In an Argument with a High Conflict Personality? How You Could Unintentionally Be Fanning the Flames

We all know one: a Difficult Person. He may be a spouse or family member. She may be an ex-wife or co-worker. Despite your best intentions and well-rehearsed, compassionate communication, they fly off the handle when you try to discuss an issue. No matter how much you try to have a rational conversation, you continually get cross-wise with them. It may be about something little, it may be about something big. But no matter how you approach him or her, this person is a High Conflict Personality.

Here’s the newsflash: You are probably unintentionally fanning the flames.

Bill Eddy, who is an attorney, licensed clinical social worker (LCSW), and a well-respected author on this subject, identifies High Conflict Personalities as having a “pattern of negative behavior with four primary characteristics: all-or-none thinking; unmanaged emotions; extreme behavior or threats; and a preoccupation with blaming others.” They are wired to escalate conflict, not defuse it, and they have a difficult time accepting any responsibility for the conflict.

Finding a Way to Work with High Conflict Personalities

All too often we try to approach the High Conflict Personality with our tried-and-true conflict resolutions methods that work with “reasonable” people. But those methods go nowhere with the High Conflict Personality and the conflict just continues to escalate. Bill Eddy’s article “4 Mistakes to Avoid with Difficult People” sets out a great list of tips for avoiding falling into the trap of a conflict with High Conflict Personality.

I’m the biggest offender with Mistake #1: “Trying to give them insight into their own behavior.” I think to myself: “This person wants to repair the conflict. If I just let her know how her behavior is escalating the conflict, she will surely stop that behavior immediately.” Wrong, so wrong. If the High Conflict Personality doesn’t have insight into her contribution to the conflict, he or she won’t be able to appreciate how that behavior is escalating the conflict. At best, he or she will assume a defensive posture in the conflict. At worse, he or she will see me as a threat. It’s a lose-lose strategy.

If you’re interested in finding ways to get through an argument with a High Conflict Personality, you can learn more tips from the master himself, Bill Eddy, by following this link: If you have found yourself in the middle of a family law dispute with a High Conflict Personality, let us be your guide. With more than 175 years of combined legal experience focused on divorce and family law issues, we have the experience to navigate the flare ups often caused by a High Conflict Personality spouse while also protecting your best interests.

You can reach us by calling (512) 420-0555 or filling out an online contact form.


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