Anybody You Know? 40 Predictable Characteristics of High Conflict People

matthew-gerrard-349932For the past twenty years I have been studying and teaching about high-conflict people (HCPs) and how to manage them in legal disputes, workplace disputes, neighbor disputes and other situations. HCPs have a narrow personality pattern of: 1) Preoccupation with blaming others. 2) All-or-nothing thinking. 3) Unmanaged emotions that throw them off-course. 4) Extreme behaviors (that 90% of people would never do). Thus, their conflicts increase instead of being managed or resolved. After dealing with hundreds of these situations, I have developed a list of 40 predictable behaviors you can anticipate once you have seen the four characteristics above.

The full list of 40 is contained in my latest book 5 Types of People Who Can Ruin Your Life published by TarcherPerigee/Penguin Random House (available 2/6/18).

Here’s the first 20 of the 40 predictable characteristics:

  1. Won’t reflect on their own behavior.
  2. Won’t have insights about their part in problems.
  3. Won’t understand why they behave the way they do.
  4. Won’t change their behavior.
  5. Won’t seek counseling or any form of real advice.
  6. Won’t understand why they succeed in the short term (when they are initially charming and persuasive) and why they fail in the long-term (when reality sets in).
  7. Will become extremely defensive if someone tells them to change.
  8. Will claim their behavior is normal and necessary, given the circumstances.
  9. Will lack empathy for others, although they may say the right words.
  10. Will be preoccupied with drawing attention to themselves.
  11. May be preoccupied with the past; defending their own actions and attacking others.
  12. May have a public persona that’s very good, covering a negative personality in private.
  13. May call others crazy when it’s suggested that they are being inappropriate.
  14. May bully others, but defend themselves by saying that they were bullied.
  15. Will be preoccupied with blaming others, even for very small or non-existent events.
  16. Will have lots of energy for blaming others, since they don’t spend it on self-reflection.
  17. Will have Targets of Blame, who are intimate others or people in positions of authority.
  18. Will focus on a single Target of Blame, and try to control, remove or destroy that person.
  19. May assault their Target(s) of Blame financially, reputationally, legally, physically, etc.
  20. May engage administrative or legal procedures against their Target(s) of Blame.

If you recognize this pattern in a family member, co-worker, boss or neighbor, DON’T tell them you think they are an HCP. That usually makes things much, much worse. Remember, HCPs don’t reflect on their own behavior. Instead, focus on containing them by setting limits and the other methods described in my new book. It’s for anyone.


Bill RoundBill Eddy is a lawyer, therapist, mediator and the President of the High-Conflict Institute. He is the author of a dozen books, including 5 Types of People Who Can Ruin Your Life: Identifying and Dealing with Narcissists, Sociopaths and Other High-Conflict Personalities released by TarcherPerigee/Penguin Random House on Feb. 6, 2018.

He is the President of High Conflict Institute, which provides training and consultation for dealing with high-conflict people and situations. He is the author of several books on high-conflict personalities and has developed the following methods for managing high-conflict people in any situation: New Ways for Families®New Ways for Mediation℠New Ways for Work℠, The CARS Method℠ and BIFF Response®. To learn more about our training, coaching, consultation and videos, visit us at



When a high-conflict person has one of five common personality disorders—borderline, narcissistic, paranoid, antisocial, or histrionic—they can lash out in risky extremes of emotion and aggression. And once an HCP decides to target you, they’re hard to shake.

But there are ways to protect yourself.




©2018 Bill Eddy, LCSW, Esq.

Photo by Matthew Gerrard on Unsplash