Saturday, October 02, 2021

High Conflict by Amanda Ripley

High Conflict by Amanda Ripley is a good book subtitled Why We Get Trapped and How We Get Out. Ripley wrote The Smartest Kids in the World and this latest one examines conflict that devolves into an us vs. them paradigm (often leading to everyone being worse off), what causes high conflict, and how to escape it. 

The first story she covers is that of Gary Friedman, a conflict mediator, author, and former trial lawyer who ran for and won a seat on the Community Services District Board of Directors in his small town of Muir Beach, CA and then wound up in high conflict. Additionally, Ripley writes of a former gang leader in Chicago who would have killed to avenge a death not actually caused by what he thought, Columbia financially supporting people who forsake conflict with the government of the country and lay down their weapons, and the interactions between groups of conservative Michigan corrections officers and liberal Manhattan Jews.

Some of the terms that Ripley notes as important in examining whether a given situation is one of high conflict as opposed to healthy conflict are confirmation bias (interpreting new information as confirmation of one’s preexisting beliefs), looping for understanding (actively listening by reflecting back to someone what they seem to have said and checking to see if that summary was correct), and saturation point (that point in a conflict where the losses seem heavier than the gains and there’s opportunity for change).

In the appendix, Ripley notes that some of characteristics of healthy conflict vs. high conflict: 

Humility, fluidity, complexity, novelty, passion, curiosity, and questions.

Certainty, rigidity, simplicity, predictability, righteousness, assumption, and advocacy.