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Episode 67 - 5 Types of People Who Can Ruin Your Life - An Interview with Bill Eddy
Todd Orston: If you've ever dealt with a co-worker who creates needless drama at work, you've ever dealt with family member who blames you for everything that went wrong in his or her life, or dated someone who seems too good to be true, you've likely come across a high-conflict personality. Counting for about 35 million people in the US alone, high-conflict personalities come into contact with nearly everyone. And they have the ability and potential to wreak havoc on personal relationships, work, life and your overall sense of wellbeing.
Todd Orston: We at Meriwether & Tharp, and I would go so far as to say probably all family lawyers have to deal with these types of personalities on a daily basis, and that's the purpose of this show. Questions like what is a high-conflict personality, how do you successfully deal with those types of personalities, and how can you even ahead of time identify a person with that kind of a personality to avoid or prevent problems from occurring? All of those issues and more are gonna be dealt with on today's show.
Leh Meriwether: Yes and welcome everyone. I'm Leh Meriwether and with me is Todd Orston. Todd and I are partners at the law firm at Meriwether & Tharp, and you're listening to Meriwether & Tharp Radio on the New talk 106.7. Here, you'll learn about divorce, family law, tips on how to save your marriages if it's in the middle of a crisis, from time to time tips on how to take your marriage to the next level. And on this show, how to deal with high-conflict personalities. And if you wanna learn more about us, you can always call or visit us online at atlantadivorceteam.com. Well, today, we actually like we usually do, bring someone that's-
Todd Orston: Smarter than us.
Leh Meriwether: A lot smarter than us to talk about this subject, someone who has really dove into in extreme detail and come up with gosh, about 29 books and CD teaching courses that you can buy to learn about this subject, and I'm talking about Bill Eddy. Bill Eddy is on the air with us, and he is a licensed clinical social worker for at least 12 years, and then he became a family law lawyer. And I think he's been a family law lawyer for over 22 years, I'm sure he'll correct me if I'm wrong.
Leh Meriwether: He is a co-founder and president of the High Conflict Institute, a company devoted to helping individuals and organizations deal with high-conflict people. It is a certified family law specialist, a senior family mediator at the National Conflict Resolution Center in San Diego. He is like I said a licensed clinical social worker with 12 years experience providing therapy to children, adults, couples and families in psychiatric hospitals and out-patient clinics.
Leh Meriwether: And he has taught negotiation and mediation and currently serves at the faculty of the Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution at the Pepperdine University, School of Law. And there's a lot more but I'd probably take up the whole show talking about everything he's done. Bill thanks so much for coming on the show.
Bill Eddy: Thank you Leh and Todd, my pleasure, I'm glad to be on and share this information.
Todd Orston: Yeah, I'm feeling a little inadequate. If somebody was introducing me, it would take about three seconds and Leh is over here panting like he just ran a marathon. Well, Bill again, thank you so much for coming on. I first was introduced to you a while back. The first book that I had read of yours was Splitting, and I felt bad that I hadn't read the other one, one of ones you started off with, which was high-conflict people and legal disputes.
Leh Meriwether: But I have heard since I've read Splitting, I had read that book, and I know we've had some judges come talk to us at Meriwether & Tharp who absolutely rev about your book, they love that first book that you started this all off with.
Bill Eddy: That's great, and I'm so glad that judges, lawyers, counselors, other professionals are aware of this. And as you said, you deal with high-conflict people almost every day in this type of work. What I'm excited about with this new book, is talking to everybody about what to look for. And if you're dealing with a high-conflict person, how to manage the situation so you don't make it worse, because that's what people intuitively do, is the wrong thing. And it just escalates and gets out of control from there. So, I'm really glad to expand this knowledge beyond professionals to clients, including yours.
Todd Orston: And I know I'm thanking for it. I don't think I introduced it, I'm sorry about that. So, Bill you have a new book that came out just last month, the five types of people who can ruin your life, identifying and dealing with narcissists, sociopaths and other high-conflict personalities, did I get it right?
