People with high conflict personalities blame others for their own problems and take little responsibility themselves. They are constantly involved in interpersonal conflicts and increasingly at the center of high conflict business disputes and litigation.
You are probably familiar with a few people whose lives are dominated by: all-or-nothing thinking; jumping to conclusions; taking things too personally; intense emotions over minor issues; distorted perceptions of events and intentions; inability to consider alternatives or consider compromise; repeatedly behaving in an impulsive, deceitful or manipulative manner; and endlessly seeking vindication.
As a family law attorney and Superior Court Mediator (with prior experience as a therapist), I have observed that high conflict cases are usually driven by those with traits similar to four personality disorders identified in the diagnostic manual of the American Psychiatric Association (DMS-IV).
Researchers say about 10 percent of the general population has a personality disorder; another 10 percent or so exhibit milder traits of these. Surprisingly, people with these personalities often look like victims of other's misconduct, when in fact they -- in constant distress -- are the cause themselves.
At first they may appear normal, often charming, intelligent and persuasive. It is not until you see them in a crisis or over time that their disorder or traits emerge with a blast of rage, self-destructive behavior or interpersonal blaming. They can be successful at work for a while, but their blaming and intense emotions often sabotage their efforts at long-term success. They can be effective at convincing others they are victims, and many people are fooled by them until the full story comes out -- if ever.
How do you protect yourself against the rage, blame and allegations of a high conflict personality? Four areas appear to be important.
How do you resolve their high conflict disputes? Some considerations:
Today's high conflict disputes can be resolved. However, they require looking beneath surface issues, and understanding and handling the personalities involved.
Eddy, LCSW, Esq., is a mediator with the San Diego Mediation Center, and the author of "High Conflict Personalities: Understanding and Resolving Their Costly Disputes" and "Splitting: Protecting Yourself While Divorcing a Borderline or Narcissist." He can be reached at email@example.com.