Tuesday, December 27, 2011

2-Day Training! Managing High Conflict Clients with New Ways for Families


On January 20-21, in Mission Viejo in Southern California, I will be presenting advanced skills for professionals dealing with the difficult behaviors of high-conflict people, whether as individuals or when involved in family problems, especially separation and divorce. High-conflict people (HCPs) tend to have a predictable pattern of:

·         Preoccupation with blaming others
·         Difficulty accepting responsibility for their own behavior
·         Uncontrollable negative emotions
·         Personal attacks, even against those trying to help
·         Working hard against their own self-interests
·         Triggering conflicts among professionals
·         Seeming disinterested in ending their disputes

On DAY ONE, participants will learn about high-conflict personality styles, recent brain research which helps understand them, and numerous tips for managing high conflict clients. In the afternoon, I will give an overview explanation of the research basis and four-step structure of the New Ways for Families method for divorce cases, including a video of a sample case going through each step.

DAY TWO focuses on practice exercises, emphasizing four advanced skills which are paradigm shifts for professionals, including: Providing Structure, Reinforcing Client Self-Management, Guiding Parents to Teach Children Skills, and Teaching Clients How to Make Family Decisions under stress. The New Ways for Families method will be explained as one approach that incorporates these Four Advanced Skills. However professionals do not need to be at all involved in New Ways for Families to benefit from the skills learned in this 2-day training.

For mental health professionals and lawyers who are interested, after this 2-Day training you will be eligible to be listed as New Ways for Families professionals on the New Ways website: www.NewWays4Families.com. and eligible for listing on authorized local panels in cities where they exist or are forming.

To sign up for this 2-day training, contact: www.mediatewest.com/events  or call 949-374-2600 by Jan. 15th.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Compassion for High Conflict People


As the year draws to a close and we focus on holiday celebrations, we think about others including the less fortunate. All year long, at our website and in seminars we talk about high conflict people (HCPs) and how to deal with them. Sometimes we forget to emphasize compassion for them as well.

No one chooses to be a high conflict person or to have a personality disorder (there’s a lot of overlap). High conflict people have a lot of all-or-nothing thinking, unmanaged emotions, extreme behaviors and are preoccupied with a Target of Blame. From my experience, they are highly distressed and lack the skills for satisfying relationships. They get stuck in conflict because they feel on the defensive, not because their goal is to make other people miserable. They have great difficulty healing and accepting loss. It is too painful, so instead they fight to avoid losses and defeats – even insignificant ones. I think of having a high conflict personality as a serious relationship disability.

They tend sabotage themselves by pushing people away in an effort to avoid being abandoned (borderline HCPs), insulted (narcissistic HCPs), ignored (histrionic HCPs), dominated (antisocial HCPs) or betrayed (paranoid HCPs). They cannot see their part in this problem, so they often escalate their self-defeating behavior – and therefore experience even more distress.

Just because many high conflict people are successful at something in their lives does not mean they do not feel pain and lack meaningful relationships. It’s easy to pick on them when they seem to be successful on the surface, such as having wealth, power, incredible beauty or other superficial rewards. Of course, most high conflict people do not have wealth, power, incredible beauty or other superficial rewards. The research shows that personality disorders are more prevalent among low-income people. 

Over a century ago, Sigmund Freud wrote that love and work are the most important aspects of a human life. Yet close relationships in love and work are where high conflict people have the most difficulty. In his book “The Social Animal,” David Brooks points out that close relationships are far more successful at making people happy than work, money or real estate. The deeper the relationships, the happier the person. How tragic it is that we seem to have a growing population of high conflict people who will not be satisfied and don’t know why.

While it’s easy to be critical of them and want to screen out high conflict people from our lives, it’s important for us to work on this issue as a society. Since people with personality disorders appear to be increasing (and most high conflict people seem to have personality disorders or traits, which means they don’t have insight into their own behavior and don’t change their dysfunctional behavior), this problem is not one we can ignore. With High Conflict Institute we are committed to educating professionals and the general public about these problems and how to set limits on high conflict behavior – while also having more empathy, attention, and respect for high conflict people themselves.