Bill Eddy: That's it, that's it exactly, yes, and it's brand new.
Todd Orston: And to the listeners, I have to confess, I didn't know that your book was coming out, 'cause I would have read it, but I'm so excited that you have written it, because I already have three or four people that I talked to on the way to the studio who said, "I'm definitely getting that book."
Bill Eddy: Yes, what's interesting and I think for you and me, and working with people going through divorces and other transitions, people need to know when they start new relationships, what they're getting into earlier on, and that's why I wrote this book. This is the first one really for the general public in identifying high-conflict personalities as well as dealing with them.
Bill Eddy: So, really people at the beginning of the relationship, can benefit by knowing what these patterns are, 'cause high-conflict people really have patterns of behavior that are quite predictable if you know what to look for. So, that's a lot of what I've been trying to accomplish with this one.
Todd Orston: So, that's what's in this book, like how to identify those high-conflict personalities early on.
Bill Eddy: Yes, and actually I talk real briefly about a method that I put in this book that isn't in any of the earlier books, I call it the web method. And it's actually fairly easy. It's look at their words, look at your emotions, and look at their behavior, especially things 90% of people would never do.
Bill Eddy: So, if you say somebody is dating, and after the second or third date, the person just is outraged by something that you said or did or they punched the wall or they scream at you, and then five weeks later, they say, "Oh, I'm sorry. I'm tired, I was stressed. Sorry about that, I didn't mean to get so upset." Well, that's a warning sign, because 90% of people aren't gonna be screaming at you especially on a third date. It's gonna get worse, it's not gonna get better. And what you have to do is ignore their excuses and just pay attention to people's behavior.
Bill Eddy: So, when you get sudden and dramatic negative behavior like that, that's a warning sound for example. So, that's behavior, but words, they use all or nothing words. Somebody is wonderful, perfect, somebody else is terrible. If they say, "You're on a scale of 1 to 10, you're 11 for me, you're just so perfect," be cautious around people that say you're perfect, that's not a good sign because then ordinary problems that come up, they're not gonna be able to cope with that well.
Bill Eddy: And then your emotions is how do you feel with the person. If you feel they're the best person you've ever met in the world, that's actually a warning sign. If they're too charming, sometimes you gotta look beyond that just to be sure. But if you feel kind of afraid or nervous or ... and it may last briefly. They may say or do something that gets your attention go, "Whoa, that's not good." And then it's gone, and their mood changed, they're charming again. That's the kind of thing to watch out for. So, you watch out for their words, your emotions, and their behavior that 90% of people would never do. So, that's a short description of the web message that's in this book.
Todd Orston: And you know, it's funny because what doesn't come naturally to many adults. It actually comes naturally to animals and babies, right?
Bill Eddy: Right.
Todd Orston: It's sort of like their radar is-
Bill Eddy: Going off.
Leh Meriwether: And you say that, 'cause it's really interesting, 'cause I know from all your books and I'm sure you can talk about in this recent one, talk about how when you first meet some of these high-conflict personalities, they have this amazing charm to it. They could come across very attractive. Sometimes if someone seems too-
Todd Orston: To radar if you will-
Leh Meriwether: If my radar goes off, this-
Todd Orston: It almost seems too good.
Leh Meriwether: Yeah.
Todd Orston: If I had a nickel for every time we had a story about, "Oh, when we met, he was perfect, she was fantastic," and then all of a sudden, you start hearing about the traits, the behaviors that should have been warning signs to people and unfortunately, it gets to a point in our business where they get married but then all of a sudden, those things that they saw a long the way, they ignored, looked past them and now those small problems at the beginning or those warning signs have blown up into very major behavioral issues that are unfortunately destroying the marriage.
Bill Eddy: Exactly, and one thing a long these lines that the people should know is we really recommend that people don't actually get married until they've known the person at least a year. Don't make a major commitment, certainly don't have kids until you've known the person at least a year, or don't buy a house with them until you've known them at least a year because of what you've said, which is they can start out very charming.
