Wednesday, March 9, 2021

David Brooks' " New Humanism" and Collaborative Conflict Resolution

This week, David Brooks wrote eloquently in the New York Times about the enormous shift in understanding of our biological nature as human primates that is sweeping business, academic, and professional circles. The growing awareness that emotion and feelings drive our thinking, our choices, and every aspect of our behavior and consciousness , and that 18th century notions about the primacy of reason are simply wrong from a biological perspective, is changing how lawyers, doctors, CEO's, academic researchers-- and pretty much everyone who plugs in to what's alive at the growing edge of our culture --approach our work.

Brooks, who is on a book tour and speaks often about his take on these ideas, jokes that he is not a likely candidate as spokesman for the primacy of feeling in human affairs. He's writing about the neuroscience of the "new humanism" because finally no other approach could adequately explain for Brooks the many enormous economic and public policy failures that he now sees as growing out of an overly simplistic view of human nature.

We in the collaborative community are at the creative growth edge in applying these ideas to the work of conflict resolution. On the day that many of my colleagues were reading Brooks' op-ed piece this week, I happened to be presenting a workshop on "Practical Neuro-Resolution" to my Marin County practice group which echoed Brooks' basic themes and presented some ways of organizing the explosion of new information about the neuroscience of human conflict in a "theory to practice" mode.

I believe that integrated interdisciplinary collaborative team practice at its best creates the kind of trust-based and relationship-based small group that we are wired for as human primates. When we work together in a team with a couple or family that is experiencing the collapse and restructuring of a biologically vital network of connections, we are mobilizing and taking advantage of our evolutionary endowment, rather than working in opposition to our biological wiring by pretending that the issues which cause our clients grief are entirely rational in nature and that they involve solely a clash of opposed individual rights and entitlements.

Integrating understandings from the evolutionary neurosciences with trainings in high potential team practice is, to my way of thinking, the next big leap that the collaborative community will take. I'm excited to be working on this exciting intellectual challenge.