How To Avoid Feeling Like A Doormat When Someone Treats You BAD
© 2014 By Bill Eddy, LCSW, Esq.
Since you’re reading this blog, I’ll assume you have a difficult person in your life; someone who blows up at little things, puts words in your mouth and plays the role of a professional victim. I’m not referring to ax murderers, although they are certainly bad. I’m talking about people we call HCP’s (High Conflict People). They are expert at blaming you for their problems and frustrate you to no end with their aggressive behavior. The key to dealing with it is to understand it, so read on.Why Some People Are So BAD
HCPs suffer from unconscious fears that cause them to react in an extreme fashion to perceived danger. They get MAD easily, and their reactions to minor difficulties leave you anxious, stressed and defensive. This person treats you badly, and BAD is the word to remember in this tip – Behavior that’s Aggressively Defensive.
Nature has programmed all of us with a fight-or-flight instinct that kicks in when we are faced with danger. If someone throws a rock at your head, you’ll jump out of way without ever thinking about it (flight). If he throws more rocks, you’ll eventually start chucking them back to make him stop (fight). With an HCP the instinct is distorted and the “flight” part is essentially missing --when’s the last time you saw your HCP back down from confrontation?
For the HCP, it feels like people are throwing rocks all the time. They “think” with their feelings, which we call emotional reasoning, so when something feels dangerous (i.e.: a threat to their emotional well-being), they will defend themselves. Aggressively. They have probably spent most of their lives with a variety of distorted emotions and misplaced fears and have “learned” that flight is not an option. Fight is automatic and hardwired the same way your life experiences have taught you to be annoyed when someone cuts in line. You don’t think about making yourself get annoyed or decide to get annoyed, you just are. For HCP’s, lacking any instinct to get out of the way of rocks or calmly point out that they were in line first, they instantly react the only way they know how which is to aggressively defend themselves from perceived threats and mistaken feelings of danger.
Furthermore, HCP’s have virtually no ability to reflect on a situation or consider that they may be partially responsible for a conflict. To them, their hurt feelings and sense of danger is always caused by someone else, and invariably, this means you will be the target when they start throwing rocks regardless of whether or not you ever even had a rock.
Duck and Cover or Fight Back?
You might already know that you won’t get anywhere by reasoning with an HCP or waging a counter defense. I always think of my cat. I’ve tried telling her to keep her kitty-litter toes off of my countertops but she never understands and swipes at me if scold her. An HCP won’t “get it” either and just about any attempt you make is likely to inflame him further. Once that happens, you’ll be drawn in to the escalating drama that you wanted to avoid in the first place.
What You Can Do
The good news is that you don’t have to just suck it up either. You’ve heard that knowledge is power, and that’s true here. For an in-depth understanding, read It’s All Your Fault: 12 Tips for Managing People Who Blame Others for Everything. Once you understand that an HCP is afraid (regardless of whether you ever understand exactly why) then it’s easier for you to use BIFF Responses, the EAR technique and other effective response techniques that stop you from feeling like a doormat and feel better in the process.
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.