November 23, 2010

Tips for Handling Defensiveness In High Conflict People

Ombuds regularly deal with and coach others to deal with high conflict people (HCPs). Attorney, therapist and mediator, Bill Eddy says HCPs are driven primarily by unconscious defensiveness. Understanding this will avoid frustration and prompting more bad behavior. Eddy says that HCPs' behavior is rooted in a Mistaken Assessment of Danger. The HCP perceives a threat and is trying to protect him or herself.

In a blog posting at, Eddy offers the following tips for dealing with HCPs in the workplace:
  1. Reduce their Mistaken Assessment of Danger: Try not to be emotionally threatening;
  2. Set Limits on Behavior that’s Aggressively Defensive: Try to show empathy and concern for the person, AND explain the rules or reasons the specific behavior needs to be stopped AND what the consequences are if it continues; and
  3. Avoid Giving Negative Feedback: Regardless of how severe the consequences may be for the “bad” behavior, communicate that you want to help the person.
Read his article for more details. (

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