© 2011 By Bill Eddy, LCSW, Esq.
What do dictators, spousal abusers and workplace bullies have in common? They all seem to be people with “High-Conflict” Personalities. If so, that means that they have several predictable characteristics. One is that they can’t stop themselves. We are seeing this right now in the Middle East.
They routinely have a lot of all-or-nothing thinking and extreme behaviors. They tend to lack empathy for others and are preoccupied with blaming others – their “Targets of Blame.” They tend to think that they are superior and have the right to harm or even kill others (their targets), because they are so special. If organizations and communities count on High Conflict People (HCPs) them to stop themselves, they are usually quite surprised when this doesn’t happen. “Surely, he will see that his behavior is inappropriate and will stop very soon.” “Surely, he sees that he is hurting others and pretty soon he will feel bad about it and do the right thing.”
These are myths based on a rational society of people who want to get along. Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons, we are now growing more and more people who do not work this way. They think only of themselves and some of them are HCPs, so that they believe that whatever they do to their “Targets of Blame” is okay – whether it is their spouse, a co-worker or the people in a country that have been ruled by a dictator for thirty years.
Once people understand that bullies, abusers and dictators can’t stop themselves, then they can organize to stop the abuse. In a civil society, this is done regularly by rules and laws. Right now, in the United States, we are seeing a strengthening of spousal abuse (domestic violence) laws and enforcement of those laws. But more awareness and community response is needed. We can’t just say “Stop” to those with High Conflict Personalities. We have to stop them with consequences (jail, etc.) and treatment.
Workplace bullying doesn’t have many rules and laws yet, but we are seeing the beginning of this. For too long, companies and organizations have just turned a blind eye and hoped the bully would stop himself (or herself). Some companies and organizations are starting to address this issue, with success if everyone particpates in speaking up and enforcing policies against the bullying.
And, of course, we will see in the very near future what the outcome is in the Middle East for those dictators who can’t stop themselves. People are speaking up – and more. Stay tuned! There’s HCPs everywhere!
Bill Eddy is a lawyer, therapist, and mediator. He is the co-founder and Training Director of the High Conflict Institute, a training and consultation firm that trains professionals to deal with high conflict people and situations. He is the author of several books and methods for handling high conflict personalities and high conflict disputes with the most difficult people.