Bill Eddy: I like to say they have a sugar coated personality, which covers up the negative stuff that's under the surface.
Leh Meriwether: Well, Billy we've gotta take a quick break but up next, well, I definitely wanna continue going into that as well as get your take on why these high-conflict personalities rates are increasing.
Leh Meriwether: Welcome back everyone, I'm Leh Meriwether and with me is Todd Orston, and Todd and I are partners at the law firm of Meriwether & Tharp, and you're listening to Meriwether&Tharp Radio on the New Talk 106.7. And today, you're in for a treat, we have Bill Eddy on the line with us, and he has just published his most recent book, The 5 Types of People who Can Ruin Your Life, Identifying and Dealing with Narcissists, Sociopaths and other High-conflict Personalities.
Leh Meriwether: And I'm sorry I had to interrupt you earlier Bill, I have a timer in front of me. We only have so much time and unfortunately we had to go to a commercial break, but I kind of interrupted you a little bit and I know at one point we were talking about the warning signs, what to look for that I know you breakdown really well in your book. But to give them a little taste, are there any other warning signs that people should be looking out for as far as they're meeting someone for the first time, and what red flags should be going out for people?
Bill Eddy: Well, the big red flag for high-conflict-personalities, is they're preoccupied with blaming other people, what I call their targets of blame. And they're not gonna blame you at first if you're just dating, getting to know them, but you're gonna hear them blame other people in an intense way, in an absolute way that they shock you and get your attention. They may see somebody on TV or in a movie and say, "That person is the worst person ever, they're a piece of dirt," or, "They don't deserve to live," or they think that way.
Bill Eddy: And so, those who get your attention, this is someone with extreme views, and blaming others and sooner or later, they'll come around to blaming you. And that's one thing why I saying people wait a year. Because at the beginning, the sugar coated personality may do everything right, may be friendly, share interests, do all of this, but at some point, something goes wrong, and usually within three, six, nine months, you see what they're like when they're really angry. And that's something you need to get to know before you make a commitment, because what they do when they're really angry is often far more intense than what 90% of people would do.
Bill Eddy: So, watch out for that target of blame aspect. About 10% of people seem to have that, and you don't have to wait till they aim it at you, just listen and notice if they start blaming other people that way.
Leh Meriwether: I could say this from being a divorce attorney, if those red flags go off for you, get out now because the odds of you staying in that marriage, I think it's ... I don't know if it was in your book Bill or it was another book I read, that people with high-conflict personalities, that the divorce rate is at least something like 80% or 90%. It was huge.
Todd Orston: Well, definitely I see the escalation. We see that a lot with family violence. There are very few relationships where it is ending with some kind of a family violence action, where somebody says, "Oh, first date, he punched me," or, "She kicked me." Usually it's, "It was great," and then something happened. There was more blame focused on that victim, spouse or partner where it's, "Oh yeah, he was great or she was great, but then something changed and it got worse and progressively it got worse and worse and worse. And this is now the fourth time that I've been punched."
Todd Orston: So, I'm not saying if somebody says, "Wow, I didn't like that," or, "I really hated that last Star Wars movie," I didn't by the way, that you have to run for the hills. But I guess what you're trying to say and correct me if I'm wrong is if you see those warning signs, and someone is engaging in behavior where it's expressing extreme views or really wanting to blame someone in a very vocal and angry way, you need to be thinking down the line, "Is this just a precursor for what's to come."
Bill Eddy: Exactly, and that's where part of this is subtle is, don't listen to their excuses because if they say somebody doesn't deserve to live or they're a terrible person, or they say something to you or like you said, they punch you or slap you on a first or second date, these are warning signs. It's not something that will go away. And this is also a sign of impulsive behavior. If they can't control themselves enough to not hit somebody that they've just met, imagine what they do with somebody they're living alone without of sight of everybody else.
Bill Eddy: And so, a lot of you mentioned domestic violence, a lot of domestic violence cases, the warning signs are there, let's say in the first six months, but people ignore the warning signs because the person is so charming. They think, "Oh, that was a mistake. Here is the guy back that I'm really in love with." The trouble is the guy you're really in love with, is gonna be fading way and this angry more dangerous or violent person is going to dominate.
Bill Eddy: And so, realize that this is a seduction process in many ways that all types of personality start often with charm and sweet exterior but slowly that other stuff comes out and pay attention to warning signs, people don't. And that's part of what I'm trying to teach with this book.
Todd Orston: So, Bill, let's keep moving and I can't tell you how many times someone will call and I'll meet with someone and they will say, "Oh, my spouse is a narcissist or they are ..." and they'll use some medical term to describe their behavior, but obviously I'm not a doctor. I can't say whether or not the person is or is not or whether that person does or does not have some kind of a literal or true personality disorder. So, I guess my question to you is what's the difference between someone who has a true personality disorder and someone who is a high-conflict personality?
Bill Eddy: It's really interesting because I was trained as a therapist and I am licensed to diagnose mental disorders including personality disorders. But when I became a family lawyer and started seeing high-conflict cases, I realized that there's kind of a overlap with this pattern of behavior. So, here's the key difference. People who have personality disorders, three main characteristics. They have dysfunctional relationship skills, so that their relationships are dysfunctional. They don't work for one reason or other.
Bill Eddy: It doesn't mean necessarily domestic violence, it might mean that they just avoid people or mean they're obsessive or self-centered, like you said narcissist. There's 10 personality disorders in the book, the DSM-5 that professionals use to diagnose mental disorders, counselors and therapists use. Five of these tend to overlap with high-conflict personalities. So, let's get the personality disorder part, dysfunctional relationships, all personality disorder, all 10 lack self reflection.
Bill Eddy: They can't see their part in the problem, and you can't make them see, and they don't change their behavior. They keep doing the same thing that doesn't work over and over again. So, all 10 personality disorders have these three characteristics, dysfunctional relationships don't reflect and don't change.
Bill Eddy: High-conflict personalities have four characteristics, preoccupation with blaming others or a target of blame. Not all people with personality disorders have a targe of blame, so, that's a different [inaudible 00:19:56]. People that are high-conflict have a pattern of blaming others, a lot of all or nothing thinking, unmanaged emotions that throw them of course or maybe they yell or scream and extreme behaviors as I mentioned earlier. That 90% of people wouldn't do some of that.
Bill Eddy: So the overlap is that people with a high-conflict personality tend to not reflect on themselves and not change and have dysfunctional relationships. So if that's severe enough, they may have a personality disorder and a high-conflict personality. Some people with personality disorders don't have a target of blame so they're not high-conflict people. And some high-conflict people are so dysfunctional that they have a personality disorder.
Bill Eddy: So I would say these overlap, but they're slightly different. But watch out, the ones you're gonna really have trouble with are the ones that have the extra target of blame. And that's what this book is about. 'Cause that's why they ruin other peoples lives 'cause they get stuck focused on one person and of course that's where you see your high-conflict divorce cases.
Leh Meriwether: And it's really amazing how especially when we have them as a client. We try to delicately and using the skills that we've learned and we've read in your books, and I can't wait to read the skills, the ones you've put into this book, but trying to break through that. Yet occasional ... when I say occasionally, I should say in a rare percentage of the time, someone might actually realize, "Well, maybe I'm the problem."
Leh Meriwether: But it almost never happens. In fact usually what happens is we go to court and they get the court ... typically by the time you get to the in-hearing, they've seen it and then they either get pummeled by the judge or they fire you.
Todd Orston: And especially in the context of a divorce, they're the enemy at that point in their mind.
Leh Meriwether: Yeah.
Todd Orston: So convincing them that they're not the enemy or doing anything that makes them believe that you're not looking at them like the enemy, it's a hard pill to swallow and it's a hard lesson to teach someone who's not really ready to listen.
Leh Meriwether: And then they turn the blame from their spouse to us, to their lawyers.
Todd Orston: That's right, exactly.
Leh Meriwether: Hey, up next we're gonna continue to dive in to hight conflict personalities and we're gonna go into why they have been increasing, the instances of them.
Leh Meriwether: Welcome back everyone. I'm Leh Meriwether and with me is Todd Orston. Todd and I are partners at the law firm of Meriwether & Tharp and you're listening to Meriwether & Tharp Radio on The New Talk 106.7. If you wanna learn more about us, you can always call or visit us online at atlantadivorceteam.com. Well today, we have been diving into The 5 Types of People Who Can Ruin Your Life and that's the title of Bill Eddy's most recent book. And he's written well over 20 books or at least co-authored over 20 books all about dealing with high-conflict personalities. I love this show, be able to just sit back and learn.
Todd Orston: Like you always say, you're excited.
Leh Meriwether: I'm excited.
Todd Orston: And I'm excited as well because this really is an issue that comes up so often. Either somebody, we have a client who jumps into the case, who hires us and wants to themselves identify their spouse or partner as having either personality disorder or something that is basically damaging and destroying the relationship, or we see it. Our client may now come in and try and define it, but we immediately see either our client engaging in certain behavior. Or we very quickly recognize that the opposing party is and so this really ties so much of what we do as family lawyers, ties it all together and really explains so much.
Leh Meriwether: Well Bill, one of the things I love about this book is this isn't directed just for someone going though a divorce, it's directed for anybody. How to avoid these situations in a personal relationship, even in a work relationship. I love that, that you're getting to that. You're definitely hitting a bigger audience that needs to hear this. Because I understand it, and I think I've read it in one of your previous books and I've seen separate data that support what you said. But the percentage of high-conflict personalities seems to be increasing. In your research have you found any reasons for that?
Bill Eddy: Yeah, what really seems to be happening is just real briefly, personalities are formed from three basic sources. One is you're kind of who you are when you're born. Your genetic makeup. You have tendencies like some people are more outgoing, some people are more introverted, etc. well our personalities start forming the first five or six years of life. The second is, how those first five or six years go. Because how we learn to be in close relationships is really based on how we are on those first close relationships, the first five or six years.
Bill Eddy: But the third is your culture. Some researchers say that the decade you're born, influences your personality as much as your family. And if you think about it, people who were born let's say in the 1920s, went through The Depression, World War II and all of that. They sacrificed a lot, they couldn't think about themselves, even talk about themselves very much. On the other hand, they took care of each other and got taken care of. So they kind of grew up, "We don't talk about much about ourselves, but we feel some sense of security having lifetime retirement," and things like that that came for that generation.
Bill Eddy: But people born, let's say the last 30 years is you gotta look out for yourself, you gotta talk about yourself, you gotta promote yourself. You're not gonna have that kind of job security and retirement. So what happens is, it influences how we become, and narcissism is one of the ones ... narcissistic personality disorder has increased in society as people become more self-centered. Not everybody is so self-centered, they have a personality disorder. But we see more people with that.
Bill Eddy: Likewise, borderline personality with wide mood swings, some of that's culturally learned. If you think about our dramas, the movies we like, the TV shows. We see a lot of drama, a lot of disrespect, a lot of storming out of the room. We see people hitting each other, screaming at each other in our fiction and also in our news. We see so many people like this that it's becoming part of culture.
Bill Eddy: And I would say we're developing a culture of blame and this influences how people treat each other. For adults, it may be entertaining, but for kids, it's training. So I think we're gonna continue to see an increase because of the exposure. If you also think about the screen videos, cellphones, all that stuff. Anyway I was gonna be brief on that.
Leh Meriwether: No, but that's a good stuff. That's to be aware of. Especially if you're a parent and you're thinking about your kids today, being careful about what they do and how they react and whether they wanna blame the teachers. So that's good stuff.
Todd Orston: So moving on then, what are some things that people can do to try and deescalate a confrontation with a high-conflict personality?
