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<xTITLE>"Conflict - The Unexpected Gift" Book Review</xTITLE>

"Conflict - The Unexpected Gift" Book Review

by Jack Hamilton, Elisabeth Seaman
June 2014

About the Authors: Jack Hamilton, Elisabeth Seaman, Sharlene Gee, and Hillary Freeman have been mediators and facilitators with Learn2Resolve, a company that provides mediation, facilitation, training in communication and conflict resolution skills, and team-building workshops in English and Spanish. They work with families, corporations, nonprofits, public agencies, and individuals. They are based in the San Francisco Bay Area in California.

Conflict: The Unexpected Gift

Conflict is a common aspect of life that is extremely difficult to avoid because each person is different from others and arrives at his or her own conclusions about the behavior of others and the events in a situation. Although conflicts may seem unavoidable, one can actually learn how to work through them and come out with a better relationship in the end. In “Conflict—The Unexpected Gift: Making the Most of Disputes in Life and Work” (published by iUniverse) authors Jack Hamilton, Elisabeth Seaman, Sharlene Gee, and Hillary Freeman present a highly detailed and comprehensive approach to resolving interpersonal conflicts.

The book addresses a wide audience, from teens to elders, on a broad range of interpersonal issues. It gives clear and detailed examples of actual situations and steps to take for resolving differences, disagreements and even seemingly intractable disputes. These practical steps can be learned in order to transform problems into blessings for all involved.

The authors focus on teaching readers how to use techniques that have been proven to be effective in resolving conflicts. These include listening for understanding, clarifying assumptions they have made about others and working toward mutual agreement on ways they can communicate more constructively in the future. The main tool in the book is the "Ladder of Assumptions," which is a metaphor for how our minds work in situations that often lead to conflict. Our minds unconsciously move up the rungs of such a ladder, making unwarranted assumptions about someone's words, motives or stereotypical behavior that is viewed as representative of people in a group to which they seem to belong.

Through activities at the end of each chapter of the book, readers can learn how their minds work and practice how to step down their mental ladders, clarify their assumptions and those of the other person, and reach mutual understanding and agreement. When resolved, a conflict can be an unexpected gift of a second chance and an opportunity to change.

“Conflict—The Unexpected Gift” will surely help readers repair their strained or broken relationships as well as develop more constructive channels of communication in their ongoing interactions. In detailed steps, the book shows that by working through one’s conflicts, one learns to let go of unfounded assumptions and pave new chapters in one’s relationships.


"Conflict—The Unexpected Gift" will help you develop skills to resolve interpersonal conflicts. Each chapter offers concrete steps and real-life vignettes that teach new ways of communicating. Whether you are a teen, a senior or anywhere in between, you can learn how to resolve conflicts and build more viable relationships with family members, friends, coworkers, acquaintances, and other people with whom you interact. A pearl starts as an irritation in an oyster. Similarly, a new openness in your relationships can be an outcome of conflict. In the course of working through your conflict, you learn to let go of unfounded assumptions and pave new, positive chapters in your relationships. When reconciled, a conflict can be the unexpected gift of a second chance.

Purchase "Conflict - The Unexpected Gift" here.


Jack Hamilton has held positions as an instructor at Stanford University, as a senior research scientist at the American Institutes for Research, as director of executive services at the Institute for Information Management, and as co-founder of The Information Group, Inc. He holds a B.A. from Harvard, an M.A. from the University of California, and an M.A. and a Ph.D. from Stanford.

Jack believes we are at a time in the world when embracing diversity among people and groups is of vital importance. His mission as a conflict-resolution professional is to teach people how to realize their common destiny of coming to a truer understanding of who they really are, rather than what their thoughts about others often lead them to believe.

Elisabeth Seaman, Learn2Resolve

  • Mediated over 600 cases for public and private institutions, community programs and for families and individuals
  • Bilingual in Spanish and English. 
  • Honored for her contributions to the field of mediation by San Mateo County and the California State Legislature.
  • Partner in the mediation firm, Learn2Resolve