High-conflict personalities are fundamentally adversarial personalities. They don’t see their part in their own problems and instead are preoccupied with blaming others—possibly you. In this blog series, I offer many tips for dealing with high-conflict people (HCPs). Today, I describe the basic features of 5 types of high-conflict personalities, so that you can be aware of them, in order to avoid them or deal with them more effectively.
They all have the basic HCP pattern of:
1) Targets of Blame,
2) a lot of all-or-nothing thinking,
3) unmanaged emotions and
4) extreme behaviors.
In addition, they also have traits of 5 personality disorders. Some may just have traits and others have a full disorder. This can make them very difficult, but also more predictable. Here is a very brief overview of some of their common patterns of behavior:
1. Antisocial HCPs: These are also known as sociopaths or psychopaths—aggressive people without a conscience. Antisocial personalities can be extremely charming and deceptive, combined with being extremely cruel to get what they want. Antisocial HCPs blame their Targets for causing their many frustrations, interfering with their schemes or simply because they got in the way. They are con artists, often involved in criminal schemes and loyal to no one—not even each other. (This does not include people who just “don’t feel social” this weekend.)
They punish their Targets in relationships and then expect sex and affection even after hurting them. They seem to be more biologically energized to harm people without remorse. For example, the Texas shooter in yesterday’s mass church shooting was reportedly angry at his estranged wife’s parents, and so went to kill everyone at the church they attended. Would he fit here?
2. Narcissistic HCPs: Most people are familiar with the self-absorption of narcissistic personalities, but narcissistic HCPs focus intensely on their Targets of Blame. They are constantly putting them down, often in public, in an effort to prove they are superior beings. They use a lot of insults with their partners, yet at the same time they demand admiration and affection. They claim their behavior is justified because others treat them so unfairly. Yet they have no real empathy for their Targets of Blame or anyone else. In the workplace, they are known for “kicking down” (on those below them) and “kissing up” (to those above them), so that management won’t realize how bad they really are. Bullying and sexual harassment may fit right into their drive for power and superiority.
3. Borderline HCPs: They are preoccupied with their close relationships and cling to them. However, sooner or later they will treat their partners, children, parents, co-workers, bosses, and others as Targets of Blame for any perceived abandonment. Their rages can be quite dangerous: physically, emotionally, legally, financially, reputationally or otherwise. Yet their moods swing both ways, so you may feel whip-sawed by how quickly they go from friendly to rage to friendly again (and then rage again).
As a therapist and lawyer, I have seen many borderline HCPs fighting for custody in family court against their Targets of Blame with extreme behavior including domestic violence, child alienation and/or false allegations. They are both men and women, driven to cling to their children (and each other) to avoid feelings of abandonment.
4. Paranoid HCPs: They can be suspicious of everyone around them, and believe there are conspiracies to block their careers at work, their friendships and their family relationships. They can carry grudges for years, and then punish their Targets of Blame. Paranoid HCPs may believe that those around them are about to harm them, so they may pre-emptively attack their Targets. They easily feel treated unjustly and in the workplace, some experts say “the majority of lawsuits are filed by this type of coworker.” (Cavaiola & Lavender, 2000)
5. Histrionic HCPs: This personality is most often associated with drama and endless emotional stories. Yet histrionic HCPs often accuse their Targets of Blame of exaggerated or fabricated behavior, to hurt them or to manipulate them. They assume relationships are deeper than they are so that they are constantly feeling surprised and hurt by how others react to them. They demand to be the center of attention and attack their Targets of Blame when they are not. They often involve others in their many complaints, which can lead to public accusations and humiliation for their Targets of Blame.
Overview: None of these HCP personality patterns have anything to do with intelligence, as they range from super smart to not very smart at all, like the rest of the population. There are some personality disorders in every occupation, geographic region (although slightly more in urban areas) and income group (although lower income has slightly more, the higher income ones can attract more attention).
