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Signs That Your Client May Have A High Conflict Personality

From Erica Becks’ Cure for the Common Conflict.

People with High Conflict Personalities (see my November post for more info on HCPs), are often the most difficult to diagnose, and certainly to manage. That said, wouldn’t it be nice to figure out if your future client has a high conflict personality, BEFORE they become your client? Lucky for you, there are certain red flags that anyone can take note of, which are commonplace among this bunch. A Word of Caution: The red flags which I am about to unravel do not necessarily have scientific underpinnings, they are, however, derived from years of raw and repeated exposure to HCPs.

10 Signs That Your Client Might Have A High Conflict Personality

1. They reveal that they have visited, retained and/or fired multiple other mediators, attorneys, doctors, etc.
2. They idealize or devalue other professionals (i.e. “Susan was the best mediator ever. All of those other mediators I went to were utterly useless.”)
3. They have an extensive history of psychiatric treatment.
4. They have a hard time maintaining long term relationships and/or jobs.
5. They have few friends, if any at all.
6. They have had frequent contact with the justice system, especially telling if they have been incarcerated.
7. They have a history of being party to civil suits.
8. They want to make special deals with you (i.e. asking for discounts off of your normal rates, or bartering for services, etc)
9. They viciously disparage the other party either in front of you or behind their back.
10. They refuse to reveal information to you which is pertinent to their case (i.e. release of medical or psychiatric records, copies of financial statements, previous agreements,etc)

Obviously, not every high conflict person exhibits all of the above, nor are all of these details are revealed to you during the initial consultation. It is important to listen and pay attention to your clients closely during your initial contact with them. Do they make your skin crawl as they recount the story of x, y, z? Did you end the consultation feeling you like wanted to get a drink? (No kidding here!) Does the thought of your next appointment with them make you want to regurgitate your lunch? High conflict personalities generally reveal themselves to you pretty quickly, if only you are paying attention. So, listen to your gut feelings; they rarely lead you astray. If you do, you can potentially save yourself a lot of time, money, and heartache, by not opting to take them on as your client. And if you do choose to work with them, you will hopefully, at the very least, have developed a solid tool kit for managing their destructive behaviors. For more information about how to manage high conflict personalities, register for my upcoming June 5th workshop at


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