In my last blog post, THE ABCs OF POWER: THE LETTER “A,” I presented some ideas about the nature of power.  The key points are:

1. power consists of our skills to achieve our desires

2. when we feel confident that we can achieve our desires, generally speaking, we feel less defensive when someone throws insults at us

3. to better handle name calling, insults and teasing, it is a great idea to learn to increase our power

In addition to making these key points about the nature of power, I began to construct a list of the main sources of power, a list that we are calling, “The ABCs of Power.”  Of course, we began that list with the letter “A.”  “A” is for Advancing Skills.

Improving your math skills can be viewed as employing the “advancing skills” source of power if you use it in a way that people you care about value.


By following this blog, you can advance your skill in dealing with name calling, insults and teasing.  If you have a desire to be respected and liked, this skill can be a big help.

Art, music, dancing, academics, carpentry, sports, and any other skill that your friends, family members, and co-workers value can be developed by you to increase your power. Set yourself on a plan to reach a level of proficiency that will delight you and the people you care about, and then watch your power soar.

Now that we covered the letter “A” on the list of the ABCs of Power, let’s move on to the letter “B.”

B is for Breaking Down a Conflict into its Three Conditions: Desire, Interference, and Guilt

Earlier on this blog, I discuss how to describe a conflict by using DIG as a memory device (see DIG FOR THE CONFLICT).  Here’s a brief summary of that earlier discussion.

The letters that make up the word, “DIG,” are in a sequence to remind us of a useful sequence for placing conflict conditions into a conflict description.  The “d” and the “i” remind us to first create a sentence that identifies the desire condition (I want to go to a Chinese restaurant with you) and then the interference condition of the conflict (instead of doing what I want, you want to go to an Italian restaurant with me).  Then thegreminds us to create a sentence that identifies the guilt condition (I think you are wrong for not agreeing to go to the restaurant I want to go to because you got to pick last time).


Just like a triangle must have three sides to be a triangle, a conflict must have all three conditions to be a conflict.

conflict triangle 2







Let’s take a minute to review the three major reasons for using this technique.

First, when someone is saying something to you that feels insulting, you can become frustrated  and defensive.  This makes it hard to think clearly.  By having a well practiced, easy to understand way to summarize a conflict, you can clarify the main issues.

Second, very simple conflicts can be looked at as a single unit with little difficulty.  Often by doing so, we find that we can begin to generate conflict resolution strategies that work to our satisfaction.  However, more complicated conflicts will leave us scratching our heads.  The skill to break up the conflict into its three conditions allows us to familiarize ourselves with smaller, more easily understandable parts.  Then, when we join the parts together, the whole becomes easier to grasp.

Third, sometimes we can come up with an idea to make a change to just one of the easier to understand conditions of the conflict and this leads to the rest of the conflict becoming easier to manage.

Let’s take a look at a mother using this source of power.

Resolving a Conflict by Focusing on the Desire

Imagine a family of four that loves to go to the movies, but they’ve stopped going because they are angry at how expensive it costs, especially the items at the snack counter.

abc movies

A new film has just come out and the kids in the family are pleading with their parents to go because all of their friends saw it and said it was great.

“I’m not going to that stinking movie theater,” the father says.  “The owner is a robber charging what he does for candy and popcorn.”

“Let’s try to break up this conflict and see what we can come up with,” says the mother.

The family agrees to give this a try.

First, the mother summarizes the conflict using the DIG memory devise.  “We desire to see a movie at a price we can afford,” says the mother, “but interfering with our desire, the movie theater owner charges too much money for candy and popcorn.  We think he is guilty of being wrong for charging such high prices.  From the perspective of the movie theater owner, he desires to make as much money as he can.  He probably doesn’t have a conflict with us.  He accepts that if he charges too much it will interfere with his desire that people come to his movies.  He probably doesn’t think we would be guilty of doing anything wrong if we choose not to come because we can’t afford it.  He therefore doesn’t have a conflict with us.  We have the conflict with him.  Does that capture the conflict?”

“Yes,” the father replies.  “That’s very impressive the way you did that!”

“Thanks,” says the mother.  “Now, let’s simplify the problem a bit by just focusing on the desire part of the conflict.  Can we achieve our desire of going to the movies at a price we can afford despite the prices at the theater for candy and popcorn being so high?”

“We don’t have to eat any candy,” the father offers.

“We can’t sit there at the movies and eat nothing,” says the oldest kid.

“Hmmm,” says the mother.  Then, turning to her husband, she say, “Honey, you know what’s going to happen once we get to the theater and the kids see the candy and start smelling the popcorn.  The kids are going to start whining, and we’ll end up spending a fortune.”

“Well, we can bring some candy with us,” says the father.  “Then we don’t have to pay for the outrageous prices at the theater.”

“Now that’s an excellent suggestion,” says the mother.

“You’re not allowed to bring candy in from outside the theater,” says the youngest kid.

“Well, let’s just try and see what happens,” says the father.  “I’ll bring my coat with big pockets and we’ll stash some stuff in there.”

“I’ll bring my big handbag, and we can bring some drinks in it,” says the mother.  “We’ll have a much better selection of what we want to bring to the movies if we first go to the supermarket.”

The family gives this plan a try and discovers that it works fine.  The movie theater owner is better off with this plan because this family wasn’t coming to the movies at all.  Now they come and pay for the price of four tickets, and they still buy a fresh bag of popcorn at the counter.  The family gets to enjoy the movie and popcorn, while saving a significant amount of money on candy and drinks.  It’s a win-win resolution.  And notice that by just focusing on the desire part of the conflict, it helped to simplify it, and this helped to come up with a plan that resolved their conflict.

Okay, that’s our lesson for today on how to utilize the source of power known as “Breaking Down a Conflict into its Three Conditions: Desire, Interference, and Guilt.” Today, we only have space to give an example that illustrates how, by focusing on the “desire” component of a conflict we ended up in a better position to resolve a conflict.  I would have liked to give an example that demonstrates how a conflict can become easier to resolve by focusing on the interference condition of a conflict and then at an example that demonstrates how a conflict can become easier to resolve by focusing on the guilt condition of a conflict, but I’m afraid our time is up for today.  We’ll get to these kinds of examples soon.

In the meantime, have a great week!


Some people will enjoy reading this blog by beginning with the first post and then moving forward to the next more recent one; then to the next one; and so on. This permits readers to catch up on some ideas that were presented earlier and to move through all of the ideas in a systematic fashion to develop their emotional and social intelligence. To begin at the very first post you can click HERE.

The ABCs of Power: The Letter "A"

About the Author

Jeffrey Rubin grew up in Brooklyn, received his PhD from the University of Minnesota and has taught conflict resolution there as well as at a psychiatric clinic, a correctional facility and a number of public schools. He has published articles on anger and conflict resolution and has authored three novels.


  1. THE ABCs OF POWER: THE LETTER “C” | Name Calling, Insults and Teasing
    April 1, 2013 - 9:45 am

  2. SOME EXAMPLES OF UTILIZING THE ABCs OF POWER | Name Calling, Insults and Teasing
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  3. THE ABCs OF POWER AND THE GUILT CONDITION | Name Calling, Insults and Teasing
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  7. gr8!

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