Recognizing high conflict people

Ninth of 11 articles on high conflict people in church. Previous article: The Fear of Being Dominated

When high conflict people come into our lives we are often completely surprise and even mystified by them. They don’t respond in life the same way we do and they make choices that are hard for us to understand.

Often we spend a lot of time and emotional energy trying to find the cause behind what they do and how they think. We try to reason our way through. We compare them to ourselves and others we know and try to bend our minds around their actions. But this is exhausting and fruitless. They’re just not like us.

But we can learn about them, understand their motivations, and the way their minds work. Then we can learn to predict their actions. Fortunately, we can learn to recognize high conflict people in real-time.

Fortunately, we can learn to recognize high conflict people in real-time.

In addition to being driven by the profound fears we have already discussed, high conflict people are locked into a crisis of conflict. They’re locked into a cycle of trying to relieve their most fundamental fears, but their temps are only partially effective in the short term and make matters worse in the long run.

While it might take some time to recognize their deepest fears in the cycle of conflict’ you can readily learn to see the telltale size signs that you are dealing with the high conflict person. It is important to acknowledge these signs when you see them and allow yourself to hold them honestly. Few high conflict people are able to conceal these traits for very long. Eventually they will show this traits themselves, often in regards to another person, before you are in conflict with him. When you see these traits be aware and take note.

  1. All or nothing thinking – a cognitive distortion that categorizes everything including people as all good or all bad.
  2. Unmanaged emotions – in a conflict at the most insignificant slight or misunderstanding their emotions and their responses are disproportionately large and their memory of the “injury” is seemingly unending.
  3. Destructive communication – once they have been threatened their communication becomes louder, faster, higher pitched, more dramatic, and more confrontational. It is very difficult for them to back down.
  4. Extreme behavior – also known has the 90% rule, includes all those things the high conflict people do that you can’t imagine doing yourself and can’t begin to understand why they think it is okay for them to do.
  5. Blaming – if they cannot be the source of the problem, and they can’t, then they will find someone to blame.

When you see these, when you recognize a pattern of these behaviors it is essential that you pay attention. Behaviors like these don’t repair themselves. Behaviors like these don’t get better on their own. When you see someone acting in these ways, as a pastor, you need to prepare for them to turn these patterns of behavior in your direction.

Next Steps: Have you ever had a time when you saw the warning signs in a person and then turned a blind eye to them? Did you think that it would just work itself out? Did you think you were being overly harsh and judgmental? Why did you ignore the warning signs?

Is there someone in your life or church that mystifies you? That you just can’t understand why they do what they do? That they easily do things you never would ever consider?

Who is blaming others in your life? Who is unable to accept responsibility for their thoughts, choices, actions or outcomes?

Next Article: Loving High Conflict People with Empathy

Disclaimer: This website is for informational purposes only.  It is not a substitute for qualified professional help such as accountants, lawyers, therapists or others. Please seek out appropriate professionals as needed. All choices you make, actions you take and their outcomes are yours alone and not the responsibility of the authors or publishers of this website.

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