I was in a Mediation Conference in Los Angeles (SCMA) and in one of the sessions I enjoyed this method and research of what to do in high conflict disputes. Hence I will share my take aways from it and I will add some of my perspectives and studies on it as well. I have dealt with a lot of High Conflict People over the years, either in court mediations, private clients that are couples, or with individuals in recovery, therefore I have successfully use many of these strategies with them. 

What NOT to do?

1) Do not give advices - I completely agree that giving advices to someone that is a high conflict person would be detrimental for the potentiality of resolving the conflict, as the person would not be able to listen to what you need to say, and would see it as a personal attack

2) Forget about using the Past! It is common today that people in "hot" emotional field mode would see your illustration of the past as extremely negative and as you are trying to show that you are right and they are wrong. *In case of using a positive anecdote, then could be positive into change the conflict in a positive way, however be cautious to use it in high conflict disputes, I personally would not use it in this type of disputes.

3) Avoid emotional confrontation. It is pivotal to keep yourself "checked in" constantly, that is due to the fact that emotional contagion may happen and you cannot let the high conflict person make you angry or competitive. Keep yourself cooperative and remain neutral in those situations.

4) Do not try to diagnose their condition. Many times people try to explain a certain behavior related to the high conflict person with a diagnostic, hence it would bias your view of the case and the person itself, so avoid from trying to diagnose their condition if there is any. 

Those are important areas to focus on when in dispute with a high conflict person, in which could be in a professional setting or a personal one. In mediation I encounter a lot of high conflict people that are difficult and usually rigid in their positions, where makes the mediation more complicated to be resolved. 

What to DO in those disputes?

1) Connect! Building rapport in the initial moment of contact is pivotal for the continuous conversation with the parties. It is clear that connecting with whoever you are conversing with would help the parties to be more open and cooperative. 

2) Create and explain the structural process of the conversation. It seems to be positive to structure a conversation with high conflict disputes, in which the people involved would feel more in control and would be able to "see" the future, where would meet their expectations and potential for a resolution. 

3) Have ground rules. Explain what you expect to be the ground rules (e.g. respect, wait for another to stop speaking, etc) makes the high conflict person feel secure and also would set boundaries in order to prevent moments that they would lose control

4) Give them something to be distracted with. Yes, just like that, distracting the high conflict person with a task would make them less focus on the emotional field. 

Finally, working with high conflict people is a skill everyone needs to learn, especially if you are in a field that have a lot of them around you. Furthermore, dealing with high conflict people would require training or even better someone that works on the field of conflict resolution and mediation to assist with those conversation, to open dialogue, and avoid potential legal matters that mostly can be resolved with Negotiation and Conflict Resolution Specialist. 

 

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