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High Conflict: Why We Get Trapped and How We Get Out
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High Conflict: Why We Get Trapped and How We Get Out

4.47  ·  Rating details ·  194 ratings  ·  38 reviews
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
Published April 6th 2021 by Simon Schuster Audio
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Kriti | Armed with A Book
I read this book within a day. The concept of high conflict is portrayed in a well-researched and relatable manner. Amanda Ripley is an eloquent writer and her organization of ideas and stories is brilliant - I was hooked from the Introduction and by the time I was at the end of the last chapter, I did not want this book to end. I wanted to hear more stories about people and situations of high conflict, how they got into them, how they succeeded in getting out of them and what they learned about ...more
Rick Howard
May 02, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended for
: all politicians
: Uncle Harry before the next Thanksgiving
: Many Fox News pundits

The last four years have been brutal. The election of President Trump, whether you liked the guy or not,  sent everybody to their respective corners to hurl insults at each other and not even try to understand what the other side was saying. Polarization doesn't' seem to be a big enough word to convey this extremis situation. But the title of this book captures it perfectly. "High conflict" is akin t
Jun 16, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Read this book! This is the best book I've read all year. The author explores high conflict environments from interpersonal relationships within marriage to people living through war and genocide. There is a better way. It is a book of our time. ...more
Jim Breslin
Apr 29, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed ‘High Conflict - How We Get Trapped and How We Get Out’ by Amanda Ripley. Ripley does a better job synopsizing the book than I could so here’s what she wrote:

“This is a book about the mysterious force that incites people to lose their minds in ideological disputes, political feuds, or gang vendettas. The force that causes us to lie awake at night, obsessed by a conflict with a coworker or a sibling or a politician we’ve never met.”

Ripley weaves several case studies of “high con
Chris Boutté
May 13, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I’m not 100% sure what I was expecting from this book, but I’m torn on how much I personally enjoyed it. With that being said, any criticism I have is merely my own subjective taste in books because Amanda Ripley is an incredible writer and storyteller. After having hundreds of thousands of strangers on the internet come after me in 2019, I’ve been really interested in learning about good vs bad conflict and some of the psychology behind it, so that’s mainly why I grabbed this book. Amanda Riple ...more
May 08, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What is high conflict versus normal conflict? It's conflict that is unproductive and stagnant versus conflict that seeks to resolve and move forward. It sounds incredibly obvious but is such a good reminder for us to check ourselves: are we engaging in healthy, productive conversation or are we set in our thoughts and tuning the other person out?

She uses a political platform, gang rivalry and divorce as the main examples to prove her points. I underlined plenty of nuggets throughout:
-"The bigges
This book falls somewhere between theory and practice, with the theoretical meat of the text providing examples of people who have oversimplified central conflicts in their lives to us vs. them, right vs. wrong, good vs. evil when the reality is almost always much more complicated than that. The commonalities among the stories are explored in some detail as the people's stories unfold in each chapter.

The appendices are more practical than theoretical, though, following the examples in the main b
Apr 28, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I can't hardly think of a better "self-help" book to read at this time in history. Ms. Ripley does an amazing job of relating stories of high conflict and how people got there and how they got out. I had to take an active listening class for work one time, but I swear I didn't get as much out of that class as I did from this book. I had actually heard part of the story she relates about former gang members in Chicago. The most intriguing story for me was the one about the exchange between libera ...more
Renee Ross
Jun 12, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lots of great insights in here for people who work with groups or encounter high conflict — which is almost all of us, at this point!

I loved the case studies, especially Curtis. And also B’nai Jeshrun.

I’m struggling with how she frames the process of moving away from high conflict. Yes, we need to find our common humanity, not dehumanise others and not think in binaries. But there was some kind of equalising of the sides that bothered me. Very specifically, there are some “nice people” who are g
May 04, 2021 rated it it was amazing
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 th ...more
Shirley Freeman
This is my new favorite book! I listened to it, read by the author, and can't wait to buy a copy and read it again while taking notes. Using stories and examples from people all over the world, Ripley investigates the how, what, why and when we get sucked into high conflict --- conflict that seems impossible to resolve, that exists for its own sake, that feels just plain intractable. From messy divorces, to gang warfare, to city council arguments, to Israel & Palestine, to FARC and the Columbian ...more
Mary Louise Sanchez
The us vs them is certainly a topic that needs to be explored and the author, who is a journalist, gives specific examples of people in high conflict situations and how they escaped.

