16 signs you’re a high-conflict individual (and the issue lies with you)

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Does drama have a habit of following you around?

Maybe it’s just bad luck, or maybe not.

None of us are perfect little angels that can do no wrong.

But high conflict individuals can be ignorant as to why they constantly find themselves in hot water.

It’s not that trouble goes looking for them, it’s that they are creating it.

1) You have a short fuse

Some people struggle to control their temper more than others.

It may build in you until you feel a rage that is bound to bubble over.

It can be caused by stress, trauma, upbringing, substance abuse, mental health issues, and more.

But when something happens you find it almost impossible to shrug it off.

The unfriendly server at the coffee store, or the traffic jam on the way to work. Life presents so many daily irritations that can set you off.

So you are prone to snapping, shouting, or acting out your frustrations to let off steam.

2) You’re very sensitive to feedback

And when I say sensitive, I mean you flat-out hate it.

Very few of us enjoy being told about the things we could work on.

But the key to growth is being prepared to hear people out and reflect on what they have to say.

Your sensitivity to any perceived slight is extremely high.

You struggle so much with receiving criticism that you resort to defensiveness straight away.

The truth is that low-self esteem rather than arrogance is often behind our inability to deal with critique.

Only the most secure of people can handle observations and assessments without taking them to heart.

3) Your emotions have a powerful effect on you

It’s not just anger that gets the better of you. Controlling your emotions is challenging in general.

Even if you don’t like to admit it (for fear that it’s a weakness others will exploit), you are very sensitive.

You experience a range of intense emotions. And the problem is that it becomes quickly overwhelming.

You don’t know how to find healthy outlets for the things you feel.

You find it very difficult to navigate constructive communication whenever these emotions arise.

4) When you’ve had a drink, you change

Some people are as nice as pie until they have a drink.

Substance abuse in itself is rarely the sole problem. It is often used a coping strategy for other mental health struggles.

It can feel like an escape from stress, life problems, and unhappiness.

But when we’re under the influence, we become even less in control of our behavior. So you may find that conflict increases.

5) You often feel “wronged”

When was the last time you said sorry?

If you can’t even remember, then it sounds like you’re not taking responsibility for yourself.

In your mind, it’s never your fault.

But we are always responsible for our own thoughts, feelings, and actions.

The truth is that nobody can “make you” do anything.

If you think they can, then you are looking for a scapegoat.

By making everyone around you wrong, you get to be right. 

As Dr. Norman Rosenthal, psychiatrist, and author, explains:

”People with short fuses are often very self-righteous and unsympathetic about the effect of their anger on other people. Angry people don’t come into psychiatrists’ offices. They think it’s everyone else’s problem — obnoxious boss, difficult wife, incompetent employees.”

6) You find it hard to drop an argument

When you get into a spat, backing down is not an option.

It quickly becomes a matter of principle for you, even if in reality it’s not worth your time and energy.

Agreeing to disagree is not something you can do.

You will turn a small disagreement into a full-blown row, because, as we’ll see next, it’s important for you to come out victorious.

If they don’t back down, you are certainly not going to.

7) Winning at all costs is what matters most

There is no “fighting fair”. All that matters is winning.

If that means you have to use name-calling or shout someone down in the process, then so be it.

You’ll bring up things from the past to prove your point. It makes no difference if it’s totally off-topic.

You’ll intentionally use someone’s insecurities against them.

In fact, you will use any amo you can think of. Everything is fair game.

8) You’ve fallen out with so many people, you’ve lost track

Along the way in life, it’s common to lose a friend or two.

People change and that can mean you’re no longer compatible.

But so many of your former connections have ended up in deep rifts.

Rather than drift apart, you fall apart.

Arguments, hostility, and bad blood are all too regular occurrences in your daily life.

9) All of your romantic relationships end in bitterness

Your love life is plagued with drama.

Even when it starts out all hearts and flowers, it always ends up turning sour.

