Amanda Ripley

• NY Times Bestselling author of 'The Smartest Kids in the World' 'The Unthinkable' & 'High Conflict'

• Investigative journalist

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Amanda Ripley is a New York Times bestselling author and an investigative journalist who writes about human behavior and change for the Atlantic, the Washington Post and other outlets. She is the author of 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, and she is the host of the Slate podcast How To!.


High Conflict (2021) describes what happens when regular conflict distills into a good-versus-evil kind of feud, the type with an "us" and a "them." In this state, the brain behaves differently, and the normal rules do not apply. High Conflict chronicles the journey of people who were trapped in very different kinds of conflict, from the personal to the political, and then found their way out.


The Smartest Kids in the World follows three American teenagers who spent one year far from home, attending public high school in the countries with the strongest education systems in the world. A New York Times bestseller, it was published in 15 countries and chosen by The Economist, The New York Times, The Washington Post and Amazon as one of the most notable books of the year. The Smartest Kids in the World was also turned into a documentary film by the same name.


The Unthinkable chronicles the stories and wisdom of people who have survived disasters of all kinds--from hurricanes to terrorist attacks. It was published in 15 countries, turned into a PBS documentary and selected by Hudson Booksellers as one of the Top 10 Nonfiction Books of the year.


Amanda’s recent Atlantic stories include a piece about the movement to fix TV news and another about the least politically prejudiced town in America. She’s also been investigating what journalists can do to revive curiosity in a time of outrage, in cooperation with the Solutions Journalism Network. Earlier in her career, Amanda spent a decade writing about human behavior for Time Magazine in New York, Washington, and Paris. Her work has also appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Slate, Politico, The Guardian 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 U.S. Senate, the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security, as well as dozens of conferences on leadership, communicating in conflict, disaster behavior and education. She currently lives in Washington, DC, with her family.

Speech topics

Building a Culture of Good Conflict

The best way to prevent toxic conflict from hijacking your organization is to create a culture of good conflict — where questions get asked, honest disagreement is encouraged, and everyone behaves with a baseline level of decency and curiosity.

But good conflict doesn’t happen naturally. It requires rituals and boundaries, ways to lean into the tension, not avoid it (or get consumed by it). With this interactive, hands-on workshop, Amanda helps teams develop the practices and skills of Good Conflict. So that any future conflict that arises will be catalytic and useful, instead of draining and debilitating.

Breaking the Spell of High Conflict

Conflict, whether political or personal, can escalate and become toxic, as we keep seeing in the news, on social media, in politics. At this level, known as "high conflict," we start sorting the world into good and evil, us and them. Things become suddenly very clear. Our brains behave differently. We tend to exaggerate the differences between ourselves and the other political party or racial or religious group (or sibling or co-worker), without realizing we are doing it. We believe the other side cannot change, even when it can. Eventually, everyone suffers, to varying degrees. To try to understand how people get bewitched by high conflict--and how they get out--Amanda spent four years following a politician in California, a former gang leader in Chicago, a divided synagogue in New York City and other conflict survivors all over the world. She discovered that the secret is not to get out of conflict; conflict itself is essential, and it can be healthy and good. The key is to get out of high conflict. From the stories and the science of conflict, Amanda has identified the "fire-starter" forces that tend to cause high conflict--as well as the practical but counterintuitive rules of "good conflict." This work is surprising and ultimately hopeful, and it has transformed how Amanda operates as a journalist.

A Global Quest to Save America's Schools

How did other countries manage to make their public schools fairer and smarter than ours while spending dramatically less than we do? To find out, Amanda spent a year following three American high school students temporarily embedded in schools in Finland, Poland and South Korea. Through the students' stories and new research into education outcomes worldwide, Amanda helps unravel a mystery at the center of our global competitiveness. Her reporting led to the New York Times bestseller, The Smartest Kids in the World. In the end, Amanda returned home more optimistic than when she'd left--convinced that the U.S. can outperform the rest of the world, if we can sustain the political and public will.

Disaster Mythology – What really happens at the worst of times

Amanda Ripley draws on years of disaster reporting to explain the three phases most people go through in life-or-death experiences—and how we can learn to do better. She tells detailed stories of specific survivors from recent news-making calamities and combines their wisdom with the latest science into how the brain functions under extreme stress.

Presentation features: Case studies from the evacuation of the World Trade Center on 9/11, the 2004 tsunami and the 2009 crash of US Airways Flight 1549 in the Hudson River.

Books

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

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Smartest Kids in the World comes the first major book to use cutting-edge science and investigative reporting to explain the lure of malignant conflict in our private and public lives—and to reveal how we can escape it.


OUT NOW

To find out how people can escape high conflict, Ripley takes us inside the lives of real people. She appeared on CBS Sunday Morning to talk about the book...

Watch the full video at CBSNEWS.com

The Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got That Way

Through the compelling stories of three American teenagers living abroad and attending the world’s top-notch public high schools, an investigative reporter explains how these systems cultivate the “smartest” kids on the planet.

The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes - and Why

It lurks in the corner of our imagination, almost beyond our ability to see it: the possibility that a tear in the fabric of life could open up without warning, upending a house, a skyscraper, or a civilization.

Podcast

What if Dear Abby were an investigative reporter? Each week, Amanda Ripley (bestselling author of High Conflict: Why We Get Trapped and How We Get Out) takes on listeners’ toughest problems and, with the help of experts, finds the answers to questions you’ve always wanted to ask but couldn’t. Until now.

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