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with a High Conflict Personality? Three goals for survivalÖ
you have a partner, a colleague, a friend, a loved one where everything is a
challenge and every conversation becomes a competition; where if they donít
get their way, there is hell to pay; where they are relentless in their pursuit;
where somehow or other they are always right; where if they lose, someone else
is always to blame? Then that person may have a High Conflict Personality (HCP).
They may be a High Conflict Person (HCP)
by Bill Eddy in 2003, Bill is an American with degrees in law and social work.
Bill realized that the standard personality diagnosis available in the
Diagnostic and Statisticís Manual didnít convey some common features of this
personality disposition. Although not an actually recognized diagnosis as per
the manual on psychiatric disorders, the High Conflict Personality resonates
loud and clear for those working in the field of human relationships, be those
relationships be between intimate couples, separated couples, employees or
employees and employers or managers.
Eddy identifies the main features of the HCP as including;
or none thinking is also referred to as dichotomous thinking, where the persons
sees things as either night or day, good or bad. Everything is divided very
simply in two, with one part seen as favorable and the other part seen as
unfavorable. There is no gray area in this personís thinking. You are either
for me and my way of doing things or wanting what I want orÖ not. There is no
real room for compromise, middle or creative solutions where both sides may come
away satisfied. And whoa-be-tied if this person isnít satisfied because then
you will see unmanaged emotions.
unmanaged emotions typically come across as hostility, anger, bitterness and
resentment. They are expressed clearly and often loudly. You will always know
when an HCP is unsatisfied with an outcome and so will everyone around the
for extreme behaviors, these are not just persons who vent their discontent,
they seek to discharge their discontent overtly. These are the persons who will
try to ďoutĒ you as somehow inferior, wrong or bad; let others know their
view of you; try to influence others to their side and their projection of you
as a terrible person. These are the people who will file complaints and if
unsatisfied with the outcome of the complaint, may escalate the matter further
by then complaining about the complaint process and those involved. They may
suggest conspiracy theories and continue to seek to bring others to their way of
thinking and seeing themselves as the victim.
HCP lacks insight and cannot reflect upon themselves and their own behavior to
appreciate their contribution to distress As a result, they externalize their
upset by projecting blame on others. In Bill Eddy terms, they seek a target
a laser guided missile or a junk yard dog on a bone, they will zero in and not
let go. They seek to not just hold their target of blame somehow accountable for
misfortune originating with themselves, but to annihilate the person who they
see as thwarting their objective. This is consistent with their all or none
thinking. There can be no good in the person they are seeking to annihilate.
Their target of blame is all bad and nothing that person has ever done could be
good. Their solutions require their target of blame to not only lose with regard
to the matter of dispute, but to lose everything either personally or
are different degrees of HCP, but the underlying features remain. To add, each
HCP will possess a different level of sophistication. As such, some people with
HCP will be easily seen as the source of the problem, despite their complaints
and projections. These are the persons whose behavior may be so extreme as to
create trouble with the law or whose lies are so self-evident that other people
can quickly see through them, or whose claims are so outrageous so as not to
make sense on face value.
there are the ones who are more sophisticated, who are able to keep their
behavior on the lawful side of the line, who may use more institutional
structures to act out their discontent. These are the persons who will take to
the Internet to post anonymous complaints and diatribes; who will make countless
complaints to review boards; who will seek to undermine ones position or
profession; who will continually seek to take things to courts at any level.
These people can distort the truth and make their false claims appear plausible.
These are the persons who are adept at lawful harassment and indeed may be more
dangerous as a result.
Eddy advises of a number of approaches to working with people High Conflict
Personalities. One approach regards how to reply or respond to the diatribes and
lengthy emails, texts and voice messages often associated with these persons.
Bill speaks of BIFF Ė Brief, Informative, Friendly and Firm. The challenge is
to not be inducted or defensive with regard to every point and issue raised by
this person, but to stay true to the kernel of the issue at hand and only
address that issue and to do so reasonably, clearly and with a friendly tone.
other strategy Bill suggests, he refers to as EAR Ė Empathy, Attention,
Respect. Bill suggests that any persons who he would identify as having an HCP
may also have an underlying Narcissistic Personality Disorder. So while many
HCPs may have a Narcissistic Personality Disorder, not all Narcissistic
Personality Disorders are HCPs. Assuming an underlying Narcasistic personality
Disorder, the EAR approach address the personís need to be seen as extra
special, unique and deserving of respect and attention, regardless of how you
may truly feel about the person and regardless of that personís actual
and EAR are all about management strategies to cope, get along with, negotiate
with, etc. These strategies are not about changing the person identified as
having a HCP, but only to co-exist, manage or survive.
BIFF and EAR always work? Absolutely not. Sometimes regardless of approach, the
person with the HCP will just not like the outcome regardless of approach and
will continue to rail upon their target of blame continuing to seek their
for the person identified as HCP tends to be of little to no value. Given a lack
of insight, their inability to reflect upon themselves precludes traditional
you are in a relationship with such a person, or working with such a person or
exiting a relationship with such a person, get help and support for yourself.
You can learn better coping and management strategies. This wonít necessarily
make the associated issues go away, but it may at least provide some degree of
much as you may want to set the record straight, donít bother. These persons
will outshout you and your defense only creates the conditions for them to
continue. The real goals are
Direnfeld, MSW, RSW
Call Gary for your next conference and for expert opinion on family matters. Services include counselling, mediation, assessment, assessment critiques and workshops.
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