4 Tips for Communicating with a High Conflict Person
First of all, what is a high conflict person (HCP)? This term often refers to individuals who have diagnosable personality disorders, but divorce and custody litigation are times of high stress that can lead even healthy individuals to be on their worst behavior. HCP is characterized by a pattern of behaviors that serve to increase conflict rather than resolve it. Examples of these behaviors are:
- All or nothing thinking
- Unmanaged emotions
- Extreme behaviors
- Blaming others
(Source: Billy Eddy, LSCW, JD, www.highconflictinstitute.com)
As a family law attorney with Herlihy Family Law, I frequently have clients who are struggling to communicate with a high conflict person. Some tips I give my clients are:
Don’t try to convince them they are wrong or are being unfair.
Logic does not work with someone who is embroiled in irrational thinking.
Abandon the goal of “winning” an argument with them.
HCPs like to argue so continuing to fight will only ensure that you remain trapped in a power struggle with them.
Focus on the ultimate goal.
If your goal is to coach Susie’s soccer team and they bring up that time you did something they did not like ten years ago, do not respond. Instead, re-direct the conversation back to the topic at hand.
Keep your communication professional.
Remember, your romantic relationship with this person is over, so it is not helpful to you to approach them on those terms. Remain calm and business-like. If necessary, restrict your communication with the HCP to written-only methods, such as email.