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Introduction to Embodied Conflict: the neural roots of conflict and communication

Announcing a new book for conflict resolution professionals, Embodied Conflict: the neural roots of conflict and communication, by Tim Hicks.

This is from an early review:

“Practical, accessible, easy to read, and yet deeply rooted in science, Tim Hicks has written an extremely valuable book for conflict specialists or for anyone struggling to understand the conflicts they face in life. Starting from the premise that ‘an understanding of the neural workings of the brain’ will help us to better understand and intervene in conflict, Hicks walks us carefully through an understanding of essential concepts of neural science and then applies these both broadly and specifically to how we can understand what happens in conflict and how we can use this understanding in very practical ways. This is a very valuable addition to our understanding of conflict.” Bernie Mayer, conflict specialist and author

Tim’s book is available at Amazon or at with a 30% discount using the code FLR40.

Read Embodied Conflict – Chapter II. – The Neural Encoding Function

Introduction to Embodied Conflict: the neural roots of conflict and communication

Characteristics of the neural encoding function, the basis of learning, memory, cognition, and identity, are at the root of and help to explain conflict in our social relations and why some conflicts are difficult to prevent and resolve. Embodied Conflict presents the neural encoding function in layman’s terms, outlining seven key characteristics and exploring their implications for communication, relationship, and conflict resolution.

Here follows an excerpt from the book, the Introduction chapter:

Introduction to Embodied Conflict
(footnotes in attached PDF)

There is understandable attention being given to the relatively early-stage developments in neuroscience,1 our study of the functioning of the human nervous system, and to the implications of neurological functioning for all areas of human experience and behavior. This is the new frontier, and we explore it upon the wide-spread and increasingly accepted assumption that we are embodied beings,2 meaning that our experience of self and world and our behavioral responses and repertoire are determined and constrained by the functional dynamics of our physical bodies and, for the purposes of this book, particularly our nervous system and its central organ, the brain.3 As Patricia Smith Churchland puts it, “The weight of evidence now implies that it is the brain, rather that some nonphysical stuff, that feels, thinks, and decides.” (Churchland, 2002, p. 1). In this view, consciousness isn’t separate from biology any more than solidity is separate from physics.4, 5

In the conflict resolution field, one of the fundamentals we’ve emphasized is that conflict is an unavoidable part of human social interaction, not a stain on the fabric of relationship but an inherent fiber woven into its fabric. As Jonathan Haidt puts it (with his focus being on conflicts that have to do with over-certainty, moralistic self-righteousness, what he terms “judgementalism,” political and religious discord, and general for-and-against antagonisms), conflict behavior in our social relations “…is the normal human condition. It is a feature of our evolutionary design, not a bug or error that crept into minds that would otherwise be objective and rational.” (Haidt, 2013, p. xx). Conflict is not so much something we do but rather something that we are. We’ve known this from observation. Sometimes with a sense of resignation, we have been led by history, current events, and our own personal experience to conclude that we can not prevent all conflict, that as human beings interact, conflict will inevitably arise. Conflict resolution professionals have wanted to normalize conflict as we’ve recognized its pervasive presence in human affairs and appreciated its informative potential for improving relationships and systems.

Read the entire Introduction in PDF format: Introduction to Embodied Conflict: the neural roots of conflict and communication


Tim Hicks

Tim Hicks is a conflict management professional providing mediation, facilitation, training, coaching, and consulting to individuals and organizations. From 2006 to 2014 he led the Master’s degree program in Conflict and Dispute Resolution at the University of Oregon as its first director. He returned to private practice in 2015. Tim is… MORE >

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