After the honeymoon has ended, squabbles, resentment, and even hatred tend to follow.

You have plenty of “crazy” exes. You could catalog a long list of grievances against your past lovers.

But what would they say about you?

It takes two to tango. That means that it takes two to create conflict as well.

10) You’re barred from certain places

If your temper has ever led to a ban, then you have some issues.

Maybe you have been asked to leave the grocery store, a restaurant, or a local bar because of your disruptive behavior.

Maybe they accused you “of causing a scene” or acting “aggressively”.

It shows that you cannot keep a handle on yourself or your emotions.

11) You’ve been accused of toxic or abusive behavior

People have called you a bully in the past.

They have expressed exasperation at not knowing how to deal with you.

You’ve been accused of not listening and being in your own little world, oblivious to the feelings of others.

People may say that you pick a fight over nothing.

Your confrontational nature feels oppressive to others to the extent that you’ve been told that it’s abusive.

12) Life seems pretty unfair

“It’s not fair” is the motto of many high-conflict individuals.

And you know what, I concede that they have a point.

Whether we like it or not, the conditions of life very often are not fair.

Some people seem to have been blessed whilst others face unimaginable hardships.

But this is also the truth:

Whenever you struggle to accept conditions that annoy you, you actually create your own suffering.

That’s why there are people who keep a smile on their faces and handle life so much more graciously — even when times are tough.

Because whilst many events in life are beyond our control, how we chose to deal with them is always an inside job.

As soon as we hold on to thoughts that the world should be something other than it is, we’re going to get very annoyed.

Something as simple as someone cutting in line then suddenly feels like a huge injustice.

13) Once you’ve made your mind up, you’re unlikely to change it

High-conflict people tend to be stubborn as hell.

Once they dig in, they’re not climbing their way back out of that hole.

Because they feel so threatened by anyone disagreeing with their ideas or opinions they cling to them.

If you think you are right, you are judgemental towards anyone who thinks differently.

If you’ve been called pig-headed more than once, it’s time to consider if your closed mind is creating conflict.

14) It’s your way or the highway

And if people don’t like it, that’s just tough.

Because you are in no doubt about who is wrong (them), compromise isn’t part of your vocabulary.

When other people have a problem, they are the ones making a fuss or being unreasonable.

If they don’t want to live by your rules then they know where the door is.

15) You frequently feel like people are out to get you

Some people seem determined to rub you up the wrong way.

Paranoia and false assumptions about other people are a big part of what creates conflict.

It’s often fueled by a pretty negative outlook on the world.

You find it hard to trust and believe people.

You think that a lot of folks are only out for themselves. They’ll happily screw you over in order to get ahead.

In fact, you know for a fact that very few people truly care.

Deep cynicism can make life very hard. It leads us to become hyper-vigilant about threats that don’t really exist.

And when you are already on the back foot, you are more reactive to the slightest thing.

16) You don’t mean to get into arguments, but you often act without thinking

The sad fact is that high-conflict individuals aren’t aware that they are creating their own problems.

It’s like you’re on autopilot.

Impulsivity is something you may have difficulty with if you have a tendency to act first and think later.

That means you don’t give yourself the time to cool off or evaluate the best course of action.

Before you know it, you’ve already let rip.

Cultivating more self-awareness is key

If conflict follows you around, then the antidote is to take a long hard look in the mirror.

It takes real strength of character to cultivate greater self-awareness.

But the quality of our relationships and overall wellness rests upon it.

It’s only when we can see ourselves and our flaws with honest eyes that we can grow and make positive changes.

Louise Jackson

My passion in life is communication in all its many forms. I enjoy nothing more than deep chats about life, love and the Universe. With a masters degree in Journalism, I’m a former BBC news reporter and newsreader. But around 8 years ago I swapped the studio for a life on the open road. Lisbon, Portugal is currently where I call home. My personal development articles have featured in Huffington Post, Elite Daily, Thought Catalog, Thrive Global and more.

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