Bill Eddy: Well, we've really realized that how you respond influences them. So if you yell at somebody to calm down, they're not gonna calm down, they're gonna get more upset. So instead you want to be the way you want them to be and we've learned about mirroring. That our brains teach us to mirror the emotions of the people we're around. So if people are angry, we start to feel angry.
Bill Eddy: So what you wanna do is override that tendency and you can. So if you're dealing with someone who's angry or real upset one way or another, is to speak calmly to them and show them some empathy, some attention, some respect and say, "Wow, you're having hard day. Let's do something else now." Or, "I wanna understand what's going on. Take a couple of minutes and explain it to me." And when you show a high-conflict person that you're willing to listen to them, they dramatically calm down, often in 30 seconds to a minute.
Bill Eddy: So be calm with them, show them some empathy, some attention, some respect. We call that an EAR statement, E-A-R. I talk about that in the new book. But also avoid certain things. Don't get into arguments about the past with them. Try to focus on what to do now. Don't try to give them insight into their own behavior, they've gotta a barrier to that. Don't try to be intensely emotional with them, don't yell at them, "You're frustrating," or whatever.
Bill Eddy: Just try to calmly say, "You know, let's see what we can calmly do now." And lastly don't tell them you think they have a personality disorder or a high-conflict personality, that's gonna blow it up for sure.
Leh Meriwether: Yeah, throwing around terms only just makes it worse.
Bill Eddy: Yeah.
Leh Meriwether: That's really good advise don't mirror their behavior, project the behavior you want them to mirror back to you.
Bill Eddy: Exactly and it's great to think of it that way, and so kind of be what you want them to be and 90% of the time high-conflict people will calm down that way.
Leh Meriwether: Wow, so how can we deal with the family members whom we might identify as high-conflict personalities, so someone that you can't necessarily divorce but maybe someone else in your family?
Bill Eddy: Right, and I would say usually if you go a couple of generations, a couple of steps removed, you can find somebody 'cause I'm talking about 1 out of 10 people. And none of this is immune from this. We have relatives like this and we might even have some of these characters fix ourselves. So that's one thing people can be aware of, be a little less mood swings and a little less self-centered, if you want to try to be that way. But with family members, especially family gatherings is, don't get hooked into arguments with them that's one of the biggest things. High-conflict people love conflict and they also love to be center of attention, so they'll take an extreme position just to get people upset with them so that they get a lot of attention.
Bill Eddy: So if you're having a large family dinner or something like that, don't engage with them, don't put energy into trying to change their mind. Just realize, "Okay, this person is maybe a high-conflict person so I'm gonna focus them on the future you know. Sally, let's talk about what to do now." They wanna complain and they often are stuck in the past, so don't stay stuck there or say, "You know, wow sounds like that's a really tough situation you're in these days. Anyway I've gotta go now because I have to meet with somebody."
Bill Eddy: So you get yourself out of the conversation or you say, let's say you're arguing about food and someone at the table is a vegetarian and someone at the table loves a really nice stake and their starting to argue with each other and you can say, "You know let's just agree to disagree, now can you pass the potato." And distract them, 'cause often distraction is the best way to get them off of that. Those are some ideas, is just don't engage in the conflict, distract them or walk away.
Todd Orston: And it's difficult because it's so easy. It's emotional quick sand, it's so easy to just get caught up in it and start emulating the bad behavior as opposed to try and refocus everybody and bring some good behavior to the conversation and to the situation.
Leh Meriwether: Yeah, and sometimes you can be in those kinds of-
Bill Eddy: Don't think you're gonna win.
Todd Orston: Right exactly it's a great way, absolutely.
Leh Meriwether: And I tell you that for some of us like the in lawyer us, we do have that competitive spirit. We wanna prove you wrong, but we don't realize that we're not dealing with someone the other side that's gonna accept the logical conclusion to the facts.
Todd Orston: Because it's not logic, it's an emotional conversation.
Leh Meriwether: Hey up next, we're gonna talk about how this information, how we can apply if you're actually in the middle of a divorce, and how you can get it to work through someone who has a high-conflict personality.
