Individuals with high-conflict personalities are recognizable because they have a habit of negative behavior. This behavior is characterized by a person’s “one extreme or the other” style of thinking, uncontrollable emotions, intense behavior, and a strong tendency to blame others for their mistakes. As a result, people with high-conflict personalities usually escalate conflicts instead of diffusing the situation, and when there is nothing left but ashes, they take no responsibility for the outcome.
Many people find this type of behavior surprising, ridiculous, and frustrating to deal with. But when they try to address the problems they are having with a high-conflict personality using tactics that work with reasonable people, they find that it only makes the situation worse. Here’s some examples of things to avoid:
Attempting to Change Their Perspective
You may have tried to share some insight into the individual’s own bad behavior by “making them see” or trying to “help them understand,” but this rarely works. It may seem hard to believe, but these individuals often times lack any sort of self-awareness, and your words simply go in one ear and out the other. As your words do nothing to change behavior, it is easy to become annoyed, and we sometimes change our own behavior to become more aggressive in a vain attempt to breakthrough. Your efforts to draw attention to this behavior will only work against you as their all-or-nothing attitude will immediately label you as a threat, no matter how delicately you express your thoughts.
Dwelling in the Past
People with high-conflict personalities often dwell in the past, focusing on defending their previous actions by blaming others. Instead of asking them about it and letting them get caught in a whirlwind of grousing, you should focus entirely on the future. Help them realize that they have options and that they don’t have to accept only one solution.
High-conflict personalities are sensitive to how others react and do not control their emotions very well. The best thing you can do when dealing with this type of person is stay calm and don’t let your own emotions get out of control. The human brain is wired to recognize and reciprocate strong emotions, and high-conflict people are more experienced at losing control of their emotions. That essentially means that they can get angrier than you, more frustrated than you, and if you get teary, they will bawl. They have a hard time adjusting their emotions when they become out-of-balance, so do your best to lead by example.
Calling Out Their Personality
In a fury of frustration, it is easy to lose track and go for cheap shots. Telling a high-conflict personality that they have a problem is guaranteed to cause more problems than solutions. Because of their defensive nature and knack for drama, your words will likely end up echoing in their brains for weeks or years, and every time you have to deal with that person, they will remember the words you said.