The Psychology of Conflict

I just finished two long weekends of teaching Psychology of Conflict at Pepperdine University School of Law, to a combined class of law students and Master in Dispute Resolution (MDR) students. What a great class of students! Of course, I emphasized dealing with high-conflict people (HCPs), as they are the biggest psychological issue in conflict resolution today. Many of the students have had a mediation course and I gave them several practice scenarios of individually working with an HCP and working in mediation with one or two HCPs.
They are eager to know how to manage HCP clients and had numerous questions. I really wish that all law students and other conflict resolution students could have such a course, to help them prepare for staying balanced and “unhooked” emotionally from the demands and confusion that HCPs can bring to ordinary conflict resolution situations. It is often first year lawyers and young professionals in all areas who get caught up in struggles with HCPs. It’s hard enough learning general conflict resolution techniques, but learning how to deal with the emotional intensity and personal attacks of an HCP make it really hard if you don’t know what to expect.
But these students now know what to expect and they have learned many tools for understanding and managing their clients. While it will certainly take practice, they have a real advantage in already knowing that when it comes to high-conflict clients:
“It’s Not About You!” It’s about their lack of skills.
“The Issue’s not the issue.” HCP thinking is the issue.    
“Don’t work harder than your clients.” Or your client won’t work at all.
“You’re not responsible for the outcome.” Just your standard of care.
These are lessons many experienced professionals don’t know about high-conflict clients. I appreciate the opportunity that Pepperdine has given me to teach this course to such a sharp group of students. The sooner that all professionals and students learn about HCPs, the easier it will be for everyone.

High Conflict Institute provides training and consultations, as well and books, DVDs and CDs regarding dealing with High Conflict People (HCPs) in legal, workplace, educational, and healthcare disputes. Bill Eddy is the President of the High Conflict Institute and the author of It's All Your Fault!, Splitting, BIFF: Quick Responses to High Conflict People, Their Hostile Emails, Personal Attacks and Social Media Meltdowns, and Don't Alienate the Kids!. He is an author, attorney, mediator, and therapist. Bill has presented seminars to attorneys, judges, mediators, ombudspersons, human resource professionals, employee assistance professionals, managers, and administrators in 25 states, several provinces in Canada, France, Sweden, and Australia. For more information about High Conflict Institute, our seminars and consultations, Bill Eddy or to purchase a book, CD or DVD, visit: