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| June 8, 2020 | 0 Comments

“Why We Elect Narcissists and Sociopaths—And How We Can Stop!

Bill Eddy’s organization, the High Conflict Institute, deals with high-conflict people with high-conflict personalities

by Laura Walcher

The world needs Bill Eddy.  His organization, the High Conflict Institute, deals with high-conflict people with high-conflict personalities. That is, they exhibit an ongoing pattern of all-or-nothing thinking, unmanaged emotions, extreme behavior or threats, and a preoccupation with blaming others. They bully, harass, blame, humiliate, spread rumors about, and subject others to many other adversarial behaviors. Most people try to reduce or resolve such behaviors; high-conflict personalities seek to increase and maintain them. 

One of his books, “Why We Elect Narcissists and Sociopaths—And How We Can Stop!,” just won an IPPY award in Current Events category nationwide. 

Eddy is a lawyer, therapist and mediator, and an expert in identifying, dealing with, and writing about such perplexing personalities.   We talked:   


LW:  The news of the day reports heightened conflict across the country, as our lives have become askew in the wake of the coronovirus.  How does this impact high-conflict personalities? 

BE: High conflict (HC) people are generally high stress people, because they can’t see their part in their problems and conflicts. So when there is heightened conflict and stress, they assume someone else is to blame and focus their frustration and anger on them. That’s why with COVID-19 and shelter-in-place we’re seeing an increase in domestic violence and family conflicts when a high conflict personality is involved.

LW:  How would you define – or spot – a HC personality … vs., say, how others of us deal daily with conflict?

BE: People with HC personalities tend to have four key characteristics, which are usually obvious as you get to know them: 1) a preoccupation with blaming others; 2) all-or-nothing thinking; 3) unmanaged emotions; and 4) extreme behaviors. So when there’s a conflict, most people try to resolve it and look at what each person’s part is,  and what they could do differently in the future. HC people take zero percent responsibility and say, “It’s all your fault!” to those around them. So their conflicts don’t get resolved and often increase, which is why we think of them as “high conflict.” (But don’t tell them that you think that way about them, or they will get even worse.)

LW: Is a person born with a HC personality?  Does it begin in childhood?  Genetic?

BE: Personality tends to be a combination of genetic tendencies, early childhood and the larger cultural role models a person grows up with.  I have come to believe that the biggest factor is genetic tendencies, because siblings can be so different even when raised by the same parents. However, today’s culture of blame (celebrities, politicians, etc. on TV, movies, etc.) is increasing the number of HC people we see around us.

LW:  What are the traits of a HC personality?  How does one notice it – and how should it be dealt with, treated? 

BE: See four traits above. How to deal with them is what I call the CARS Method: Try to connect with them by showing them some empathy, attention and respect.  Even though they may be angry and blaming you—it’s not about you; think of them as a child having a tantrum who needs to be spoken to calmly, but firmly, and redirected. Then, help them analyze their choices, or give them two choices—this focuses them on the future and what to do, rather than arguing endlessly about the past. Then, respond to any misinformation by just giving them accurate information, without focusing on what they may have gotten wrong or distorted. Finally, you may need to set limits, by telling them what you will or won’t do, based on them following your limits or not. For example: “If you keep talking to me that way, I am going to hang up. Okay, you’ve chosen to keep talking that way, so now I’m hanging up. Call me when you’re ready to talk civilly.” There’s a lot more on the CARS Method in my book “It’s All Your Fault: 12 Tips for Managing People Who Blame Others for Everything.”

LW: What are the triggers?  How do we recognize a HC personality?

BE: The biggest trigger is telling them they have a HC personality! You can think that, but “don’t say it!” Also, focusing on the past, especially their past behavior, will trigger them unnecessarily. Instead, focus on the future and what can be done – now. Trying to give them insight into themselves also backfires. They can’t do that—they can’t self-reflect, no matter how hard you try. It just harms your relationship with them. So focus instead on choices and consequences, using friendly tone of voice.

LW:  Can you actually “cure” this person? Does the HC person want to be “cured?”  Or, does he/she just learn to manage themselves differently?

BE: High conflict people rarely change. Many have personality disorders, which means they have an “enduring pattern” of dysfunctional behavior, which often lasts a lifetime. So the goal is to “manage” the relationship with them. They don’t think they have a problem: they think it’s everyone else. So they don’t even think about being cured and rarely learn to manage themselves differently. They usually just go from conflict to conflict, feeling frustrated and then distracted. But they often can be good at something, like their job or a project, so this is where you want to encourage them to put their energy.

LW: Are there any other personality traits that normally go with this personality?

BE: The four traits I described above are the basics. In another one of my books I list 40 additional behaviors you can expect once you see these four traits: “5 Types of People Who Can Ruin Your Life: Identifying and Dealing with Narcissists, Sociopaths, and Other High-Conflict Personalities.” But otherwise, they may be very different and seem to occur in everyone culture, every occupation and every ethnic group.

LW:  Are your books for HC personalities – or, those who love/live/work with them?

BE: My books are focused on the people who love/work with them. However, I have manuals and workbooks for people who may have these problems as well as those close to them, called: “New Ways for Families” (for divorcing parents) and “New Ways for Work” (for troubled employees)Usually people are ordered by a court (NWFF) or an employer (NWFW) to learn these skills, because high conflict people don’t usually volunteer to help themselves. It’s very sad, but true.

LW: Bill, where does one buy your books?

BE: Amazon.com has all of my books. Many are available as eBooks, too. Or you can go to our website: www.HighConflictInstitute.com, which also has videos, articles and consultations.
 

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