Dignity: Its Essential Role in Resolving Conflict

The desire for dignity is universal and powerful.

Dignity is a motivating force behind all human interaction—in families, in communities, in the business world, and in relationships at the international level. When dignity is violated, the response is likely to involve aggression, hatred, vengeance, and even violence. On the other hand, when people treat one another with dignity, they become more connected and are able to create more meaningful relationships.

“This book is a must read for those who want to experience peace in their everyday lives and peace in the world around them. Without an understanding of dignity, there is no hope for such change. If you want to find the weak links in a democracy, look for where people are suffering. You will most likely see a variety of violations. If you want peace, be sure everyone’s dignity is intact.”
~ Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Surprisingly, most people have little understanding of dignity, observes Donna Hicks in her book Dignity: Its Essential Role in Resolving Conflict. Hicks examines the reasons for this gap and offers a new set of strategies for becoming aware of dignity’s vital role in our lives and ways that you can put dignity into practice in everyday life.

Donna Hicks
Photo: Steve Bennett

Drawing on her extensive experience in international conflict resolution along with insights from evolutionary biology, psychology, and neuroscience, Hicks explains how to recognize dignity violations, how to respond when we are not treated with dignity, how dignity can restore a broken relationship, why leaders must understand the concept of dignity, and more. Hicks shows that by choosing dignity as a way of life, we open the way to greater peace within ourselves and to a safer and more humane world for all.

Hicks explains her interest in dignity, saying that, “My attention was drawn to the concept of dignity long before I had words to describe it. As a little girl, when I saw people mistreat others; when I saw myself engaged in hurtful fights with my sisters, there was a part of me that wondered, “Can’t we do better?” Kids have an uncanny sense of how to honor dignity; that is, until they have experienced enough indignities themselves that they forget.”

“We have an inborn desire to connect with others, but if we experience enough abuse and neglect, that desire turns into fear, and we withdraw from the very thing we want the most: loving relationships where we feel seen, heard, acknowledged, understood, and treated as if we mattered.”

“It took more than half my adult life to figure out a way to talk about this yearning that we all have to want to be treated well. It’s important to us because we also want to live our lives in relationship with others in a way that makes us feel good about ourselves, feel good about others, and to be at peace with the world around us.”

Hicks noted that, “It took nearly twenty years of working as an international conflict resolution specialist to crystallize my thinking about what dignity is, why it matters to us, and how we can use it to build healthy relationships with one another and to restore those that have broken under the strain of conflict.”

“I do not claim the moral high ground when it comes to living a dignified life. I have good days and bad days. When the pressure is great, I still find myself succumbing to my self-preservation instincts and want nothing more than to get even with the person who has violated me. The temptation is there and always will be. I can say that I aspire to live out the principles I have developed in the dignity model, because the work is never done.”

“There are powerful external forces as well as the unhealed forces within us that leave us vulnerable to violating our own and the dignity of others. After all, we humans are an evolving species, which means there will always be a greater consciousness for us to achieve; more to learn about ourselves and our developing humanity. Understanding that we are a species in process gives me confidence—I was on the right track when I was six and I asked myself, “Can’t we do better?” At sixty I know the answer: We can and we’ll do it with dignity.”

“In this well-organized, thoughtful book, Hicks presents a fascinating look at dignity—a birthright and the baseline for positive human interaction. . . . With its accessible tone, pithy observations and lessons, and Hicks’s argument that the ’quest for dignity is as common in the boardroom as in the bedroom,’ this book is a must-read for all.”
~ Publishers Weekly

For more information, please visit drdonnahicks.com


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