Thursday, July 31, 2008

"It's All Your Fault!" Book Review

The following is a book review I published in the Tarrant County Association of Mediators regular newsletter.

"It's All Your Fault! (12 Tips for Managing People Who Blame Others for Everything)" Bill Eddy (2008).

Five stars (out of five). Highly recommended for all ADR practitioners.

Bill Eddy is an attorney, mediator, and licensed therapist who has focused his practice on what he calls "High Conflict Personalities" (HCP). In the psychopathology realm, HCP are often people who exhibit traits of personality disorders that result in an amount of conflict that is higher than the population norm. While Bill Eddy has previously published a number of commendable books, all generously exhibiting his unique perspective, this particular book is remarkable for two very strong reasons.

First, Eddy puts all the psychological knowledge in lay terms. He describes high conflict behavior that is easy to identify by any mediator, without necessitating a psychology degree to do so. He makes it clear that the existence of the traits is enough to justify practicing the techniques that he advocates - in other words, there is no need for a formal diagnosis, nor intensive psychotherapy in order to successfully interact with an HCP person. He draws very simply point-to-point lines between behavior and the possible emotional disturbances that may be taking place inside the mind of the HCP. This helps him explain how his techniques to deal with these HCPs work. Which leads to the second strength of this book.

As mentioned, Eddy doesn't try to turn every layperson into a practicing psychologist. Instead, Eddy simply creates a very straightforward "if you see this, then do that" instruction set that can be used by anyone, in any mediation. This instruction set includes both the proactive things a person can do when dealing with an HCP, as well as the maladaptive reactions that a person may ordinarily do, but that they should avoid when dealing with an HCP. Using everyday examples of interactions with HCPs, Eddy constructs possible responses in each example, and then discusses why each one will or will not work.

For mediators who believe in interest-based negotiation, these examples are the real gems of the book. With each one, Eddy reveals the emotional interests that are often driving HCP participants. These are the interests that often escape detection in a mediation. The emotional interests of an HCP often seem to be expressed in just the opposite manner than one who is not similarly emotionally challenged would predict. So, high-conflict interactions, taken at face value, often seem intractable in mediation. Eddy's book provides a path of understanding to the emotions of an HCP person, so that uncovering their interests -- the goal of interest-based negotiation -- can be achieved.

Eddy's book also serves an important "big picture" purpose. In his introduction, Eddy points out the cultural and environmental shifts that have caused our society to increase in combativeness in recent generations. This helps to lay a great framework for motivating alternative dispute resolution. Those of us who are dedicated to mediation and other alternative methods of dispute resolution can often get our best intentions knocked "off-center" whenever we encounter a high-conflict individual. It can leave us feeling as though we have failed as mediators. When we see the increase in conflict in our society, and read Eddy's explanation for why it exists, it can re-energize us in our purpose to more passionately evangelize a better way to solve disputes.

Part II of "It's All Your Fault!" outlines the "CARS" method for dealing with HCPs. This includes a worksheet that Eddy gives permission for the reader to re-copy and use in each encounter with an HCP. Along with the "CARS" method, Eddy utilizes other acronyms and helpful mnemonics to aid the mediator or conflict resolver in remembering the steps in the methods. This is handy, because, as Eddy explains, when we are dealing with HCPs, their emotionality can be contagious - and it can cause us, the mediator, to shut down the thinking/reasoning part of our brain. Having a quick, easy way to reconnect with our own thinking/reasoning brain will allow us to use the tools to help the HCP get out of emotionality and back into thinking/reasoning as well.

I recommend that any mediator add this particular book to their library. But don't let it set there collecting dust! This is one of those books that you will refer back to again and again, every time you encounter another high conflict person in your everyday mediation practice.

"It's All Your Fault!" is only available from Bill Eddy's High Conflict Institute website:; or from Janis Publications:


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