Last Thursday (2/28/13) I was the keynote speaker for the annual Texas Collaborative CLE in Dallas, speaking on managing High Conflict Cases. I focused on the importance of teaching our potentially high-conflict clients more skills for participating more actively in the decision-making process. Collaborative works best when the whole team is teaching and reinforcing the same client skills at decision-making. The group (about 130 collaborative lawyers, coaches and financial specialists) practiced some of my favorite skills: Connecting with clients by using E.A.R. statements (see last week’s blog). Then focusing on teaching the clients skills they can use: BIFF Responses to hostile emails; Making Proposals and Responding to Proposals (except they preferred to use the term “options” instead of proposals – which was fine with me); and educating them about their choices and consequences of their choices. High-conflict clients often are so stressed and emotional that it’s hard for them to think ahead to the consequences of their actions. What I have found is that many high-conflict people (HCPs) were abused as children and therefore don’t connect their own behavior to the outcome of the situation. They may have had parents who abused them regardless of their positive or negative behavior. On the other hand, we also have a lot of HCPs who grew up entitled – when they were good they got what they wanted and when they were bad they got what they wanted. So they also don’t connect their own behavior to the outcome of a situation. They just stay engaged in the moment without realizing how today’s behavior may hurt them tomorrow, such as repeatedly blaming others and refusing to compromise.

Dealing with HCPs Since HCPs often work against their own self-interest, we talked about dealing with their resistance to change and positive behavior. The method I taught in regard to this is what I call the “Two Step”. It’s like a dance in which you step toward the client by giving E.A.R. Statements (e.g.“I can understand your concern”) then try to lead them toward you by educating the client on the subject (e.g. “you may not realize this, but when others have taken approach it usually backfires and could make you look bad”). It’s fairly simple to remember – and that’s what skills need to be when we’re under stress or being attacked by the people we’re trying to help.

Overall, I felt a great “connection” with the group and really enjoyed the energy they have for practicing skills and giving their clients the best possible decision-making experience. I believe with strengthening our skills with potentially high-conflict clients we can help them more in the collaborative process and have fewer cases end up in court – where high-conflict people just get stuck in their negative thinking and behavior.

I also enjoyed seeing familiar faces and friends from prior trips to Texas. They really have a strong community of dedicated – and fun – folks there!


About Bill Eddy Bill Eddy, L.C.S.W., J.D. is a family law attorney, therapist and mediator, with over thirty years’ experience working with children and families. He is the Senior Family Mediator at the National Conflict Resolution Center in San Diego, California. He is also the President of the High Conflict Institute, which provides speakers, trainers and consultants on the subject of managing high-conflict people in legal disputes, workplace disputes, healthcare and education. He has taught Negotiation and Mediation at the University of San Diego School of Law and he teaches Psychology of Conflict at the Strauss Institute for Dispute Resolution at Pepperdine University School of Law. He is the author of several books, including:

Splitting: Protecting Yourself While Divorcing Someone with Borderline or Narcissistic Personality Disorder

BIFF: Quick Responses to High Conflict People, Their Personal Attacks, Hostile Email and Social Media Meltdowns

It’s All Your Fault! 12 Tips for Managing People Who Blame Others for Everything

For more information about Bill Eddy, please visit: www.HighConflictInstitute.com.