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Encountering high-conflict individuals is an inevitable part of the legal profession, and the ability to handle them effectively without exacerbating the situation can be incredibly valuable.

The best way to gain experience managing conversations with high-conflict people is through practice. However, how do you obtain that practice when your brain’s natural response is fight or flight? It all starts with receiving the right training.

One thing to understand about individuals who exhibit high-conflict behavior is that they have atypical brain patterns when it comes to conflict. Their right brain has an exaggerated sensitivity to certain behaviors in others, which triggers the fight-or-flight response. As a result, their fear center is activated, and they may experience feelings of inferiority, domination, abandonment, neglect, or betrayal, causing them to respond aggressively. This is simply how their brains are wired. To manage high-conflict individuals, it’s essential to detach from them emotionally.

Dealing with high-conflict people means setting boundaries and sticking to them. Rather than informing the person about what they can’t do, you are telling them what you will do. In other words, you’re letting them know you can walk away from their need for conflict or dominance. Establishing a boundary can prevent the need to walk on eggshells around them.

In this episode of Great Practice, Great Life®, conflict expert and High Conflict Institute co-founder Megan Hunter continues her conversation with Steve on strategies for dealing with high-conflict individuals at work and in life. Megan shares three techniques for handling conflicts, describes her memorable experience with a high-conflict attorney, and explains the acronyms EAR (Empathy, Attention, and Respect) and BIFF (Brief, Informative, Friendly, and Firm) to remember during emotionally charged moments with high-conflict people. She also emphasizes the importance of setting boundaries with these individuals to manage disagreements effectively.

If you want to learn more about handling high-conflict people, check out


Steve Riley

Certified Practice Advisor & Attorney

Steve Riley has coached attorneys for more than 20 years. His one-on-one coaching focuses on a limited number of top producing attorneys committed to taking their practices to new levels of excellence, profit, and personal success. He also presents at group coaching workshops around the country for individual law firms, state bar associations, and other legal organizations.

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