Drawing on advice from the world’s leading experts on conflict and communication—from relationship scientists to hostage negotiators to diplomats—Ian Leslie, a columnist for the New Statesman, shows us how to transform the heat of conflict, disagreement and argument into the light of insight, creativity and connection, in a book with vital lessons for the home, workplace, and public arena.
For most people, conflict triggers a fight or flight response. Disagreeing productively is a hard skill for which neither evolution or society has equipped us. It’s a skill we urgently need to acquire; otherwise, our increasingly vociferous disagreements are destined to tear us apart. Productive disagreement is a way of thinking, perhaps the best one we have. It makes us smarter and more creative, and it can even bring us closer together. It’s critical to the success of any shared enterprise, from a marriage, to a business, to a democracy. Isn’t it time we gave more thought to how to do it well?
In an increasingly polarized world, our only chance for coming together and moving forward is to learn from those who have mastered the art and science of disagreement. In this book, we’ll learn from experts who are highly skilled at getting the most out of highly charged encounters: interrogators, cops, divorce mediators, therapists, diplomats, psychologists. These professionals know how to get something valuable – information, insight, ideas—from the toughest, most antagonistic conversations. They are brilliant communicators: masters at shaping the conversation beneath the conversation. They know how to turn the heat of conflict into the light of creativity, connection, and insight.
In this much-need book, Ian Leslie explores what happens to us when we argue, why disagreement makes us stressed, and why we get angry. He explains why we urgently need to transform the way we think about conflict and how having better disagreements can make us more successful. By drawing together the lessons he learns from different experts, he proposes a series of clear principles that we can all use to make our most difficult dialogues more productive—and our increasingly acrimonious world a better place.
About the Author
Ian Leslie is the author of two acclaimed books on human behaviour: Born Liars: Why We Can’t Live Without Deceit and Curious: The Desire to Know and Why Your Future Depends On It (“Rich with insight and answers”, San Francisco Book Review). He is a regular contributor to the New Statesman, the Economist/1843, the Guardian, and the Financial Times.
“Conflicted is not merely fascinating; it’s also important. It’s the right book at the right time, and Ian Leslie is clearly the right author for the job. If you encounter ideas that make you squirm—and you probably will—remember, that’s part of the point.”
— David Epstein, bestselling author of Range
“Conflicted is a fascinating deep dive into disagreement: how it goes wrong and how it can go right. Its powerful insights are wrapped in gripping stories. Read this book. It could not be more timely.”
— Harlan Coben
“A thoughtful, thought-provoking guide to getting along, even when doing so might seem impossible.”
— Publishers Weekly
“For anyone interested in having meaningful, collaborative conversations with successful outcomes. The contents are a wealth of guidance for even seasoned professionals in the field of conflict management… Recommend for anyone.”
— Library Journal
Ian Leslie is one of our most brilliant science writers, and Conflicted is his best yet. It's full of wisdom and surprise and is exactly what we need in a world where disagreement itself feels like it's coming under threat.
— Will Storr, author of Selfie and The Science of Storytelling