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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, by contrast, 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 normal rules of engagement no longer apply. The brain behaves differently. We feel increasingly certain of our own superiority and, at the same time, more and more mystified by the other side. 

In a lively audio production with sound clips from individuals and situations she discusses in the book, New York Times best-selling 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 find himself working beside the man who killed his childhood idol. 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. 

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 something good, something 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 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.  

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio.  

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

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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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  • 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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  • Kristoffer
  • 2021-06-12

Fantastic and insightful!

Nothing short of brilliant! Anyone will learn from this book. And superb narration. Need to re-read/listen.

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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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  • Will Blakey
  • 2021-04-20

Amazing book

An absolute masterpiece. In this book Amanda Ripley shows that in order to get people out of intense conflict you have to make them feel understood and heard.