Building Resilient Relationships
in the Face of Conflict
by Melody Stanford Martin •
Broadleaf Books, September 22, 2020
In Brave Talk, Melody Stanford Martin has done what no one has done before: challenged some of the most basic, widely held assumptions about conflict and how to address it. Anyone who experiences a deep divide will benefit enormously from this book.
— Dr. Donna Hicks, professor at Harvard University and author of Dignity: Its Essential Role in Resolving Conflict
As a representative in the swing state of Iowa, I have a front row seat to the growing political divide. In a time where divisions not only threaten our country but our very families, we need a new approach to dealing with conflict. Brave talk is that new approach.
— Lindsay James, Iowa State Representative
Brave Talk is a book for our time. With her personal experience and expertise, Melody Stanford Martin writes with both rigorous analysis and deep compassion.
— Diana Francis, Peace Activist and Former President of the International Fellowship of Reconciliation
When we disagree about fundamental issues, especially issues such as politics or religion, it can be incredibly difficult to maintain close interpersonal relationships. These differences have ended friendships and caused rifts in families. We need a tool to help us build more resilient relationships despite real and present differences. In Brave Talk, communications expert Melody Stanford Martin offers just such a tool: impasse. By learning to treat every conflict as if it’s an impasse and temporarily suspend our desire to resolve differences, we make space for deeper understanding and stronger ties.
Brave Talk (book) offers hands-on skill-building in critical thinking, power-sharing, and rhetoric. Combining real-life storytelling, engaging illustrations, and rigorous academic sources, this book blends humor, creativity, and interactive learning to help everyday people develop better skills for navigating conflict in order to build stronger relationships and healthier communities.
- Navigating the political and emotional complexities of impasse and difference with a trauma-informed lens
- Appreciating what it means to disagree well and the role of healthy disagreement in a democracy
- Understanding harmful uses of power and domination that exacerbate conflict — true conflict transformation holds social justice and equality at its core
- Improving skills of ethical rhetoric and argumentation — engaging our neighbors with dignity and empathy while operating in the full strength of our convictions
Brave Talk offers a helpful set of resources for individuals, book clubs, students, families, faith communities, non-profits, and any group that wants to strengthen their skills in conflict transformation and courageous dialogue.
Part I “Understanding Impasse” tells the story of the author’s personal journey with unresolvable differences and introduces the central idea of the book: when we approach conflict with the intent to solve it, we often miss important steps of seeing each other. A true conflict transformation approach doesn’t focus on resolution or consensus. Rather, it seeks to build long-term, resilient relationships that can address root causes and facilitate opportunities for creativity and collaboration. In order to transform conflict, we must first understand how conflict works — especially the ways fear and the misuse of power destroy community. Brave Talk challenges readers to become more aware of subtle yet harmful patterns of control and domination. The book calls readers to embrace and innovate modes of power-sharing that keep relationships and societies healthy.
Part II “Engaging Impasse” teaches the art of asking great questions, managing difficult emotions, and what it means to disagree well in situations of conflict. Readers are asked to consider how power structures operate particularly in the creation and enforcement of social rules of discourse. Brave Talk critiques the idea of “civil discourse” due to the fraught and troubling legacy of the word “civility” and the ways this idea has been weaponized specifically against people of color. These chapters offer that “courageous dialogue” is a better framework because it seeks to share power, engages a wider range of cultural and communication styles, and helps us to see the person beneath the words.
Part III “Transforming Impasse.” Once we have learned to really see our neighbor and gain a healthier relationship with conflict and disagreement, it is good and right to let ourselves be seen as we advocate the full strength of our convictions. Part III teaches skills for unearthing hidden assumptions, holding language accountable, and crafting persuasive arguments that are more dignifying, responsible, and effective. The final chapter of the book explores five practices of resilient relationships by studying the unusual friendship between Chief Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Antonin Scalia. Brave Talk invites readers to consider that if these two polar opposites can build a resilient relationship across incredible difference, so can we — for the good of our families, communities, and democracy.
About the Author
Melody Stanford Martin is a social ethicist and communications expert helping people of all ages develop skills of courageous dialogue and conflict transformation. She is the Founder and CEO of Cambridge Creative Group, an organization specializing in nonprofit messaging and outreach, and a founding co-host of Irenicast, a podcast on faith and culture. She is a graduate of the Religion and Conflict Transformation program at Boston University School of Theology. Martin lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with her husband, Corey, and their dog, Benedict Cumberbatch. Connect with Melody here.