Note from Jennifer: Hamlet had his fair share of people problems! Classics Bookclub: Hamlet will post at noon EST. Check out the Classics Preview for some post starters, and tell us what you thought (even if you didn’t finish it, tell us why!).
The full title of this book is How to Solve Your People Problems: Dealing with Your Difficult Relationships. When my husband and I were preparing for marriage we read every single relationship book we could get our hands on. If it was handed to us, we read it. If we heard about it, we tracked it down and read it. We read a ton of books while attempting to prepare for The Great Unknown of our future marriage relationship. Too bad we didn’t have this particular book because it has to be the best and most basic book on conflict I have yet to come across.
This book is basic in the best of ways. Godwin starts by assuring you that as a human you will have conflict. The question is not whether you will have it, but whether it will be a good experience or a bad one. He introduces his arguments for how to have good conflict by stating that as humans we naturally desire to have relationships with one another. We are naturally and curiously drawn to fellowship with our fellow man. However, it is this fellowship that, once found, causes pain which makes us want to run in the opposite direction, screaming all the way. People can hurt us as well as bless us. We long to be known but we also long to maintain proper boundaries to keep from being hurt by other humans. We are all alike in this. We crave community and yet it is through community that we see the best and worst of our own selves, for communion with another person exposes all that is bright and beautiful and ugly about all of us. It’s a rather vicious circle, if you ask me!
While Dr. Alan Godwin assures us that we will have conflict with other people in this life, he desires us to experience good conflict. To some, that may sound like an oxymoron but it truly isn’t. (I’m not one who is particularly scared of conflict. Sometimes I enjoy it a little too much. However, I married into a conflict avoidance family so we’ve had to work through some of these things.) Godwin therefore argues for me that conflict can be productive in learning about one another, working through issues, and becoming better individuals as a result. Sometimes working through the conflict produces more grace and love than if we had never bothered to touch the conflict at all.
This book addresses the subject of how to have good conflict. He talks about people who have good reasoning muscles which enable them to address issues in a healthy manner. He also points out characteristics of unreasonable people with whom conflict is better to avoid than to face head-on. He acknowledges that some people are just unable to deal with differences or have a warped sense of self and are therefore unqualified to sort through issues in a healthy way. Godwin in no way expects for all people to solve all of their interpersonal issues. However, he does try to point out ways in which we can approach issues with a healthy attitude. (And by the way? Sometimes “healthy” means standing your ground and appearing to create conflict by not giving in to someone who is just being unreasonable.)
This book was quite excellent. I’d hand it over to any newly engaged couple who haven’t taken off their rose colored glasses yet. I’d give it to a newly married couple for whom the glasses have not only come off, but have been shattered under the heel of their partner’s steel-toed boot. I’d give it to the individual who is being overwhelmed by the demands of a friend or relation who hold themselves out as a victim, creating a constant stream of guilt to overwhelm the person that they are manipulating into “obedience.” I’d give it to the teenager who thinks the world is against them. In short, this book has something to offer everyone because we’re all people and we’re all different from one another. It stands to reason that life isn’t going to be a smooth joy ride all the time. We will experience pain when we come into contact with one another but we can move past the pain and build better relationships. We just must learn to try and see conflict in a healthy and GOOD way! I urge you to consider grabbing hold of How to Solve Your People Problems if you or someone you know has some. It’s worth the time and effort it takes to read this book.
Carrie comes by her book obsession honestly, having descended from a long line of bibliophiles. She blogs about books regularly at Reading to Know.