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  • Toby Sinclair

High Conflict Summary by Amanda Ripley

Updated: Sep 13, 2021

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⭐ Toby's Rating: 9/10 - Recommended For: Everyone

3 Big Ideas 💡

High conflict by Amanda Ripley helps you navigate conflict effectively:

  1. High Conflict differs from regular conflict. In high conflict, people become certain of their own righteousness, make negative assumptions about those who have a different position and come to believe that the only acceptable solution is total victory. This conflict usually ends with no winners.

  2. Every high conflict has an understory. The real reason the conflict has escalated. To mediate the conflict, uncover the understory.

  3. Looping is an effective way of listening actively during high conflict situations. This is a form of paraphrasing that demonstrates to someone you have heard them. It also slows the conversation and often reduces emotion.

2 Best Quotes from High Conflict Book 💬

Thats the main difference between healthy conflict and high conflict. In healthy conflict curioisity exists. It leads somewhere. In high conflict, the conflict is the destination. There is no where else to go.
In High Conflict we many many more errors in judgement. It's hard to be curious whilst you are outraged.

Tobys Top Takeaway

Amanda Ripley shares a brilliant metaphor for conflict.

La Brea Tar Pits are a group of tar pits in urban Los Angeles, US. Natural asphalt has seeped up from the ground in this area for tens of thousands of years. The tar is often covered with dust, leaves, or water. Over many centuries, the tar preserved the bones of trapped animals. Since 1906, more than one million bones have been recovered, representing over 231 species of vertebrates. In addition, 159 species of plants and 234 species of invertebrates have been identified. It is estimated that the collections at La Brea Tar Pits contain about three million items.

High Conflict is like the Tar Pits. It has a magnetic pull that attracts people to it. Some make it out alive whilst many become victims.

Certain people thrive in these situations: conflict entrepreneurs. These firestarters take joy in conflict. They dial up the heat in situations. This can sometimes be helpful but at other times they lead more victims to the tar pits.

My biggest takeaway was to be aware of the conflict entrepreneurs in my work and life. I can name several. How are they helping or hindering?


Big Ideas Expanded 💡

Overcoming High Conflict

5 ways to overcome High Conflict:

  1. Investigate the understory - Find out what has made people so invested in the conflict.

  2. Reduce the binary - Find out what you share in common. Remove us vs them.

  3. Marginalize the fire starters - Stop listening to those who get a thrill out of the fight.

  4. Buy time and make space - Notice your triggers and when you become aware of them, take a break.

  5. Complicate the narrative - Recognize that most stories go deeper than a hero and villain.


Looping is a form of paraphrasing. You repeat back to the other person what you've heard them say. This can slow the conversation down and calms high emotions in doing so. It also demonstrates your engagement in the conversation.

Looping is useful when there’s a misunderstanding you need to clear up. Looping follows a simple five-stage formula.

  1. When the other person has said something that you’re confused or unsure about, summarize what that person has said, and ask whether you’ve got it right.

  2. The other person will either confirm that you’ve got it right, or will clarify what you’ve got wrong.

  3. You should then summarize what the other person has said including the new information, and ask that person to confirm you understand.

  4. The other person will either confirm that you understand or not.

  5. If you do understand, consider asking for more information. If you don’t understand, go back to stage one.

Here are some tips for looping:

  • Loop whenever there’s a misunderstanding that needs to be cleared up.

  • Interrupt the other person when necessary to explore something that’s causing confusion.

  • Be alert to body language, as that can play a role in your understanding and be looped back to the other person – “you just clenched your fists, are you feeling mad?”

  • Remain calm even if the other person is frustrated or mad.

Questions in Conflict Situations

When you find yourself in high conflict situations, ask these three questions:

  1. Does it need to be said?

  2. Does it need to be said by me?

  3. Does it need to be said by me right now?

It's surprising how often the answer is no.


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