It’s important to note that many people with personality disorders are not HCPs, which means that they do not have Targets of Blame who they attack or purposely injure. But if you see someone with a high-conflict personality, the fact that they also have traits of a personality disorder means that they are unlikely to have insight into their own behavior and unlikely to change. This means that you should be careful to avoid the mistakes I mentioned in my last blog. You also may want to consider using the methods I describe in the coming weeks.
Babushkas for Putin
Russian women, who outlive men by more than a decade on average,
are among the president’s biggest fans, especially older women.
“Putin is respected by everyone, so men should pay attention to how and what he does,” Anna Veresova, 75, a retired teacher, told me. “In theory, he is the perfect man to have around.”
61 percent of his votescame from women and just 39 percent from men. The gender gap has persisted:
.. For the election on Sunday, 69.2 percent of women said they planned to vote for Putin, while only 57.5 percent of men did
.. Most said they were doing so in part because he was a good man — strong, healthy and active.
.. Ms. Veresova and the other women I photographed live in a world of very few men. Russian women outlive Russian men by over a decade
.. women are expected to live until 76, and men to just 65.
.. By the time women reach retirement age, their husbands have often died, and their days consist of taking care of grandchildren, spending time with other older women and watching television.
.. On the one hand, no one I spoke with seemed to feel that they were worse off, exactly: Even before their husbands died, the women were already doing all the household chores. Most saw retirement as a chance to relax, to try things they’d always wanted to do. I met women who became professional divers, started horseback riding, were learning to use smartphones and were singing in choirs. One started a business.
.. And yet their emotional response to Mr. Putin — the only man their age who is a presence in their lives — seems to speak to both the holes and the scars that Russian men, in their absence, have left. Mr. Putin is not lazy, these women say. He doesn’t drink. He’s calm, sober, even charming.
.. He looked into the camera, praised Russia’s women who “take care of our homes and children every day.” He recited poetry. The babushkas alone in their homes watched.
Lupita Nyong’o: Speaking Out About Harvey Weinstein
he informed me that we would be having lunch at a restaurant before getting to his home. I did not think much of this. It was a busy restaurant, and as soon as we sat down he ordered a vodka and diet soda for himself. I asked for a juice. Harvey was unimpressed with my choice and told the waiter to bring me a vodka and diet soda instead. I declined and said I wanted the juice. We went back and forth until finally he turned to the waiter and said, “Get her what I tell you to get her. I’m the one paying the bill.” I smiled and remained silent. The waiter left and returned with a vodka and diet soda for me. He placed it on the table beside my water. I drank the water. Harvey told me that I needed to drink the vodka and diet soda. I informed him that I would not.
“Why not?” I remember him asking. “Because I don’t like vodka, and I don’t like diet soda, and I don’t like them together,” I said. “You are going to drink that,” he insisted. I smiled again and said that I wouldn’t. He gave up and called me stubborn. I said, “I know.” And the meal proceeded without much further ado. In this second encounter with Harvey, I found him to be pushy and idiosyncratic more than anything.
.. he insisted I go with him, laying down the law as though I too was one of his children.
.. I was after all on his premises, and the members of his household, the potential witnesses, were all (strategically, it seems to me now) in a soundproof room.
.. He responded with exactly the words I needed to hear: Come with whomever you want to come with. And so I invited two of my trusted male friends.
.. My friends had been equally charmed by Harvey. He knew when to turn it on if he wanted something. He was definitely a bully, but he could be really charming, which was disarming and confusing. I left feeling that perhaps he had learned my boundaries and was going to respect them.
.. I was expecting that it would be a group of us, as it had been for the reading, but she informed me it would just be Mr. Weinstein. She would sit with me until he arrived. She seemed on edge, but I could only imagine how stressful it was to work for a man who had so much going on.
.. Harvey arrived and the assistant immediately disappeared.
.. Again he was offended by my nonalcoholic beverage choice but he didn’t fight me on it as hard.
.. Before the starters arrived, he announced: “Let’s cut to the chase. I have a private room upstairs where we can have the rest of our meal.” I was stunned. I told him I preferred to eat in the restaurant. He told me not to be so naïve. If I wanted to be an actress, then I had to be willing to do this sort of thing. He said he had dated Famous Actress X and Y and look where that had gotten them.
.. I mustered up the courage to politely decline his offer. “You have no idea what you are passing up,” he said. “With all due respect, I would not be able to sleep at night if I did what you are asking, so I must pass,” I replied.
.. “I just want to know that we are good,” I said.
“I don’t know about your career, but you’ll be fine,” he said. It felt like both a threat and a reassurance at the same time; of what, I couldn’t be sure.
.. I was in Toronto for the premiere of “12 Years a Slave,” the first feature film I was in. At an after-party, he found me and evicted whoever was sitting next to me to sit beside me.
.. I turned down the role, but Harvey would not take no for an answer. While at Cannes, he insisted on meeting with me in person. I agreed to do it only because my agent would be present.
.. He said he was open to making it bigger, more significant, maybe they could add a love scene. He said if I did this one for him, he would do another one for me — basically guaranteeing backing a star-vehicle film for me. I ran out of ways of politely saying no and so did my agent
.. But I also did not know that there was a world in which anybody would care about my experience with him.
.. He was one of the first people I met in the industry, and he told me, “This is the way it is.”
.. everyone seemed to be bracing themselves and dealing with him, unchallenged.
.. I did not know that anybody wanted things to change. So my survival plan was to avoid Harvey and men like him at all costs, and I did not know that I had allies in this.
.. all the projects I have been a part of have had women in positions of power, along with men who are feminists in their own right who have not abused their power
.. combating the shame we go through that keeps us isolated and allows for harm to continue
.. stay vigilant and ensure that the professional intimacy is not abused
.. I hope we can form a community where a woman can speak up about abuse and not suffer another abuse by not being believed and instead being ridiculed. That’s why we don’t speak up — for fear of suffering twice
In Country Music, Nice Guys Finish First (for Now)
At the time, country music was still reckoning with its bro tendencies. For most of the 2010s, 20-something men in weathered baseball caps injected the genre with an almost comical masculinity — brawny, hip-hop-inflected sounds, lyrics that treated women as objects of lurid attention. Stars like Luke Bryan and Florida Georgia Line were making intriguing musical hybrids with often woeful gender politics.
.. Mr. Rhett sings gently, with the faintest hint of soul-music syrup in his barely-accented voice. “Die a Happy Man” was so straightforward it landed with a shock. It became Mr. Rhett’s breakthrough hit, topping the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart for 17 weeks.
As often happens, it also became a template: the country gentleman. And so Nashville’s bro tide is now receding, supplanted by a kindlier new generation of male country singers. They focus on uncomplicated, deeply dedicated love or, alternately, being hopeless on the receiving end of heartbreak.
.. They sing with voices light on drawl. They ooze respect, charm and, occasionally, dullness. At times they recall George Strait, the restrained cowboy superstar; at others, Earl Thomas Conley, the emotional ballad specialist of the 1980s.
.. More often than not, they have sturdy, approachable, single-syllable last names: Thomas Rhett, Brett Young, Chris Lane, Michael Ray.
.. They are the men next door, promising undying affection and emotional stability — a cliché, perhaps, but one more appealing than the last.
.. This surge also doubles as a response to the gender crisis that has been gripping country music the last few years, as captured in two parallel phenomena: the rise of the bro, and the disappearance of the female star.
.. For most of this decade, the genre’s male stars have been strutters: egocentric, bumblingly flirtatious, a little dunce-y.
At the same time, female singers have been getting squeezed ever more tightly
.. younger artists like Maddie & Tae and Kelsea Ballerini found success by positioning themselves in opposition to prevailing masculine narratives.
.. It dilutes the toxic levels of masculinity in the genre without offering women songs of their own to sing, instead plying them with ones that place them on a pedestal.
.. This is the emo side of the gentleman, looking inward for shortcomings, not outward.
In the bro era, women were objects to be chased. In these songs, they’re porcelain, gleaming and precious.