Book Review – Everything Is Workable: A Zen Approach to Conflict Resolution

EDR Blog_Everything is WorkableBy Mara Elana Burstein for EDRblog.org.

Diane Musho Hamilton’s new book, Everything is Workable: A Zen Approach to Conflict Resolution, is deeply personal and practically useful. It gives readers the overwhelming feeling that everything truly is workable. She helps her audience see the benefit of disputes—an opportunity to change and grow—while providing a road map to navigate conflicting world-views, communications styles, and emotions. Her writing is easy to understand as she reflects on her experience as a successful mediator and spiritual teacher.

While Hamilton’s commitment to meditation and mindfulness—which she’s been at for nearly 30 years—is the foundation of her approach to conflict resolution, readers need not be knowledgeable of or intimidated by Zen teachings. The book is divided into short, digestible chapters: each one ending with step-by-step exercises to assist readers in applying concepts discussed in the previous pages. She engages the audience by using a myriad of short stories, quotes, and anecdotes that reference everything from the Dalai Lama to pop culture to science to politics.

Hamilton stresses, “The idea is not to eliminate conflict… The aim is to transform it.” (p.128). With that in mind, she helps readers navigate how to examine their own and others’ intention; understand the role of fear; recognize different styles of conflict; identify when 1st, 2nd, and 3rd-person perspectives are useful or detrimental; become a better listener and negotiator; as well as give and receive feedback constructively.

Each time Hamilton introduces a new mindfulness or conflict resolution concept, she emphasizes that success is born of practice and patience. She knows that confronting conflict can be terrifying and points out that “…we have to be prepared to fail. Again and again. It is intrinsic to the creative process.” (p.128). Her final chapter is dedicated exclusively to reminding readers that “[l]earning communications, negotiation, and conflict skills takes time, patience, and effort.” (p. 196).

In addition to presenting easy-to-understand information and advice on human nature and relationships, Hamilton shares extremely personal accounts of love, loss, and lessons learned. Her stories of “…the grief, prejudice, and isolation of having a child with a disability” (p. 4), time spent as the founding director of the Utah State Court’s Office of Alternative Dispute Resolution, and a falling out with a respected teacher are genuine and touching. She intimately draws readers in.

mara bursteinEverything is Workable is helpful, interactive, and entertaining. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in personal growth and improving relationships with the people they love, hate, and work with.

Mara Elana Burstein has been working on air quality, energy, and environmental justice issues in Los Angeles and New York for the past eight years. She holds an MPA in Environmental Science and Policy from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs.