©2021 Bill Eddy, LCSW, Esq. & Susie Rayner, GradDip FDRP
New Ways™ Coordinator and Bill Eddy share their thoughts in this “Question and Answer” blog.
What’s the #1 tip you have for family law professionals who are dealing with high conflict personalities most every day?
Gain an understanding of the basics of HCP’s if you can. It truly is fascinating stuff and it will make those difficult clients make sense to you. These people have a COMPLETELY different operating system and some may even have a personality disorder or display traits of one, (diagnosed or undiagnosed) and we need to keep this in mind. I don’t label people – I just keep them at an arms length and the issue at hand, is most often not the issue: It’s the high conflict personality that is the common denominator. It really helps to have awareness and this really helps with dealing with HCP’s. We have to adapt and change our approach and this adaptation really helps. I recommend collaborating with a NWFF Coach and you will see a remarkable difference in how your clients interact with you and the opposing counsel.
Don’t work harder than your client. In other words, don’t worry about the outcome of the case. With high conflict people it’s more important HOW you work with them than the outcome, which you can’t control and they often sabotage. Just do your standard of care of communicating, doing your research, and giving advice. Be patient with your client and never blame them or shame them for their difficult behavior. Just give your client lots of empathy, attention and respect (EAR Statements), then focus on their choices going forward.
One question I’m asked more than any other is…
Question: Can you help me, please? I don’t know what to do!
Answer: We have lots of information (articles to read) and online courses (playbooks) that you can participate in. We can offer you stand alone courses that you can take in your own time, and we can suggest NWFF coaching with the online class or NWFF Counseling with a trained provider with the NWFF Counselling method. Any information / support that you get is going to help you to navigate this challenging time, but it is up to you. We can’t help everyone, we wish we could, however, if you have the skills and understand how HCP’s operate then you are ahead of the rest. One of the most important things to learn is that we choices. Learn what you can and use the skills every day.
Question: Don’t they know that they are being difficult, sabotaging their case, and the cause of many of their own problems?
Answer: NO! They really lack self-awareness even though their behavior is obvious to everyone else around them. They don’t connect the dots, from their own behavior to how people respond to them and what happens to them. It’s a personality problem (sometimes a personality disorder), which means it feels necessary and normal to them to act the way they do.
What is your best suggestion for individuals going through a high conflict divorce?
I always say to parents that ‘KNOWLEDGE IS POWER’ – having effective coping tools and skills in your tool kit is like liquid GOLD. On one hand it helps us as parents and on the other hand, it shows GREAT role modeling for our kids. A High Conflict divorce is utterly draining, stressful and exhausting, and if you know how to deal with yourself then you are one step further to getting through this less unscathed. Your children will also learn how to handle themselves in times of stress.
Change the other person: We all want the other person to change, but the reality is, is that they probably won’t. Adapt your approach.
Knowing and Understanding: We can’t control how the other person thinks, acts and feels, that is the key. What we can do is (100%) control our own upset emotions (feelings), our own negative thoughts (how we think) and our own behavior (behaving in an acceptable manner.)
My last comment: LOVE YOUR CHILDREN MORE THAN YOU HATE YOUR EX.
Favorite Answer: Get my book Splitting, the 2nd Edition. Seriously! It tells you what to expect from family court, from professionals, and from your partner.
Alternate Answer: Get information and support. Get legal advice as soon as possible, such as a 1-hour consultation with a lawyer. Get counseling or at least some psychological information on what to expect from the other person. Build a support system of family and friends that won’t tell you what to do or try to fix everything for you.
BILL EDDY, LCSW, ESQ. is the co-founder and Chief Innovation Officer of the High Conflict Institute in San Diego, California. He pioneered the High Conflict Personality Theory (HCP) and is viewed globally as the leading expert on managing disputes involving people with high conflict personalities. He has written more than twenty books on the topic and has taught professionals in the U.S. and more than ten countries.
SUSIE RAYNER is a mediator, co-parenting coach and founder of Mediate Negotiate, a family dispute resolution practice in Australia. Prior to becoming a dedicated family dispute resolution practitioner and family coach in 2018, she held positions in the corporate arena for 20 years. She also works in other areas of dispute resolution and volunteers with organizations that support people in crisis, particularly the fires of 2019-2020 in Australia. She is co-author of New Ways for Life™ Teacher Guide and Student Journal with HCI co-founder, Bill Eddy.