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

Presented on: Wednesday, May 11th at 2:00 PM EDT

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High Conflict: Why We Get Trapped and How We Get Out investigates how good people get captured by high conflict--and how they break free. New York Times bestelling author and award-winning journalist Amanda Ripley explores specific examples of different types of people who were all 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.


Amanda Ripley is a New York Times bestselling author, an investigative journalist, and host of the Slate podcast How To! She’s spent her career trying to make sense of complicated human mysteries, from how people get out of dysfunctional conflicts to how countries educate virtually all their kids to think for themselves. Amanda’s most recent book is High Conflict: Why We Get Trapped and How We Get Out, published by Simon & Schuster in 2021.  Her previous books include The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes—and Why, which was published in 15 countries and turned into a PBS documentary, and The Smartest Kids in the World—and How They Got That Way, a New York Times bestseller which was also turned into a documentary film.

In her books and magazine writing, Amanda combines storytelling with data to help illuminate hard problems—and solutions. She follows people who have been through some kind of a transformation—including the survivors of hurricanes and plane crashes, American teenagers who have experienced high school in other countries, and politicians and gang members who were bewitched by toxic conflicts and managed to break free. 

For the Atlantic Magazine and other outlets, she has written feature stories on how journalists could do a better job covering controversy in an age of outrage, on the least politically prejudiced town in America, and on the strange history of state laws that punish teenagers for acting like teenagers. Her work has also appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, Slate, Politico, the Guardian, the Harvard Business Review, and the Times of London. Her stories helped Time win two National Magazine Awards.

To discuss her writing, Amanda has appeared on ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, FOX News, and NPR. She has spoken at the Pentagon, the Senate, the House of Representatives, the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security, as well as conferences on leadership, conflict resolution, and education.

Amanda started her journalism career covering courts and crime for Washington City Paper, where she had the great fortune to work for an editor named David Carr, who made his writers think anything was possible. She then spent 10 years working for Time Magazine in New York, Washington, and Paris. Currently, Amanda lives in Washington, D.C., with her family.