Leh Meriwether: Welcome back, I'm Lee Meriwether and with me is Todd Orston, Todd and I are partners at the law firm of Meriwether & Tharp and you're listening to Meriwether & Tharp Radio on The New Talk 106.7. If you wanna learn more about us, you can always call or visit us online at atlantadivorceteam.com. Well today on the air we have Bill Eddy, he is talking about or has been talking about his new book, The 5 Types of People Who Can Ruin Your Life and How to Identify and Deal with Narcissists, Sociopaths and other High-conflict Personalities. But for the rest of the segment I wanna focus on one of your other books if that's okay. The book called Splitting that you wrote I think in 2011. I'll just give a quick ... I'll keep it brief Todd I know you give me that look.
Todd Orston: You're not gonna keep it brief, come on, don't lie to us.
Leh Meriwether: Bill I want to tell you a great success story with your book and then when I get into what's in the book so that why clients should buy this. I mean if you're going through divorce and you're dealing with this, they should buy your book. Well I had a client, it was a very difficult situation, she was suffering from a level of paranoid schizophrenia. The psychologist did a great job, he didn't actually call out ... just come out and give her that designation. But he gave her all the characteristics of it and just talked about her behaviors.
Leh Meriwether: But his fees ... Because what was happening as I was following your advice in that book, unknowingly I was following it and my client read the book. So he called in, I give him some advice and it would apparently jive with what you had said and so he would be, "Okay," and he would just execute.
Leh Meriwether: Well his fees wound up being about $30,000 and hers were $90,000 but because he learned from your book and followed my advice, he didn't engage in the conflict which saved him so much money. And as crazy as this sound, they actually worked out a 50:50 custody arrangement. But your book Splitting, one of the things I liked about it was that one of the things you talk about is how time is on your side when you're dealing with a high-conflict personality inside of a divorce.
Bill Eddy: Yeah what I can say about is if you're prepared and the book Splitting and you're right, it came out 2011 but it's still very relevant. Not much has changed in fact people are probably going through more high-conflict divorces now than seven years ago because of these kind of increasing patterns of blame etc. but the thing about time is that as time goes by, people start to see the high-conflict personality.
Bill Eddy: And one of the things I'm sure you've run into this is clients will say, "Well, how can you tell the judge what he's really like or what she's really like," or after a one-hour hearing or 10-minute hearing, they say, "The judge didn't get it." And what I like to say is how long did it take you to get it? In other words they got married maybe seven years ago and now they wanna get divorced and it's like, "You didn't see this at the beginning the judge isn't gonna see this right at the beginning, but the more information we can give."
Bill Eddy: And that's where clients can really help their lawyers, is to give them useful kind of behavior information rather than emotions and opinions because the description of behavior ... we talked about domestic violence behavior. There's also alienating behavior, substance abuse behavior, disappearing behavior. All these things that lawyers need to know about and so explain to the lawyers so the lawyer can explain to the judge. "There's some patterns of behavior here that aren't gonna change because look at this seven-year history" or whatever. So the more time the more chance there is to really explain and get clearer what's going on because it's not obvious on the surface. And most people in society still don't know about personality disorders and high-conflict personalities. So it's gonna take some time to make that clear that people can help provide that type of information.
Todd Orston: I think that that is so compelling to speak because I've had a lot of cases over the course of time where after the temporary hearing, it didn't go well for my client, because the person with the personality disorder was an emotional story teller.
Todd Orston: And when they added all that emotion into their story telling, it sounded believable. But through the course of time because the case wasn't gonna get resolved right away, the behaviors started to come out for the court to see, and the guardian ad litem to see or their custody evaluator, they started to come out. And then the facts that came out of their mouth weren't matching the real facts, but it took time, and that's very powerful.
Todd Orston: Now you have some great advice on how to deal with people 'cause one of the things that we see has blown up divorces in these high-conflict situations is emails, oh my gosh, the emails. But you have a recommended sort of system to communicate with someone who has a high-conflict personality, can you share that with us?
