© 2012 By Bill Eddy, LCSW, Esq.
[Excerpted from It’s All Your Fault!]
Instead of adapting to their social group and current environment, HCPs try to get others and their environment to adapt to them and their point of view. This is a big reason they routinely get into conflicts and then escalate into “high conflict” situations. They don’t use the ordinary conflict resolution procedures of listening to and respecting others’ points of view and making some adjustments (however small) in response. Because of their dual personas, they can be very persuasive.
There are at least 10 nonverbal, unconscious, social cues that HCPs generally use (mostly unconsciously, but sometimes consciously) that are highly persuasive to many people around them. Advertising researchers and negotiations experts call this “peripheral persuasion.” It occurs on the periphery of people’s consciousness and usually slips under their radar, highly influencing their thinking and actions.
These 10 peripheral factors (Two are included in this blog. To read more, please purchase your copy of It’s All Your Fault!) help persuade people in any type of dispute, even when the facts would indicate otherwise.
1. Charm—All human beings, including judges and juries, develop bonds with people, and these bonds can influence our view of the facts. HCPs are especially good at forming bonds temporarily with anyone. It’s called charm. This is perhaps their strongest skill because they have to rely so heavily on others to handle their many interpersonal problems. They’ve spent a lifetime charming, manipulating, and pleading to get other people on their side. Ordinary, reasonable people usually don’t put much energy into bonding with or persuading decision-makers, because they believe the truth will simply come out and resolve the dispute. Unfortunately, in a society based so much on persuasion, this is often not the result. Just as HCPs may have it backward because of their high conflict thinking, they and their advocates often persuade others and decision makers to also get it backward. Their Internal Upsets become external facts to those who bond with them.
2. Heightened Emotions—One of the first things people notice about HCPs is their high-intensity emotions: hurt, fear, anger, sadness, etc. These emotions can be almost intolerable to be around, so many people will agree with HCPs simply to get them to calm down. If you disagree, HCPs will escalate the situation more and more urgently. Finally, someone has to give in. HCPs usually outlast ordinary people, because to them the problem feels so urgent and absolute. Yet these emotions are highly persuasive. We tend to think that when someone is really upset it’s because something upsetting happened. “That’s awful. Something should be done about that.” But with HCPs, especially the “Always Dramatic” HCPs, it more likely comes from the constant emotional chaos of their Internal Upsets and is less likely caused by external events. On the other hand, the emotions of HCPs make them much more interesting than the average person, so they succeed at getting a lot of attention.
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.