An interview with investigative journalist and author Amanda Ripley

Amanda Ripley is an author, investigative journalist and host of the Slate podcast “How To!” She is also the co-founder of Good Conflict, a company that creates workshops and original content to help people better understand how they fight. Prior to participating in “How Our Communities Can Escape Polarizing Conflict,” a Zócalo/California Wellness Foundation event, co-presented with the Natural History Museum of LA County, Ripley joined us in our Green Room at La Brea Tar Pits and Museum to discuss her favorite place to write, her most unpopular opinion and the first dispute she ever officiated.

Q:

What is the first conflict you remember mediating?

A:

My parents. For everyone, I think, the first conflict they are exposed to is that of their family. I handled it the wrong way. I always tried to intervene in a way that no one asked me to do. So I guess you could say this is my first failed mediation. As a journalist, I was always in conflict or close to conflict or writing about conflict, and it’s only in the last five years that I’ve really started to see how much we leave without investigation – there is so much under the conflict that we tend not to explore. We are like a moth hovering around the flame of conflict; there’s a lot of really interesting stuff that mediators do to try to get past that. It was really transformative to do that.


Q:

You have been playing football since you were 7 years old and we heard that you have also been a coach. What is your best coaching advice?

A:

Don’t yell at kids when they’re playing the game. I’m amazed to this day how rarely this is seen. Even though US Soccer now trains everyone not to. There are cognitive reasons for this: the brain cannot function well, with agility, under so much stress. And football, in particular, is a game of decision-making. If you yell at a child, he’s going to make a bad decision. So that’s my pet peeve.


Q:

What is your most unpopular opinion?

A:

I have so many! It depends on the crowd, but one would be to never write people off. Someone can be insufferable with their opinions and argumentative style right now, but I’ve seen people change drastically. If you don’t maintain a connection, they have nowhere to go when they want to change. So whether they are leaving a cult or trying to be less of a conflict entrepreneur or trying to atone for their sins, they must have somewhere to go.


Q:

What is your current guilty pleasure?

A:

I read mystery novels that aren’t very good at falling asleep. This is ideal if they happened around 50-100 years ago and are not very literary. I wouldn’t say they’re terrible, but they’re not literary. I love it. I spend all day reading about the true and horrible things that happen, and I just can’t make it past 9pm. So these World War II detective stories about female detectives in London or something like that, to me, that’s a sleeping pill. I can’t fall asleep unless I do this for ten minutes.


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