Conflict: In It for the Friction

Have you ever noticed that some people are in it strictly for the friction? It seems as if they thrive on arguing and they like to turn most interactions into some kind of heated debate. They like to fight so that they can see themselves as right and justified in their bad behavior. Coined as “High-Conflict” personalities, this part of the population covers a wide demographic and you will find these types everywhere you go. Quite often they are of high intelligence and you might very well notice that they hold powerful jobs. Their behavior can become the bane of your existence if they are your boss or your partner.

According to Bill Eddy, the guru of high-conflict,  the personality traits of people who are in it for the friction include:

  1. Rigid and uncompromising, repeating failed strategies
  2. Unable to accept or heal from a loss
  3. Negative emotions dominate their thinking
  4. Unable to reflect on their own behavior
  5. Difficulty empathizing with others
  6. Preoccupied with blaming others
  7. Avoid any responsibility for the problem or the solution

Does this sound like someone you know? One way to gauge if you are dealing with this type is to examine your own behavior. If you notice that you walk on eggshells around him or her, you could be with a High-Conflict personality and you must take care, because you could easily end up as their target of blame. Learning how to set a boundary with this type of person does not come easy because their trap is to lure you into the debate. Once, you are lured in, they “gotcha!” and now are justified in escalating the argument. Beware! Don’t ever argue with a High-Conflict personality.

Here are some tips for you:

  1. Learn to be okay if the High-Conflict person doesn’t like you. Being the good-guy with someone who is in it for the friction is seriously overrated. The High-Conflict personality translates “good guy” into “my next victim”.
  2. Learn not to take the High-Conflict person’s behavior personally. So what if their behavior has insulted you? Why need the approval of an unstable person? If it is a supervisor or boss, their critical nature will rarely cost you your job. Consider the source and remember that their need to be right comes from a deep inner insecurity.
  3. Trust your instincts. You will get a gut-kick very early with someone who is in it for the friction. Set your boundaries early and don’t let those boundaries be intruded upon.
  4. Don’t try to prove a point. They won’t accept it. Remember that they need for you to be “wrong”. State that you understand their point of view and you just happen to see it differently.
  5. Never, ever fall into the trap of trying to manage the wrath of someone who is in it for the friction. You will only be as good as your last performance and you will become emotionally exhausted.
  6. Be ready to walk away. Since High-Conflict people are usually terrified of abandonment, you will sense this early on and you might stay hooked up with them long after it is useful to do so. Sometimes you just have to walk away to preserve your own mental health.

Ultimately, someone who is in it for the friction needs to have a target. Recognize that early and refuse to play that role. See Bill Eddy’s work for everything you need to know.

2 thoughts on “Conflict: In It for the Friction

  1. Very well stated, docellie. Anger is very close to the surface in these people and it is used often for simple intimidation. On the other side of the coin, too, is often their threat to harm themselves as an attention-getting and argument-winning ploy. Sometimes they carry it out. Greetings, michael hecht, mft

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