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Book Summary – The Anatomy Of Peace: Resolving The Heart Of Conflict

The Anatomy of Peace - Book summary

Warfare doesn’t only happen with physical weapons and artillery. Many of us are warring daily with our family, colleagues and friends. We feel frustrated, angry, bitter, jealous, or indifferent, and respond in ways that perpetuate the very conflicts and behaviors we don’t want. The Anatomy Of Peace: Resolving The Heart Of Conflict by The Arbinger Institute presents the root cause behind all types of conflict at personal, professional and global levels, and how to reach a peaceful resolution. In this free summary, we’ll briefly outline the key ideas from The Anatomy of Peace.

The Anatomy of Peace: An Overview

This book is written as a fable about a group of parents who arrive at Camp Moriah with the goal of “fixing” their problematic children. The camp begins with a 2-day program for the parents, followed by a 60-day camp for the kids. Over the 2 days, the parents gain new insights about themselves and their relationships. The book traces how the parents come to realize (i) the pattern of conflict, (ii) the root cause of their struggles/conflicts at home and at work, and (iii) what they must do to truly resolve them.

We’ll now briefly introduce The Anatomy of Peace in 2 parts. Do get a copy of our full 12-page summary for more details.

Part 1: The Root of Conflict

A Heart of Peace vs A Heart of War

Everything you say and do can be done from 2 Ways of Being: with a “heart at peace” or a “heart at war”.

The Anatomy of Peace summary_heart at peace vs heart at war

  • When we have a heart at peace, we see the other person as a human being. We recognize that, like us, they’re people with real hopes, dreams, doubts, fears and struggles.
  • When we have a heart at war, we see others as objects. We dehumanize them by reducing them to a category (e.g. Blacks, Rich, Arabs), a role (e.g. employee, customer, politician), or a quality (e.g. jerk, ungrateful, dishonest). We stop thinking of them as unique human beings, and only see them only as an obstacle (“he’s going to make me late for work”), a vehicle (“he’s going to make me rich”), or something inconsequential (“I don’t care what he thinks”).

Conflict, Collusion and Escalation

When your heart is at war, you start a downward spiral only to make things worse. In our full summary of The Anatomy of Peace, we explain how exactly how perceptions of others end up inviting the very behaviors we detest, how we actively collude or contribute to the vicious cycle, and even spread the conflict to others.  We also share the real story of how Turkish sultan Saladin successfully ended centuries of bitter enmity and bloodshed with a heart of peace.

Seeing the World from Inside the Box

When our heart is at war, it’s like looking at the world from inside a self-deception box; we see things and people through colored lenses.

Our full book summary provides more details on:

  • How we end up “inside the box” and tell stories to defend or justify our actions;
  • The details of the 4 common self-deception boxes: the “Better-Than Box”, “Worse-Than Box”, “I-Deserve Box” and “Must-Be-Seen-As Box.” Learn how to recognize the mental justifications you use to deceive yourself.
  • How we end up being so entrenched in certain boxes that we carry them around with us to see the world through biased views and self-justifications.

Part 2: A Strategy for Peace

In most conflicts, each party is convinced that they’re right and the only way to resolve the issue is for the other party to change. This only results in a stalemate or conflict escalation. The first step to conflict resolution is to consider that you could be wrong or at least mistaken. Even if you’re doing something right, it’s still possible that you aren’t doing it “right” way. For example, it’s good to tell your kids to respect others, but not if you’re yelling at them to do so.

The Pyramid of Change

When we’re unhappy with someone or something, we tend to focus narrowly on what’s wrong and fight head-on to get what we want. If someone is already upset with you, criticizing and challenging them will only make things worse. Instead of focusing on what’s wrong, focus on helping to make things right by seeking to support the other person. Instead of forcing people to change (which won’t work), it’s much more effective to invite them to change.

And, you can invite change using the steps in the Pyramid of Change. Here’s a quick graphical overview of the pyramid Do get our complete 12-page The Anatomy of Peace summary for details and tips for applying the pyramid:The Anatomy of Peace summary_the pyramid of change

  • Get out of the box and approach the relationship with a heart at peace
  • Build relationships within the person’s network
  • Build your relationship with the person
  • Genuinely seek to listen and learn about the other person
  • Communicate/teach your proposed solution (based on a true understanding of the other person and his needs/concerns)

Unless the above components are addressed, any attempt to correct or change a behavior will fail.

Getting the Most from The Anatomy of Peace

In this article, we’ve briefly outlined some of the key insights and strategies you can use to achieve desired change. For more examples, details, and actionable tips to apply these strategies, do get our complete book summary bundle which includes an infographic, 12-page text summary, and a 22-minute audio summary.The Anatomy Of Peace summary - book summary bundle

The book was originally published in 2006, and this second edition (published in 2015) includes an additional appendix to help people to apply the concepts. This is an easy-to-read fable, with numerous work- and personal examples that help us to understand the root and pattern of conflict, how it’s spread and how you can resolve it peacefully. We’ve modified several examples in this summary to present the gist of the ideas.

The book is written in a way to help us recognize our own boxes and self-justifications. Reading the book in itself can provide an out-of-the-box space for us to examine our relationships and way of being. You can purchase the book here for the full details, or visit

Learn more about self-justifications and being in the box with our Leadership and Self-Deception summary!

About the Author of The Anatomy of Peace

The Anatomy Of Peace: Resolving The Heart Of Conflict is authored by The Arbinger Institute. The institute provides training, consulting, coaching, and implementation tools that move individuals, teams, and organizations from the inward mindset to the results focus of an outward mindset. This is built on the knowledge that, without a change in mindset, newly adopted behaviors won’t stick and results will suffer. Arbinger is the world leader in transforming mindset, and their programs and methodology are based on 45 years of research in the psychology of human behavior and motivation, and more than 35 years of experience working with organizations worldwide.

The Anatomy of Peace Quotes

“There is no way to avoid mistreatment altogether…. There is, however, a way not to let your mistreatments destroy you and your peace.”

“The learning level of the pyramid keeps inviting us toward humility. It reminds us that the person or group we wish would change may not be the only one who needs to change!”

“If we can’t put an end to the violence within us, there is no hope for putting an end to the violence without.”

“No conflict can be solved so long as all parties are convinced they are right. Solution is possible only when at least one party begins to consider how he might be wrong.”

“If we are poor learners, our teaching will be ineffective.”

Click here to download The Anatomy of Peace summary & infographic

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