Washington State Seminars (Part 2)

WSBA_logoLast week I gave an all-day program in Seattle for lawyers for the Washington State Bar Association. This gave me the opportunity to describe the personality patterns of five high conflict personalities and methods for working with each one of them: Borderline (“Love You, Hate You”) personalities, Narcissistic (“I’m Very Superior”) personalities, Antisocial (“Con Artist”) personalities, Paranoid (“I’ll Never Trust You”) personalities and Histrionic (“Always Dramatic”) personalities. I explained that not everyone with these personalities or personality disorders will become a “high-conflict” person (HCP) engaged in legal disputes, workplace disputes, and so forth. Many with these disorders to do not focus on a specific “Target of Blame,” but instead just seem helpless or unfocused. But the ones with these disorders or traits of these disorders who focus on a Target of Blame are the ones who become high conflict: They escalate conflicts through their own extreme blaming behavior (which they are blind to recognizing and therefore don’t change), rather than trying to help resolve conflicts by asking themselves “What’s my part in this? What can I do to resolve this?” For lawyers and other professionals who want to help their clients, they need to be aware that those with these personalities often attack the people closest to them and people in authority positions – both of which fit lawyers, who work closely with clients on very personal issues (divorce, bankruptcy, personal injuries, etc.) and appear to be powerful because of their role in the legal process.

I was glad to have a full day to provide a lot of tips for working well with such clients, and also for dealing with HCPs as opposing parties, opposing lawyers and even an occasional judge. We talked about ethical issues, because HCPs are often the ones to push the ethical boundaries and require lawyers to be very careful to maintain their standard of care in working with them. This includes communicating well with clients about all matters, respecting client decision-making for settlement or which issues are brought to court, and treating everyone with Empathy, Attention and Respect (“EAR Statements” – for more about this, attend our Webinar on December 11th). There is no point at which it becomes appropriate to treat clients, opposing parties or other professionals with disdain and disrespect.

I have spoken to the WSBA for four years on this topic and I look forward to more.


Bill Eddy is an attorney, mediator and therapist, and the President of the High Conflict Institute, which provides speakers and trainers to professionals for managing personality disorders and “high-conflict people” in legal disputes, workplace disputes, healthcare disputes and educational disputes. High Conflict Institute also provides resources for anyone dealing with a high-conflict person, including books, Video Training On Demand and dozens of free articles. For more information: www.HighConflictInstitute.com.