Feed Forward in 2015

© 2015 By Bill Eddy, LCSW, Esq. and Georgi DiStefano, LCSW

A key breakthrough in writing our new book It’s All Your Fault at Work! Managing Narcissists and Other High-Conflict People, was when we realized that all “feedback” is something that both of us have found ineffective in motivating change with high-conflict people (HCPs) at work – or anywhere. While many people realize that negative feedback backfires with HCPs, most of us have still believed in the idea of positive feedback or “constructive” feedback. Yet when we thought about many cases that each of us has been involved in, we couldn’t think of any HCPs who embraced our feedback and went on to change their negative, self-defeating behavior into positive, constructive behavior. Instead, they defended their past behavior or said “Why do you hate me?” or walked out of meetings or even quit the organization all together. They just didn’t “get” that we were trying to help them.

As we were talking about this, Bill told Georgi about the study of “compassionate coaching” versus “coaching for compliance.” This study was done by researchers where Bill went to college many years ago, at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. In this recent study, they looked at brain scans of college students while they were given coaching that checked up on their studies and assignments (“Coaching for Compliance”) and compared this to coaching that focused on their future goals and how they could be helped to accomplish them (“Compassionate Coaching”). They found that Coaching for Compliance actually activated parts of the brain that triggered stress responses and resisted behavior change. On the other hand, Compassionate Coaching triggered creativity, openness to change and an increased sense of purpose. This study was done with average students, not specifically HCPs, but it showed that feedback – even about assignments – is not really constructive.

Combining our experience with these research results, Bill said to Georgi that he didn’t think any feedback about past behavior can work with HCPs. Instead, we need to focus on what we want in the future without criticizing the past. With that, Georgi said: “So we need to Feed Forward, not feedback.” And thus was born one of the key concepts which you will find throughout the book. Propose or request the positive behavior you want, without comparing it to less desirable behavior in the past. We have found that this Feed Forward approach works with anyone, anywhere.

We hope you’ll try it to help us all move forward in 2015!

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.


L. Georgi DiStefano, LCSW, is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with extensive experience in the management of substance abuse programs and employee assistance programs, as well as a popular speaker on workplace conflict resolution. She is the Executive/Clinical Director of the Center for Alcohol and Drug Studies and Services for the San Diego State University Research Foundation, Ms. DiStefano is the lead author of the book: Paradigm Developmental Model of Treatment Book: A Clinical Guide  For Counselors working With Substance Abusers And The Chemically Dependent and has spoken internationally on this new model she created. She provides management consultation and executive coaching, in addition to seminars on managing high conflict people in the workplace, healthcare, substance abuse programs and other settings.