Ready for a little less drama in your home, workplace?

Friday, May 14, 2021, Vol. 45, No. 20
By Terri Schlichenmeyer

Every morning, it’s the same argument. Two adult human beings, one at a time in front of your desk, complaining about the other over some office war that’s gone on too long. Both think they’re right. Neither will give up. You don’t know how this ridiculousness started but you know it’ll end because you’re going to end it.

And with “High Conflict” by Amanda Ripley, you’ll know how.

No doubt you’ve seen it everywhere lately, online, in your neighborhood, maybe your family, definitely in your workplace: Everybody has an opinion about something and they’re not about to budge an inch on it. That, says Ripley, is high conflict, and someone being stuck is one of its “hallmarks.”

As nice as conflict-free living might seem, life would be boring if we all thought the same way. Small disagreements move us forward or move us on, and “good conflict” is healthy. When we settle firmly into an us/them, “good-versus-evil kind of feud,” though, it becomes high conflict. In precincts, partnerships, politics, partisans and the people at your desk, high conflict isn’t good, physically and emotionally, for you, them or anybody else.

The first thing to do to minimize the “trap” of high conflict is to make everyone understand that entrenching so deeply in an argument won’t change minds and it won’t make things better – in fact, it might make things worse.

In conflict, both parties must learn to listen and “loop,” which tells a speaker that they’re truly being heard.

Always offer “more than two choices.”

Remember, we’re all in some sort of “group,” and that belonging comes with obligations.

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

by Amanda Ripley

c.2021, Simon & Schuster

$28

353 pages

Know the “accelerants” in high conflict, remember that the whole process can be terribly addicting and learn to spot the “conflict entrepreneurs” who love a good feud.

Consider giving up social media and TV news. And in conflict, try to really know the other guy; studies show that if you “kind of liked each other,” it’s harder to dig in your heels.

Like a lot of people lately, you’ve looked around and shaken your head. This them-versus-us entrenchment is everywhere and “High Conflict” can help end it in your sphere.

Roll up your sleeves and hone your mediating skills. You’ll need them.

Though readers who come to it hardly need convincing, the first couple dozen pages of this book seem to exist for the purpose of persuasion. That’s fine, the stats you’ll find there are interesting.

Beyond that, though, is the good stuff as the author hits readers with powerful real-life stories to perfectly illustrate high conflict when it’s out of control, particularly showing how the spiral began. Those tales read somewhat like a post-mortem on a disaster. It’s plain to see how the process is generally unique in its various outsets but it’s remarkably similar in its progress.

And it’s end-able – at least on a small scale.

As for worldwide, well, there’s hope: An avalanche often starts with just one pebble. For that catalyst – you? – “High Conflict” makes a good argument.

Terri Schlichenmeyer’s reviews of business books are read in more than 260 publications in the U.S. and Canada.