I liked the metaphors the author used like: avoiding the Tar Pits; who gets the crock pot; and avoiding people who are fire starters. The writing style for a non-fiction book was a bit disjointed for me. I would have preferred learning about the individuals and their conflict issues in one chapter, rather than picki
Trevor Stokes
Apr 15, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Combining good old-fashioned storytelling with very practical tips on how to get out of high conflict situations where the conflict itself seems to take over as opposed to any original disagreement. Jump to the appendix for straightforward guidance but circle back to the narrative woven throughout the book that shows under high conflict, you may feel like you're getting what you want but it's to the detriment of everyone. I think this should be mandatory reading for politicians and pundits to st ...more
Apr 25, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Conflict can be healthy. Or it can be extremely destructive. This is a thoughtful and engaging look at conflicts large and small, and the all too human dynamics behind them. One of my favorite storylines involved a world-renowned mediation expert who became mired in conflict with his local city council — and then worked his way back out of it. The author has some very practical suggestions for identifying conflict in others and yourself, and strategies for avoiding high conflict.
Isabella Zink
Apr 27, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Unthinkable is one of my favorite books so I was thrilled to read this. While I think it’s an incredibly important subject, I felt frustrated reading it because of its choppy style. To me, it read like Ripley would start a chapter, not sure where it was going, start a new section and write a bit before stopping and then starting a new section etc. This resulted in a sort of whiplash narrative style lacking the flow to really hammer home points.
Rika Mead
May 06, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent, relevant & amazing. I'd donate $ to put this in schools, starting at elementary level. If we all practiced these skills, the world would be a MUCH better place.

Aside: I listened to the audio version, as usual. Also, as usual, I was maximally alarmed to discover that the author was reading her own work. Amazingly, she was terrific (perhaps the difference between fiction and non- requires less vocal differentiation ..?).
May 09, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The author takes the term “high conflict” — usually used as an adjective to describe certain kinds of divorces — and turns it into a noun to describe all kinds of high-hear conflict in our world. I’m sure that academics would lob the same criticisms they have for Malcolm Gladwell, but she’s a good storyteller and there’s a lot of practical advice for how to turn down the temperature in our own lives. I’m still pretty pessimistic about the future of our country though.
May 16, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I wish I could give this book an additional half star. Ripley does an outstanding job of describing what high conflict is and how we find ourselves stuck in one where the dynamics of high conflict become more powerful than the original dispute. I found the book helpful in describing solutions that involve two people or a small group. I fear that it may not be as helpful in state or national politics.
May 17, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Through a series of deeply reported vignettes, Ripley shows how polarized fights get started and what kind of thinking it takes to get out of them. It's a story of hope at a time when our politics seem almost hopeless. Ripley's work dovetails with what we're doing at Solutions Journalism Network to "complicate the narrative" and encourage journalism on civic affairs that helps people solve problems constructively, even when we start out thinking our opposites are a lost cause. ...more
Jun 01, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an amazing book! I think every single person in the United States should read this book. No, I think every single person living on Earth should read this. It is about us human beings & how we get into high conflict, & how it stops us from solving significant problems. Written as a series of stories about individuals and their own personal traps into high conflict - and how they got out - it is a very easy book to read.
Dana Kraft
Jun 08, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
It’s so tempting to think that other people are the cause of high conflict, not me. The thing that struck me was the importance of humiliation. When I may think that feeling shame will change a person’s mind or behavior, it often hardens what should change. I also liked the reminder that no matter what, I need to find a way to have some positive interactions with people who I may be challenging. I also like the term conflict entrepreneur.
Jun 06, 2021 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars
I have mixed feelings about this book. I felt that there was a tremendous scope in tackling this topic, but this book fell short of my expectations. Having said that, there was some good stuff interspersed throughout the book.

Positives: "The power of binary" chapter
Good lessons around - managing ego, high vs healthy conflict, "mental and emotional" balcony, complacency is a bane of democracy, Baha'i consultation process

Negatives: The biggest weakness of the book were the case studies t
Jun 07, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book presented some lovely and practical strategies for avoiding binary thinking and creating a deeper sense of connection across communities that hold differing views. It also depicted factors that lead to high conflict and strategies to avoid getting sucked into high conflict. An interesting and worthwhile read.
Zoe Routh
Jun 09, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It comes down to self awareness and being curious: secret strategies to move beyond entrenched conflict. Simple strategies. Otherwise the book also offers interesting stories about the most polarized conflicts - personal, political, and everything in between - and how people lean into the conflict to understand each other better.
Apr 13, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fantastic read- provocative, relevant, insightful. Contains many references to other notable authors and works. Though chalk-full of concrete information reads as a narrative and allows readers to delve into an open, extroverted worldview during increasingly divisive periods of history.
May 17, 2021 rated it it was ok
A fair amount of research went into analyzing conflict, and it seems to me most was curable with a solid dose of Christian humility - something we can easily see being in short supply wherever we look.
Cathy D
Apr 23, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Refreshingly postive

High conflict is a conflict in which people fight beyond all reason. According to author Amanda Ripley normal conflict is good, but not high conflict. If in your divorce your fight over the crockpot, paying lawyers thousands of dollars, you are in high conflict. It’s the war of the Roses. I suspect we have all seen it, so identifying it is worthwhile but not more. She then gives several examples.

Much of the book is focused on a family mediator from Mill Beach California, Gary Friedman, who decid
May 03, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was a great and thought-provoking read. Any book that stretches my thinking gets 5 stars! Don't forget to read the Appendix...some great stuff in it. ...more
May 06, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I’ll take any advice on how to turn high conflict into healthy conflict and how to make space and respect different opinions without dehumanizing “them”.
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From the author's website:

Amanda Ripley is an investigative journalist for The Atlantic and other magazines and a New York Times bestselling author. Her books include High Conflict: Why We Get Trapped and How We Get Out, The Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got That Way, and The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes—and Why. Ripley spent a decade writing about human behavior for

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