Speaking to Australian Police and Other Services

Ken Bill BruceJune Bill LuiseLast week I had the opportunity to speak in Melbourne, Australia, about High Conflict Personalities (HCPs) to about 150 top administrators for the Victoria Police, Victoria Ambulance, Dept of Justice and Dept of Human Services. Melbourne (pronounced “Melbin”) is in the state of Victoria – the second largest state population-wise in Australia. (They have 15 states and territories.) They were particularly interested in the statistics from the United States that show an apparent increase in personality disorders and among its citizens with each new generation. I mentioned that police in the United States and Canada have reported an increase in incidents of aggression toward police officers, including spitting in their faces and tearing up tickets in front of them which they had just written. They said this is also happening in Australia.

We discussed why this increase in high conflict behavior appears to be related to the same cultural reasons: self-centeredness, isolation and mistrust caused by preoccupation with personal devices; over-emphasis on children’s self-esteem without effort growing up; images in all media (TV news, movies, Internet, cable) of violence, disrespect for authority, and heavy use of alcohol. (They seem to have more of an alcohol problem while the U.S. seems to have more of a drug problem.) In others words, our cultures are teaching the behavior we’re trying to stop. Their work (our work) is an uphill battle.

But as these were all administrators and managers, we also talked about workplace problems, including employees who resist or openly undermine their managers. I taught them the C.A.R.S. Method, which addresses the special problems of High Conflict Personalities: the need to CONNECT with Empathy, Attention and Respect; the need to ANALYZE their options in dealing with the situation; the need to RESPOND to hostile or inaccurate information (such as with our method of BIFF Responses to hostile emails); and especially the need for SETTING LIMITS with HCPs, as they don’t restrain themselves.

The fact that HCPs don’t restrain themselves helps explain why there has been such an increase over the past decade in restraining orders in all types of civil disputes, from high conflict divorces to freezing business bank accounts to halting construction projects. HCPs don’t restrain themselves, so society has to.

We also talked about the stress this puts on administrators and the need to develop key phrases to frequently tell yourself in order to stay calm. We discussed some of the brain science that indicates that you have to be careful not to “mirror” the intense anger and fear of HCPs, but rather stay calm and connect with empathy, attention and respect, which seems to calm HCPs and influence them to be more likely to mirror you.

Overall, it was a great experience for me and the feedback I received was that it was very informative – especially the tips on helping them deal with high conflict behaviors. In fact, their State Services Authority had written a booklet on Managing High Conflict Behaviours, referring to some of my material, which is what led to this opportunity to speak to their administrators. I was grateful for the Police Commissioner’s participation and comments after I spoke.  (See top photo, Commissioner on the left; Chair of SSA on the right). I also appreciated the organizer from the State Services Authority (bottom photo, on the right) and her department for having me back two years in a row. I was very encouraged by their commitment in Australia to peaceful conflict resolution and it was a mutual learning experience.

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Bill Eddy is the President of the High Conflict Institute, and the author of the book It’s All Your Fault: 12 Tips for Managing People Who Blame Others for Everything. High Conflict Institute provides training in dealing with difficult people and people with personality disorders in the workplace, government, legal disputes, healthcare and higher education. For more information on speakers, books and other resources, see www.HighConflictInstitute.com.