Tis the season for compassion. We wish you and yours – and all the HCPs in our lives – a pleasant holiday season! 

High Conflict Institute provides training and consultations, as well and books, DVDs and CDs regarding dealing with High Conflict People (HCPs) in legal, workplace, educational, and healthcare disputes. Bill Eddy is the President of the High Conflict Institute and the author ofIt's All Your Fault!, Splitting, BIFF: Quick Responses to High Conflict People, Their Hostile Emails, Personal Attacks and Social Media Meltdowns and Don't Alienate the Kids!. He is an author, attorney, mediator, and therapist. Bill has presented seminars to attorneys, judges, mediators, ombudspersons, human resource professionals, employee assistance professionals, managers, and administrators in 25 states, several provinces in Canada, France, Sweden, and Australia. For more information about High Conflict Institute, our seminars and consultations, Bill Eddy or to purchase a book, CD or DVD, visit: http://www.HighConflictInstitute.com

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

3 Leadership Lessons from the Iraq War

I started writing this month’s eNewsletter article (“Building a Team Against the Problem”) before realizing that this month was the “end” of the Iraq war, with the troops (well, some of them) coming home. In reflecting on that war, there are three leadership lessons that stand out and fit with this theme:

First, Build a Team Against the Problem: There is a stark and important contrast between the very short “Gulf War” led by George H.W. Bush (“H.W.”) 20 years ago and the “Iraq War” led by his son, George W. Bush (“W”) which has lasted over 8 years with over 4,000 U.S. soldiers dead, over 40,000 seriously injured (not counting mental injuries) and over 100,000 Iraqi’s dead. “H.W.” was an experienced diplomat who put a great deal of effort into building a true coalition of nations to carry out the Gulf war, which stopped Saddam Hussein in his tracks and successfully contained him. “W,” on the other hand, took the opposite approach of refusing to listen to the prior coalition (not even consulting his father) and when nations such as France wouldn’t join him he changed the name of “French Fries” to “Freedom Fries” in the White House dining room. Without a team, the United States became isolated in the world and seen as part of the problem rather than part of the solution.  

Second, Don’t Think in Terms of Villains:  International problems are much more complex than heroes and villains. "W" thought in terms of villains and targeted Saddam Hussein to be eliminated – a major step in changing the culture of conflict in the world by justifying the elimination of one sovereign leader by another country. When Saddam was finally captured and executed, it was barely a drop in the bucket of the Iraq War. Yet the international tone had changed, with Al Queda and its sympathizers seeing Americans as people who could be targeted and eliminated. We need to remember the beheadings of Americans during the early years of the war and the rapid growth of anti-American radicals in the Middle East. When leaders speak in terms of pure villains, it tends to change the culture into one of war at all levels of society. Even "W" said he realized this many years later.

Third, Don’t See Yourself as a Hero:  During the war planning, Donald Rumsfeld ("W"’s Secretary of Defense) saw himself as far superior to planners in the State Department and other agencies. He cut them out of the serious planning. He also envisioned the Iraqi people enthusiastically greeting the U.S. troops, even bringing them flowers. According to journalist Bob Woodward, when his team heard from an analyst who said that there was a serious risk of chaos after the invasion, he disdainfully dismissed that point of view and it wasn’t even considered in the war planning.

“W” heroically declared “Mission Accomplished” on an aircraft carrier in one of the most dramatic mistaken judgments of the war. While he was acquired a second term as President, he soon thereafter was vilified as incompetent and earned one of the lowest ratings of a modern President before his term ended.

