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Publisher's Summary

When we are baffled by the insanity of the “other side”—in our politics, at work, or at home—it’s because we aren’t seeing how the conflict itself has taken over.

That’s what “high conflict” does. It’s the invisible hand of our time. And it’s different from the useful friction of healthy conflict. That’s good conflict, and it’s a necessary force that pushes us to be better people.

High conflict is what happens when discord distills into a good-versus-evil kind of feud, the kind with an us and a them. In this state, the brain behaves differently. We feel increasingly certain of our own superiority, and everything we do to try to end the conflict, usually makes it worse. Eventually, we can start to mimic the behavior of our adversaries, harming what we hold most dear.

In this “compulsively readable” (Evan Osnos, National Book Award-winning author) book, New York Times bestselling author and award-winning journalist Amanda Ripley investigates how good people get captured by high conflict—and how they break free.

Our journey begins in California, where a world-renowned conflict expert struggles to extract himself from a political feud. Then we meet a Chicago gang leader who dedicates his life to a vendetta—only to realize, years later, that the story he’d told himself about the conflict was not quite true. Next, we travel to Colombia, to find out whether thousands of people can be nudged out of high conflict at scale. Finally, we return to America to see what happens when a group of liberal Manhattan Jews and conservative Michigan corrections officers choose to stay in each other’s homes in order to understand one another better, even as they continue to disagree.

All these people, in dramatically different situations, were drawn into high conflict by similar forces, including conflict entrepreneurs, humiliation, and false binaries. But ultimately, all of them found ways to transform high conflict into good conflict, the kind that made them better people. They rehumanized and recatego­rized their opponents, and they revived curiosity and wonder, even as they continued to fight for what they knew was right.

People do escape high conflict. Individuals—even entire communities—can short-circuit the feedback loops of outrage and blame, if they want to. This is an “insightful and enthralling” (The New York Times Book Review) book—and a mind-opening new way to think about conflict that will transform how we move through the world.

Featuring audio highlights from actual interviews, town hall meetings, and podcasts.

©2021 Amanda Ripley. All rights reserved. (P)2021 Simon & Schuster, Inc. All rights reserved.

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What listeners say about High Conflict

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Informative

there's lots of good information in this book but most of it is in regard to gangs and that does not relate to the average person who perhaps is listening to this book. In my case, I'm a therapist and I would love to have learned more about small interpersonal conflicts and marriage and relationship issues. These things were covered in a small way in the book as compared to the huge amount of time she gave to the conflict between groups and gangs.

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Awesome!!!!!

I enjoy listening this audio book I hope a second release is on the way by this author.

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  • JMS
  • 2021-05-05

Poignant and practical

Ripley uses a brilliant, albeit grim analogy of California’s La Brea Tar pits: it’s the source of one of the biggest collections of Ice Age fossils in the world, including those of Woolly mammoths and sabre-toothed tigers. For thousands of years, the pits became death traps to unwitting animals who wandered in and attracted predators with their struggle to escape. Much like the millions of creatures who became trapped in that murky goo, when we’re lured into a feud, we become helpless against the pull of high conflict.

Listen to my complete review on the Audiobook Reviews in Five Minutes podcast

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  • Mark Patterson
  • 2021-05-19

Perspective and Tools for Conflict-Drenched Times

Amanda Ripley draws deeply from wells of experience covering conflict as a reporter and interviewing experts. As a conflict-management practicianer myself (an organizational ombuds), I love her use of stories to illustrate and deepen concepts like "looping" (a form of reflective active listening).

As a narrator, Ripley does an admirable job. I wouldn't hire her to narrate someone else's book, but her tone and pacing serve her text well. The inclusion of recorded clips is an unusual but nice touch, adding some special color and texture to the production you would never get from reading.

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  • John Schneider
  • 2021-09-11

One of the top 3 books I’ve ever read

This book has so much rich knowledge in it it’s hard to dissect all at once. I am a physician and listening is some thing that is paramount to what I do, yet conflict rises constantly throughout my day. Many of them are small conflicts but once in a while a true high conflict situation arises. It’s been difficult for many of us in the medical field to really understand how to handle conflict. I believe this book is a valuable tool for all of us individually, but many of us who work in fields with significant and voluminous human interaction would benefit most from listening to Amanda Ripleys wonderful thesis on conflict.

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  • Lorena Kazmierski
  • 2021-04-19

Great.

Well worth listening to. Well-researched, excellently read, interesting stories, and lots of helpful information to utilize on a personal level. Great job, Ms. Ripley!

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  • Charles Cumiskey
  • 2021-04-18

Best book of the past 5 years

This is a must read for every leader. She provides excellent information and examples to better understand how conflict happens and ways to prevent falling into the “tar pits”.

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  • Andrew S
  • 2021-04-16

well written, compelling diagnosis & prescription

It's well written, compelling, and believable. highly recommended for anyone wondering if there's a way out of polarized times.

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  • J. Roberts
  • 2022-01-05

Vital information for everyone

I loved this book! It was packed with interesting stories and examples that made me understand the work I need to do to begin to have better conversations. It isn’t easy to have conflict but through this book there are examples of why some conflict helps us grow and how high conflict limits us. It definitely makes me want to learn more about the topic and stretch beyond my comfort level. The author does a great job narrating too. I highly recommend this book!

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 2021-12-17

This audio book is a must

Easy to listen, narrator made the whole experience worth it. The content is great, it is absolutely a must in these days!

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  • zestyreverend
  • 2022-01-22

Excellent Writing!

A great piece that had been researched and is in depth for the conflicts of our day.

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  • David Pruett
  • 2021-12-16

Very worthwhile!

Great stories of examples of high conflict and managing conflict in a healthy way. Thanks Amanda!

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  • Cyphter
  • 2021-11-08

Essential Reading - Most Timely

This book is enlightening, edifying, informative, but it is as moving and enjoyable as reading a novel. Amanda Ripley is a marvelous storyteller and the book felt like a series of interlocking short stories. We’ve all met the person who maintains calm objectivity when challenged and can see the dignity in those who are losing a grip on theirs. This book gives us a peek inside and encourages us to learn how they do that, how to find humble curiosity instead of going with the knee jerk reactions. While we are being goaded into aggressive levels of conflict from news and social media, this book reminds us that we can choose to be the calm at the eye of the storm. Thank you Amanda Ripley!! Well written and well read!! I feel as though I know you!!

1 person found this helpful