Bill Eddy: Yeah, it's a method that I developed called BIFF, it's Brief Informative Friendly and Firm. And BIFF responses we've been teaching actually since with High Conflict Institute since January of 2007, that's when we came up with this method. And we think we've probably taught about 10000 people how to use BIFF response emails, or any written communication. And majority are either in the work place or going through divorce or after divorce. And the thing about method is it takes out the conflict.
Bill Eddy: So, if you get a rude nasty email and you write back, "Thank you for letting me know your point of view, here is some information you may not have, and I hope you have a nice weekend." And this might be a paragraph. And it's really interesting we talk about that. Briefly I mentioned that in The 5 Types of People Who Can Ruin Your Life, also mentioned it briefly in the Splitting book, I actually wrote a book called that, it's one of our skinniest books and most popular book.
Bill Eddy: But what happens is, rather than reacting in the same kind of hostile, or rude or distorted way, is people can write their email and feel good about it. Walk away knowing, "I didn't get down in the mud with them, I just was brief, I gave them straight information. Not opinions, not emotions, not arguments, just some piece of information. And then I finished it and got out of it."
Bill Eddy: So, brief, informative, friendly and firm, what's funny, I should tell you is sometimes I get family lawyers send me their client's email. Their BIFF emails, and the email that came before it from the other person. And they say, "Look how well my client learned to write a BIFF response."
Todd Orston: I wish all my clients could write responses like that. But jokes aside, it's hard because you get caught up in the emotion. And I'm not trying to make excuses, I'm saying I agree with you. And I wish that every client, every attorney [crosstalk 00:41:57] could learn, A, how to control their own behavior and maybe not even require a BIFF response. But we both know, we all know, that that's not possible.
Todd Orston: Because when you're dealing with these types of familial issues, or in the context of a divorce or whatever it might be, emotions are controlling. And so it really takes a lot, I recognize it, I mean I've talked to many clients. It takes a lot to be able to step back and say, "You know what, I'm not gonna get caught up in this emotion. And I'm now gonna try and do something to control and lower the emotion in the case or in whatever it is I'm dealing with to hopefully avoid the bigger problems."
Leh Meriwether: I also say Bill that Lisa Marie Chambers she's one of the attorneys at the firm, she absolutely loves your books. She's probably at least had 20 sales for you, but she gives us ... when she gets a case with a high-conflict personality, she definitely gives it out to her clients. We have a little over 30 attorneys at our firm and we do recommend that the clients go buy this in those situations because it is just so helpful at so many levels.
Todd Orston: Yeah, it allows them to truly understand not from an emotional point of view, from almost like a detached scientific analysis kind of way, "This is what you're dealing with, this is why you're acting this way. This is why you're responding this way, this is why the other party is acting a certain way. And now this is how you can deal with it." And that's we love.
Leh Meriwether: Hey Bill, we're about out of time. So in the next minute or so, how could people find you online?
Bill Eddy: Well, perfect, they can come to our website. It's highconflictinstitute.com. And we have books, we have videos, we have free articles. And some family lawyers just tell people, "Go to our website and look at the articles," 'cause we've got a lot of articles that deal with high-conflict divorce as well as in the workplace, with neighbors, anywhere. So High Conflict Institute is a really good resource I think for anybody these days.
Todd Orston: Well, I've actually gone to that website and you have some great things on there. In fact, I've seen some online courses that you can pay for whether it's dealing with a spouse or even if you have opposing counsel with a high-conflict personality. So, there are some great stuff, great stuff. Thanks so much for coming on the show.
Todd Orston: Hey everyone if you wanna read more about us or find more information about us, you can always find us at atlantadivorceteam.com, I strongly recommend that you check out Bill Eddy's website, and his High Conflict Institute to learn more if you're caught in one of those situations. Thanks so much for listening.
Todd Orston: This audio program is not established in attorney-client relationship with Meriwether & Tharp.