But this is analysis is not just about “W.” President Obama – known to usually have collaborative instincts – also appears to have succumbed to the allure of working as a hero without building a team. His healthcare initiative was his idea, although he tried to build a team around the specifics of the plan. But even Charles Schumer, Democratic Senator from New York, commented in 2009 that this was not a priority for over 70% of Americans, who were satisfied with their healthcare plans and much more concerned about their jobs and their homes. So this allowed Obama to become an easy “target of blame” and much of the past three years has been spent with “Obamacare” being attacked by Republicans without enthusiastic defense from Democrats (many of whom would have much preferred a “single payor” plan).

Likewise, President Obama found and executed Osama Bin Laden. The American public response was one of surprise and then almost disinterest. The Pakistani response was bitter resentment and relations have not been the same. Why, when this seemed so important years ago?

Today, we live in a world of participation decision-making. A leader can’t go it alone and expect the team to thank him. (It’s not surprising that the Occupy Wall Street movement made consensus decision-making a top priority.) You have to build a team against the problems that the team helps identify and the team helps implement. In the elections of 2012, hopefully we will learn these lessons and elect (at the city, state and federal levels) leaders who are team-builders more than self-identified heroes against all the self-identified villains.

High Conflict Institute provides training and consultations, as well and books, DVDs and CDs regarding dealing with High Conflict People (HCPs) in legal, workplace, educational, and healthcare disputes. Bill Eddy is the President of the High Conflict Institute and the author ofIt's All Your Fault!, Splitting, BIFF: Quick Responses to High Conflict People, Their Hostile Emails, Personal Attacks and Social Media Meltdowns and Don't Alienate the Kids!. He is an author, attorney, mediator, and therapist. Bill has presented seminars to attorneys, judges, mediators, ombudspersons, human resource professionals, employee assistance professionals, managers, and administrators in 25 states, several provinces in Canada, France, Sweden, and Australia. For more information about High Conflict Institute, our seminars and consultations, Bill Eddy or to purchase a book, CD or DVD, visit: http://www.HighConflictInstitute.com

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Excerpt: It's All Your Fault


Arbitration
Arbitration is a more formal dispute resolution process. It’s built into the power structure for many organizational grievances and conflicts, including those based on labor management contracts, homeowners association procedures, or government agency procedures. While these may also offer neutral mediation, many have arbitration clauses built in to their rules. Arbitration is more formal than mediation, with certain procedures that must be followed, and the decision-maker is the arbitrator, not the people in conflict.

Arbitrators are supposed to be familiar with the laws and rules applying to your dispute. Therefore, going to arbitration may force the HCP to learn about the
laws and rules and the potential consequences of not following them. If the
HCP loses in arbitration, it usually costs them something important, such as a
sizable settlement, their job, or a piece of property. Also, the loser in arbitration often has to pay some or all of the other person’s attorney’s fees, as well as the arbitration fees.

Simply having to go to arbitration sometimes influences HCPs to change their
behavior. The last thing many HCPs want is to have someone else making decisions about their behavior. For example, Narcissists may feel belittled and Antisocials may feel dominated. On the other hand, Histrionics may enjoy the attention and Borderlines may believe that the arbitrator will be “all good” (splitting) and will therefore take their side. So you have to Analyze Your Realistic Options about this. Arbitrators may be found through local organizations or through the American Arbitration Association at www.adr.org. This organization also has mediators. The Association of Conflict Resolution mentioned above (www.acrnet.org) under Mediators also has arbitrators listed on its website.

