5 (of 10) Temptations to Violate Dignity

Donna Hicks, credit Steve Bennett

For nearly two decades Donna Hicks, Ph.D. has been in the field of international conflict resolution facilitating dialogue between communities in conflict in the Middle East, Sri Lanka, Colombia, Cuba, and Northern Ireland. She was a consultant to the BBC where she co-facilitated a television series, Facing the Truth, with Archbishop Desmond Tutu, which aired in the United Kingdom and on BBC World in 2006. Now with the paperback publication of Dignity: Its Essential Role in Resolving Conflict, we’d like to share some of the insights from Hicks‘s outline. To recognize dignity is to see an individual’s inherent self-worth, apart from their actions or what they have “earned.” In this way she distinguishes dignity from respect. Humans long to be treated in this way, and to protect ourselves from harm upon our person that would violate this sense of dignity.

(Some of) The Ten Temptations to Violate Dignity

1 – Taking the Bait

It is tempting to mirror another person’s actions, but restraint is part of dignity. To “take the bait” is not to act out of dignity because it lets another person determine your actions.

2 – Saving Face

We resist potential shame and embarrassment and may attempt to cover up our actions. This is a survival instinct that runs counter to our own dignity.

Dignity: Its Essential Role in Resolving Conflict6 – Avoiding Conflict

Confronting negating and violating situations can be difficult, but it is important we advocate for our dignity. In confrontation, we can maintain our own dignity and recognize the other person’s dignity, giving them the benefit of the doubt as we explain our position.

7 – Being the Victim

Case study: In a workshop between Israelis and Palestinians, both sides were asked what they could do to facilitate the other’s trust. Remarkable strides were made, because taking responsibility allows you to see around how you have been injured. It allows you to bring your whole self to the situation, which acknowledges your dignity and that of others.

10 – Engaging in False Intimacy and Demeaning Gossip

Gossiping helps us to feel a connection with someone by sharing information, and it may have served an evolutionary purpose to foster group cohesion. Still, to maintain our dignity, we should fight this impulse. If we want to connect with someone, we should share information about ourselves, which is real intimacy, not the false intimacy of gossip.


Donna Hicks is an Associate at the Weatherhead Institute for International Affairs at Harvard University. She has taught conflict resolution at Clark, Columbia and Harvard universities. In the field of international conflict resolution, she has been a facilitator of dialogue between communities in conflict, while consulting and teaching workshops on the dignity model.

Upcoming Events with Donna Hicks:

· March 1: Dignity Workshop Part 1 at the Community Dispute Settlement Center, 9-2:00, Cambridge, MA.

· March 1: Harvard Bookstore; 3:00pm in-store appearance.

· April 5: Dignity Workshop Part 2 at the Community Dispute Settlement Center, 9-2:00, Cambridge, MA.

· April 19-21: Dignity Course at Columbia University.

· April 25: Dignity Talk at the Harvard Club of Atlanta, GA

· May 10-11: Dignity Workshop for the Episcopal Church in Burlington,VT

· June 7: Commencement Speaker at Landmark School, Beverly, MA.

Leave A Comment

Your email address will not be published.