© 2016 Bill Eddy, LCSW, Esq

On May 7th I had the opportunity to be the Keynote Speaker at the South Coast Collaborative Professionals Spring Summit and Expo Program, held in Orange County, California. I also received their award for “Professional of the Year 2016” for “vision and dedication as a Healer of Conflict.” This was very gratifying, as working on managing and resolving high-conflict disputes is often thankless work, especially when the people you are trying to help turn their high-conflict anger on the people most trying to help them. Thank you, South Coast Collaborative Professionals!

Before I spoke, it was mentioned that people like the acronyms I have developed for helping people work out problems in relationships. For example, people like to use “EAR Statements” to communicate Empathy, Attention and Respect in person to someone who is upset [Learn how to calm upset people with EAR®]. And over fourteen thousand people have been exposed to our “BIFF Response” method through our seminars and books. BIFF Responses help manage email conversations by being Brief, Informative, Friendly and Firm – even in response to hostility or misinformation [Learn more about a BIFF Response®]. These techniques help people feel good about themselves while calming the other person in a conflict, or at any time.

So I started out my Keynote presentation with my latest acronym: YGMOWYPAT! Bet you can’t guess what it stands for. It’s a key psychological principle which helps explain family conflict, workplace disputes and even politics on television: You Get More of What You Pay Attention To. I pronounce this “ig-mowy-pat.”

I believe this is why many couples in conflict end up separating and divorcing. They pay too much attention to what’s not working and not enough to the good stuff they have to offer each other. For example, the marriage researchers John and Julia Gottman have observed in happy and healthy couples they have studied over many years that approximately 30% of their conflicts are still not resolved. Instead, they have put them into context as minor differences that they can live with.

As many people said at the conference, today’s couples sometimes separate and divorce without really learning how to be a couple – which includes learning to live with some of their conflicts while focusing on more positive qualities and their potential for good times together.  You don’t have to resolve all your conflicts to be happy.

I also explained that today’s culture emphasizes the individual over relationships. We now pay lots more attention to individuals developing their self-esteem, their own interests and exercising their rights – such as in court. Relationships are getting less and less attention and value in our individualistic society, yet most people want a happy and healthy marriage. Even though statistics show more and more couples living together without marriage, surveys show that almost everyone wants to be happily married someday. But you get more of what you pay attention to.

Likewise, today’s culture is heavily influenced by the media, and the news media in particular. Bad behavior rules the day in drama and the news, because showing that gets people’s attention. For example, remember the high ratings some of the presidential debates got this year, because people were expecting bad behavior and want to watch it. But we will reap what we sow with this bad behavior fixation, whether it’s in our couple relationships or in our national political relationship. What’s entertaining for adults is training for the children. YGMOWYPAT. You’ll Get More of What You Pay Attention To. Just watch.

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.