Conflict and The Law of the Instrument


Abraham Kaplan, a Ukrainian born American philosopher, expressed what he called the “Law of the Instrument” in his 1964 publication “The Conduct of Inquiry”, as follows;  

Give a small boy a hammer, and he will find that everything he encounters needs pounding.  

This describes the challenges we face when we attempt to apply one fix, or one answer, to everything. Particularly when dealing with conflict. When we discover a method for dealing with conflict that works for us in one situation, we begin to apply it universally. Intellectually, we know this doesn’t work, yet our response under pressure is a bit like the boy with the hammer. 

It can be tempting to formulate problems in ways that support our favored solution. If all our conflicts were exactly alike, without change, this might work. Fortunately, life has more than one variable and every situation requires flexibility in our approach.  

So what are the tools you pick up when a significant conflict enters your life? Is it time to revisit the tool box, explore your underlying interest, and discover new methods?  If you can improve your conflict resolution skills, you can increase peace in your world.