High Conflict Institute provides training and consultations, as well and books, DVDs and CDs regarding dealing with High Conflict People (HCPs) in legal, workplace, educational, and healthcare disputes. Bill Eddy is the President of the High Conflict Institute and the author ofIt's All Your Fault!, Splitting, BIFF: Quick Responses to High Conflict People, Their Hostile Emails, Personal Attacks and Social Media Meltdowns and Don't Alienate the Kids!. He is an author, attorney, mediator, and therapist. Bill has presented seminars to attorneys, judges, mediators, ombudspersons, human resource professionals, employee assistance professionals, managers, and administrators in 25 states, several provinces in Canada, France, Sweden, and Australia. For more information about High Conflict Institute, our seminars and consultations, Bill Eddy or to purchase a book, CD or DVD, visit: http://www.HighConflictInstitute.com

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Rod Blagojevich: A Charming, Persuasive Blamer with Negative Advocates


Yesterday Rod Blagojevich, former governor of Illinois, was sentenced to 14 years in prison for fraud and corruption. One of the questions some asked was "Why didn't we see this before we elected him?" The answer may lie in understanding high conflict people ("HCPs") - people with high conflict personalities.

CHARM: HCPs are often very charming and highly persuasive (and sometimes very intelligent and attractive) at the start of any relationship - especially when they want something from you (your vote, your money, your love). They can look very good for a while (6-12 months), so that few people suspect that they regularly engage in highly negative behavior behind the scenes.

PERSUASIVE BLAMERS: HCPs are preoccupied with blaming others - whether its in politics, at work or in the family. Its mostly just part of their personality, so they don't even see this as a problem. When they act badly, they say its someone else's fault. In elections, they are often the ones who present themselves as heroes against all the other politicians, who they describe as terrible villains. The ones who are the best at this manipulation never admit any weakness and keep everyone's attention on the "villains."  

NEGATIVE ADVOCATES: HCPs are so persuasive that they can gather many people around them who have been charmed and don't see the coming disasters. In fact, their Negative Advocates can be even more persuasive than the HCP himself. But these Negative Advocates are generally "emotionally hooked" by the charm, and generally uninformed. Once they see what's really going on behind the scenes, they quickly abandon the HCP.

Rod Blagojevich was thrown out of office by the Illinois legislature without a single vote in his favor (no more Negative Advocates). Now he gets 14 years in prison. 

In this coming election year, avoid the speeches of charm and blame, and try to look objectively at the record and behavior under the surface. Don't be fooled by smooth talk and confidence. Otherwise, you may be the next Negative Advocate for the next failed politician.

High Conflict Institute provides training and consultations, as well and books, DVDs and CDs regarding dealing with High Conflict People (HCPs) in legal, workplace, educational, and healthcare disputes. Bill Eddy is the President of the High Conflict Institute and the author ofIt's All Your Fault!, Splitting, BIFF: Quick Responses to High Conflict People, Their Hostile Emails, Personal Attacks and Social Media Meltdowns and Don't Alienate the Kids!. He is an author, attorney, mediator, and therapist. Bill has presented seminars to attorneys, judges, mediators, ombudspersons, human resource professionals, employee assistance professionals, managers, and administrators in 25 states, several provinces in Canada, France, Sweden, and Australia. For more information about High Conflict Institute, our seminars and consultations, Bill Eddy or to purchase a book, CD or DVD, visit: http://www.HighConflictInstitute.com

Georgia Chapter of the AAML - tips for dealing with high conflict clients


On December 2nd I had the opportunity to give a one-hour presentation to the Georgia Chapter of the AAML (American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers) in Atlanta, at the State Bar of Georgia building. Over 100 lawyers received tips for dealing with high conflict clients (and opposing parties and an occasional opposing counsel)

Many of the participants particularly like the BIFF method of email and other communications when dealing with high conflict people (HCPs). This method continues to be helpful to individuals going through divorce with a high conflict spouse or partner, as it helps avoid responding to rudeness with rudeness. It also helps reasonable people avoid appearing to be high conflict people, as their emails do not contain over-reactions to problems.

The AAML is in all states and a very experienced group of attorneys. I enjoyed speaking with them as a group, and also meeting and talking with many members before and after the presentation. We’re all learning how to deal with the increase in high conflict divorces these days.

