He posed the question: “what if you had a problem, but you didn’t know you had a problem?”.   Would you want to find the answer?  During the course of a day, he took a group of us through the choices we can make, and how we have choices about how we see others: as people or as objects.  The premise is that if we see people as objects, we resist the reality.  We can justify our actions by making others “blameworthy” and create a scenario that gives us permission to act contrary to what we know is the right thing to do for another.


This is described as “being in the box” and an example would be when you have a choice about doing something. Let’s say you borrow your partner’s car while yours is in for a service. On the way back from a long day, you notice it needs fuel.  But if you stop and fill it up, you will be late for your favourite TV programme.  You can make the decision to do “the right thing” and fill it up, or you can get into the box and come up with a list of justifications as to why you shouldn’t.  It’s their car – they shouldn’t have let it run so low.  They don’t work full time – they could fill it up tomorrow.  This is the umpteenth time you have put fuel in their car, and they never do the same for you.   You get the idea – by the time you arrive home, the fact that you have not filled the car up has turned into something to argue about.  And you have justified why you didn’t do it.  Of course, if you had stayed out of the box, you would have pulled in to the next garage and filled it up.


The Arbinger Institute in the USA accredit trained facilitators to help people understand conflict and focus on helping things to go right – rather than putting things right that have gone wrong. 


Google Arbinger Institute and you will find information about books to read, and more – I’m reading about the boxes I carry, the ones I create, and those that I encourage others to get into.   I believe that if you can get past the “Americanisms” there is useful material here that can make a difference – and I believe we will be hearing more about this way of thinking and behaving.