The 5 Types of High-Conflict People & What To Do

Just in time for holidays with your family!

Posted Nov 22, 2016

123rf.com/Standard photo license
Source: 123rf.com/Standard photo license

Ah, the holidays.  Families spending time together.  But what if you have to spend time with people that love to fight - or get fights started?  While it would be best just to avoid these personality types altogether, life isn't always that simple.  Here are the 5 types of high-conflict people, and what to do about them.  See how many you can spot this holiday season. 

The Yeller

Uses voice volume to control and intimidate others.  They may also threaten to raise their voice in order to control or intimidate.  If you tell them you want them to lower their voice volume, they may respond with "Oh I'll show you what yelling really is!" 

Best reaction: Walk away when The Yeller starts raising their voice.  No audience means no yelling.  When you return and things are calm, tell The Yeller that he or she might be listened to and understood more if they didn't yell.  

Many times, people yell because they are afraid.  Ask the person (again, during a calm moment), what they need from you.  If The Yeller will not even entertain that question, you may have to just continue to leave the room when yelling starts.  

Mantra: "You are yelling so much I can not hear you." 

The Wall

Uses "stonewalling" (complete ignoring) to punish someone.  The Wall's behaviors may go from just not talking to you to even turning their back to you when you walk into a room.  The purpose of stonewalling is for The Wall to regain some sense of control over you.  The punishment of stonewalling lasts as long as The Wall deems it should last. 

Best reaction: Simply say, "You're stonewalling me, and that is not acceptable." Then just go about your normal business.  No pleading, no asking why they are stonewalling - remember, that is what they are expecting and what they live for.  Do not give up your control.  Also, stop calling, texting, or emailing.  They can't summon up enough decency to contact you, so stop contacting them.  

Mantra: "Your silence makes no difference in my life." 

The Sneak

Gossips amongst family members and friends to get fights started amongst them.  King/Queen of "You know what so-and-so said about you?" and "So-and-so says you're kind of nasty, but you didn't hear it from me."  When The Sneak starts a fight between person A and person B, they love the rush of power they get from it.  

Best reaction: As soon as you hear The Sneak start gossiping, head them off at the pass. "I don't like talking about people when they are around", and then change the subject.  If The Sneak tries to gossip again, close the conversation and walk away. 

Also, never give The Sneak ammunition.  This means that you do not share any personal information with them.  Even when they try to get it out of you.  Pay attention to the sneaky ways they try to get you to spill some information.  They are like information vampires.  Remember - if The Sneak is talking about other people to you, they are talking about you too.  

Mantra: "You speak about others as if they really did and said those things." 

The Confused One

Pretends to be confused when you point out a behavior that has bothered you, or how you have been treated.  Also uses feigned confusion to manipulate and make you feel guilty.  Common quotes: "I'm not sure what you're talking about, I would never say that." The Confused One makes you question your sanity - "Maybe I really didn't say that." 

The Confused One gets a payoff by turning the attention on you instead of their behavior.  They also try to wiggle out of responsibility through feigning that they "just didn't know".  

When is someone genuinely confused and when are they The Confused One?  If The Confused One has been at this for a while, it can be virtually indistinguishable at the surface.  However, The Confused One will suddenly appear to be unconfused when other people join the conversation or if they don't have an audience. 

Best reaction: "That's funny, you understood really well about 30 minutes ago.  I wonder what is going on here." Putting The Confused One on the spot and not falling for the confusion can make The Confused One snap out of it. 

Mantra: "You know and understand perfectly well." 

The Sociopath

Knows right from wrong, but does not care.  The sociopath may engage in law-breaking behavior such as stalking or cruelty to animals or people.  Be very, very careful with the sociopath.  They feel they have a different set of rules than the rest of us.  Set firm boundaries and do not divulge personal information.  If you have to see this person on a daily basis, such as at work, make your address and other identifying information as difficult to find online as possible.  Keep in mind that The Sociopath can be dangerous, and they lack empathy.  The Sociopath may engage in revenge behavior. 

Best reaction: Distance yourself from this person as much as you possibly can.  Keep a record of harassment and report law-breaking behavior.  Keep children and pets a safe distance away from The Sociopath, and under no circumstances should children and pets spend any time alone with the sociopath. Do not leave your child or pet with relatives and friends that bring them around the sociopath, against your wishes.  

Mantra: "You will stay away." 

Conclusion

Try to enjoy your holiday season, and remember it is always okay to take a break.  Consider doing your own thing this holiday season - start some new traditions.  One thing about the holidays is that even if it feels like there are rules you need to follow, there really aren't any.  If you decide to spend the holidays with your family, think of it as an interesting sociological experiment. 

www.stephaniesarkis.com

Stephanie Moulton Sarkis PhD is an AMHCA Diplomate and Clinical Specialist in Child and Adolescent Counseling.  She is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and National Certified Counselor.  She is the best-selling author of 5 books on adult ADHD.  She maintains a private practice in Tampa, Florida. 

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