Seminars in Brisbane, Australia

Blog image_brisbane 9.3.14Once a year for the past several years I have had the opportunity to spend a couple weeks speaking to groups in Australia. Last week, I had the pleasure of speaking in Brisbane, where I had never been before.  I gave a training to mediators and arbitrators on managing and mediating high-conflict disputes one day, and a training to executives on managing high-conflict personalities in the workplace on the next. The morning sessions were essentially the same, while the afternoon sessions focused on tips and methods for their specific settings. I presented the dynamics of five high-conflict personalities (borderline, narcissistic, antisocial, paranoid and histrionic) and general tips for managing each. Since our cultures are so similar, we looked at the apparent increase in high-conflict personalities over the past 40 years in many countries. The increase in narcissism in particular has been studied and traced back to the “self-esteem movement” of the 1970’s.

The idea was that low self-esteem is a bad thing – it can lead to drug use, crime, divorce, depression and other problems. So the message became: “Tell your children that they’re special and can do anything, be anything and have anything.” But unfortunately, many people have grown up with an exaggerated self-esteem, but few skills at getting what they want in life. So many of them become high-conflict people, constantly expecting others to take care of their needs, while contributing little to their relationships themselves. The better message is: “You’re not special to the world, there’s thousands of people competing with you for jobs, relationships and status. So you’re going to need to work hard, learn skills and have realistic expectations.”

We discussed methods of getting resistant people in mediation to consider more flexible solutions. I explained the need for “client engagement” – the idea that clients in mediation need to think harder about making proposals so that they participate more realistically in the search for solutions. I was very excited to share my new book with them – which is now hot off the press!

So, What’s Your Proposal was in my hands and I explained the new methods related to it: teaching clients to ask questions instead of making demands; to propose more than one solution for any problem they raised; and to respond simply by saying “Yes, No or I’ll Think About It.”  High-conflict people have such a tendency to argue with proposals instead of analyzing them and generating ideas for new proposals – but this skill can be taught with lots of repetition.

I was also excited to share the new (second) edition of BIFF: Quick Responses to High-Conflict People. It’s also hot off the press this month and contains a new chapter on “Coaching for BIFF Responses.” We went through the Ten Questions that should be asked of anyone who has written a response in a hostile situation – or any situation where there’s been misinformation or the potential for it. It’s always fun as a practice exercise to have people write a nasty email and then receive coaching on how they can make it more positive and effective. 

The key to Coaching for BIFF Responses is to train yourself to hold back giving feedback to the BIFF writer until he or she has analyzed the effectiveness of their own BIFF Response. By taking the approach of asking ten questions to guide the writer, you can be much more helpful than just telling the writer how to re-write it. This really fits with the trend we are taking when dealing with high-conflict people: Guide them, rather than direct them. Share your knowledge, but don’t make their decisions for them. Let them know “It’s up to you!” This leads to much greater “client engagement,” whether in a mediation or in the workplace.

I also explained the four-step structure of the C.A.R.S. Method for dealing with high-conflict situations at work, and our new method called New Ways for Work – which is modelled after our successful method New Ways for Families – which is designed to help employees improve their “high-conflict” interpersonal skills before getting into a disciplinary situation. We’ll have more on that in early 2015.

Overall, it was fantastic to spend four days in Brisbane and to enjoy this beautiful city, its warm sun and warm hospitality. It reminded me a lot of San Diego, with its mild climate, nearby ocean, palm trees and lots of outdoor activity. I look forward to returning someday.   

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Bill Eddy, LCSW, Esq. is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Certified Family Law Specialist. He is the President of the High Conflict Institute and the Senior Family Mediator of the National Conflict Resolution Center based in San Diego, CA. He is the author of several books, including: The Future of Family Court: Structure, Skills and Less Stress and Managing High Conflict People in Court. He is also the developer of the New Ways for Families program, which is being operated in four Family Court systems in the United States and Canada; the developer of the New Ways for Mediation method of structuring and engaging high-conflict clients in using simple skills during the mediation to make their own decisions out of court; and the developer of the New Ways for Work method for managing high conflict behaviors in the workplace. All books, methods and resources can be found on our website, HighConflictInstitute.com