So, how do you do a quick recognition of someone who has a personality disorder, rather than just someone who is having an issue in a very limited area of their life? Bill Eddy, in his book “It’s All YourFault ! 12 Tips for Managing People Who Blame Others for Everything”, explains it like this. When someone with a personality disorder has a conflict or a problem, he gets M.A.D. – he has a Mistaken Assessment of Danger. This isn’t just a problem that needs to be addressed, the person feels personally threatened and attacked. When a person with a personality disorder gets M.A.D., the result is B.A.D. – Behavior that is Aggressively Defensive.
If you are dealing with someone who does not have a personality disorder,
but is merely self-absorbed, the best way to deal with that person is
to ignore the person. If the person doesn’t get the reaction or
reward that they are looking for, they will
usually shrug it off, and go looking for someone else who will give them the reaction or reward that they want. You
cannot ignore someone with a personality disorder, because the internal distress continues to mount until they feel so threatened that they respond with a reaction that is far in excess to the situation. You have an employee who is continually
exploding in temper over problems in the workplace, or interactions with other people. You decide to terminate that
person. How you terminate that person must factor in whether the person is obnoxious or has a personality disorder. The obnoxious person will get angry, storm out, and file for unemployment. The personality disordered person will wipe out your computer system with a virus, then come back to the work place with a gun.
Here are some of the tips offered by Bill Eddy. Don’t take it personally.
You didn’t cause the narcissist’s internal
distress that cause a M.A.D. reaction, and you don’t have control over that person’s world view that causes them to react in a B.A.D. manner. Don’t give them negative feedback. They can’t absorb the information because it
conflicts with their internal worldview, and the result is defensive aggression. Set clear boundaries in a
manner that is not emotionally charged, and don’t bend those boundaries. Once you bend those boundaries, the
personality disordered person’s world view says that she/he is entitled to have special rules, and that those boundaries don’t apply to them. Eddy recommends that you treat the person with Empathy, Attention and Respect –
E.A.R. – which allows the narcissist to believe that he has been heard, he is not being ignored nor disregarded as “inferior” and allows the person to stop believing that there is a danger to him. Remind yourself to keep a healthy skeptism. Then, if at all possible, end the relationship as soon as possible, because it is not always possible to know what common, everyday mistake or occurrences, such as a voicemail system that is out of order for two days, might trigger another Mistaken Assessment of Danger.
Managing a relationship of any sort with a narcissist or anyone with a
high conflict personality disorder is difficult and
frustrating. You will find yourself saying “it’s not right that this person causes the problem, and I have to be
the one that walks softly. What about my frustration?” You want so badly to tell that person exactly what you think of them, and their behavior. The problem with telling someone with a personality disorder exactly what you think of them personally, and what they should do about their behavior, is likely to trigger a far greater problem than you want to deal with, and you might not be able to separate yourself from that person. As a divorce attorney, I think about physical security for myself and
my office on a regular basis. I train my staff not to overreact to an angry person on the phone, and not to hang up on them, without calmly saying “I am not able to help you with that. I am going to hang up now.” Vent to your
friends and colleagues if you need to. Probably the first 98 out of 100 people who demand special treatment are
culturally narcissistic and self-absorbed, but the next out of 100 will have a personality disorder that is difficult to manage and potentially dangerous, either physically or through litigation. Recognizing the difference allows you to manage your risk level better.