High Conflict Institute provides training and consultations, as well and books, DVDs and CDs regarding dealing with High Conflict People (HCPs) in legal, workplace, educational, and healthcare disputes. Bill Eddy is the President of the High Conflict Institute and the author ofIt's All Your Fault!, Splitting, BIFF: Quick Responses to High Conflict People, Their Hostile Emails, Personal Attacks and Social Media Meltdowns and Don't Alienate the Kids!. He is an author, attorney, mediator, and therapist. Bill has presented seminars to attorneys, judges, mediators, ombudspersons, human resource professionals, employee assistance professionals, managers, and administrators in 25 states, several provinces in Canada, France, Sweden, and Australia. For more information about High Conflict Institute, our seminars and consultations, Bill Eddy or to purchase a book, CD or DVD, visit: http://www.HighConflictInstitute.com

Managing Personality-Disordered Parents


I just finished a two-day seminar on Managing Personality-Disordered Parents, sponsored by the AFCC (Association for Family and Conciliation Courts) and the University of Baltimore School of Law. This was an intensive program and there were over 30 highly experienced therapists, lawyers, judicial officers and staff, parenting coordinators, Guardians ad Litem, mediators and others participating. They had great interest in this subject, as personality disorders appear to be increasing in society and especially in high conflict divorce cases. They also had many challenging questions and contributed a lot of their own experience to the discussion.

The main point of the two days was that we need to really shift our thinking away from focusing on making decisions for personality disordered parents and instead focusing on shifting more responsibility back to these parents by providing them with Structure and Skills for participating more in making decisions – while still protecting their children and providing the children with skills as well. The skills are flexible thinking, managed emotions and moderate behaviors. More specifically, these skills include writing reasonable emails, making reasonable proposals, and managing their own stress (which is one of the most important parenting skills these days). These are all difficult skills for personality-disordered parents, yet they are essential skills for raising children. If the parents lack these skills and get stuck in family court battles, the children are more likely to develop similar problems themselves – as they learn to mirror their parents’ dysfunctional behavior.   

I was very encouraged to have two full days to help these professionals work on the cognitive shift from making decisions for these parents, to helping them learn small skills in small steps to participate more appropriately in making decisions themselves – to their maximum ability. This approach takes quite a  while to learn fully, so we included some practice exercises as well. One of the main benefits I hope I communicated was that by engaging personality-disordered parents in learning positive skills, it also reduces the stress on professionals – as they ASSIST the parents in learning theses skills and INSIST on them using their skills making as many decisions as possible. Of course, professionals may still have to make some of the decisions, but as parents work to the maximum of their ability they may apply these skills in helping their children grow up more successful in their own lives.

High Conflict Institute provides training and consultations, as well and books, DVDs and CDs regarding dealing with High Conflict People (HCPs) in legal, workplace, educational, and healthcare disputes. Bill Eddy is the President of the High Conflict Institute and the author of It's All Your Fault!, Splitting, BIFF: Quick Responses to High Conflict People, Their Hostile Emails, Personal Attacks and Social Media Meltdowns and Don't Alienate the Kids!. He is an author, attorney, mediator, and therapist. Bill has presented seminars to attorneys, judges, mediators, ombudspersons, human resource professionals, employee assistance professionals, managers, and administrators in 25 states, several provinces in Canada, France, Sweden, and Australia. For more information about High Conflict Institute, our seminars and consultations, Bill Eddy or to purchase a book, CD or DVD, visit: http://www.HighConflictInstitute.com

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Managing High Conflict Personalities in Family Cases – January 6, 2012


On January January 6, 2012, I'll be delivering a seminar on Managing High Conflict Personalities in Family Cases. This event is sponsored by the Marion County Bar Association. We'll meet at the Paulus Lecture Hall at Willamette University College of Law. The full address is: 245 Winter St., Salem, Oregon.

For full details on the event visit this site: http://www.marioncountybar.org/archives/1850

Applications for 6 NASW and 6 MCLE Credits will be submitted.
QUESTIONS? Contact David.L.Bertram@ojd.state.or.us or phone 503- 584-4754 for more information.