As a business skills trainer I’m constantly on the lookout for new tools and different perspectives on the  topics I work on, so that it stays fresh and relevant.  I’m also looking for reassurance that what I am advocating in the training room is best practice and can be successfully applied in the real world.

Last week I bumped into a video on YouTube which was a shot in the arm for the work I do in conflict handling.  It stopped me in my tracks, and I wanted to share it with you today.

Amaryllis Fox Crop 2Amaryllis Fox is a writer and peace activist who worked under cover for 10 years in the CIA.

In an interview with Al Jazeera, she talks about her perspective on how the West is dealing with ISIS.

She makes a simple point which I am relieved to find completely endorses the approach I advocate in conflict handling and leadership workshops:


In order to resolve conflict you have to understand the other person and their perspective.  The best way to do this is to use your ears more than your mouth.  I then summarise this principle using the words of Stephen Covey:


Amaryllis makes the same points:

“The only real way to disarm your enemy is to listen to him.”  When you do that “you discover that you might have made the same choices if you’d lived their life instead of yours.”

She then makes a point which really knocked me sideways:

“As long as your enemy is a subhuman psycopath who is going to attack you no matter what you do, THIS NEVER ENDS.”

When you consider this logically, it makes total sense.  If we see things from the perspective of the other person, we realise they may see us as just as much of a threat as we do them.  Their behaviour is just as logical and justifiable to them as ours is to us.

The trouble is, we don’t deal with conflict logically, particularly when lives are being lost and our way of life is being threatened.  As Amaryllis says, we have oversimplified the situation:  “they” are all crazy killers who are out to get us, and we have done nothing wrong.

As I suggest in my conflict workshops, at the root of aggressive or passive behaviour is Faulty Thinking.  Faulty Thinking is where we either exaggerate, assume or apply faulty logic.  As is no doubt the case in our thinking about the threat from ISIS.

Have a look at the video if you’ve not seen it before.  Notice how you respond to it, and see how difficult you find it to listen to the message.

Maybe there is someone you find hard to listen to, where you find yourself in a relationship which is at best unproductive.  Could your next step be to find a way to really find out how they see things, and use that as a starting point for a conversation about how you can collaborate better?

It’s a choice.  Carry on as you are (prognosis – it will get worse, and may never end).  Try this new approach (prognosis – could work, might not, if it doesn’t at least you don’t have to beat yourself up for not trying).

Best of luck.