Excerpt: BIFF "High-Conflict People"

© 2012 By Bill Eddy, LCSW, Esq.

High-conflict people (HCPs) have a repeated pattern of aggressive behavior that increases conflict rather than reducing or resolving it. It’s part of how they think, feel and act. It’s been part of their personality for years.  To HCPs, it seems normal and necessary to intensely blame others. It’s often automatic. They can’t restrain themselves, even though their blaming may hurt themselves as well. When problems and conflicts arise, rather than thinking about solutions they focus on who to blame: an all-or-nothing approach. They think that it must be all YOUR fault (or else it’s all their fault and they can’t cope with that possibility). So they become preoccupied with blaming others in order to escape being blamed themselves. Their behavior is highly defensive. But you can’t point this out to them, because they become even more defensive.

This emphasis on blame isn’t mild – it’s intense! To them, it often feels like a life or death struggle. This explains why it may feel like they are engaged in a campaign to destroy you or someone else. They feel that their survival is at stake. For an explanation of why and how some people develop high-conflict personalities, please see our companion book It’s All YOUR Fault! 12 Tips for Managing People Who Blame Others for Everything.

Approximately one out of seven people has a high-conflict personality (12%-15% of people), based on my experience as a lawyer, mediator, therapist and avid reader of personality research. That’s a lot of people. I’m sure you have already met some of them. Conflict is part of who they are. And there are indications that they are increasing in modern society around the world.

Bill Eddy is a lawyer, therapist, and mediator. He is the co-founder and Training Director of the High Conflict Institute, a training and consultation firm that trains professionals to deal with high conflict people and situations. He is the author of several books and methods for handling high conflict personalities and high conflict disputes with the most difficult people.