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Personality awareness: The key skill to dealing with high-conflict people
You need to have personality awareness to protect yourself from and deal with potentially high-conflict people on a regular basis without getting hooked by them.
Could you become a high-conflict person’s (HCP’s) Target of Blame? If you’re not watchful and careful, yes. HCPs generally pick on people they are close to or people in authority positions. These close personal or supervisory relationships usually involve the types of people we’re inclined to invite into our lives, often without knowing much about them.
Avoiding and deflecting high-conflict behavior is like avoiding illness. You can protect yourself from becoming someone’s Target of Blame by vaccinating yourself with knowledge of the personality patterns of high-conflict people. I call this personality awareness.
In fact, with personality awareness you will be more confident in dealing with people, because you will know how to recognize the warning signs of dangerous personality patterns before they do you much harm.
You need to have personality awareness to protect yourself from and deal with potentially high-conflict people on a regular basis without getting hooked by them. I’ll show you how to develop this with some simple assessments you can use when new people come into your life and with tools for when you think you may be dealing with an HCP. As members of society, it will help us all if we can share this knowledge and limit the harm that high-conflict people often do by gaining the trust of those who are uninformed or simply naive.
Four Things You Need to Know About HCPs
First, people with one of the five personality disorders (narcissists, borderline HCPs, sociopaths, histrionics and paranoiacs) belong to all economic, social, political, and ethnic groups. You can’t tell an HCP by their background.
For example, you can’t identify an HCP by their profession or by how much other people trust them. In fact, highly admired leaders and members of the helping professions (teachers, physicians, clergy, therapists, nurses, etc.), may be slightly more likely to have personality disorders than people in other lines of work, because of an attraction to the intimate relationships and authority positions in these professions.
Second, studies suggest that the percentage of HCPs is increasing. This means that your risk of being targeted is growing as well.
Third, because people with high-conflict personalities think and act differently from what an ordinary person would do or expect in a conflict, your methods for managing them must be different from how you would normally resolve conflicts.
Fourth, HCPs aren’t inherently evil. We shouldn’t judge them as bad human beings or try to push them out of human society. Many were born with their personality disorders, or developed them because they were seriously abused or indulged in their early lives. Some high-conflict people, with the right interventions, can be redirected into getting help and leading productive, more satisfying lives. But for the ones who can’t be helped, we need to work together to limit their damage.
- Are all lists bold?
Personality awareness has suddenly become so important to avoiding becoming a Target of Blame because of four big, recent changes in our world, which make us more vulnerable and less aware of who we’re dealing with:
- We don’t have personal histories with each other: Today, people have an incredible amount of mobility, so much that we have become a society of individuals. Yet we need to be around others, so we are constantly inviting new people into our lives: in dating, at school, at work, hiring repair people, joining churches, volunteer groups, investing, sports, you name it. But most of the people you meet don’t have a history that you know about. You don’t know their reputation, their prior relationships, or anything beyond what they tell you about themselves. Without a history, it’s not obvious on the surface who you can really trust and who you can’t. You can check someone out online, but you can’t always determine what information is accurate and what is false.
- Families and communities have become weaker: Communities, neighbors, and extended families used to know each other and watch out for each other. This meant sharing their opinions of strangers or potentially dangerous acquaintances. Plus, everyone knew someone who knew the people you might want to know. Gossip was actually a way that people learned whom to avoid or how to manage them. Extended families and communities were pretty good at screening out (or at least managing) HCPs and protecting others from them. But now, in our society of individuals, you’re mostly on your own, so you have to do all the screening yourself.
- We are all subject to electronic manipulation: Online, with a little effort, anyone can hide who they are and present themselves as someone completely different. More and more, people are using technology to mislead us about themselves—whether it’s with an attractive but phony photograph, an impressive but false résumé, or a sad story that hooks you in but turns out to be a lie.
- Our entertainment culture misleads us about real-life personalities: We are constantly being entertained on TV and endless on‑demand movies with appealing stories of people who act like jerks (often HCPs) but then turn around. They have new insights and change their behavior. They become wiser and nicer by the end of the show. (Think Disney, or romantic comedies.) But this distorts our real-life perceptions. HCPs rarely have insights and change like this, despite everyone’s efforts and naive belief that they can change the person.
Combine these four very recent cultural changes with centuries-old human nature, and it’s a potentially dangerous mix. Why? Because certain aspects of human nature set us up for easy manipulation and increasing vulnerability to becoming Targets of Blame:
- We tend to trust people. Research has demonstrated over and over that we err on the side of trust more often than mistrust. This is especially true when someone tells us that they need our help. Unfortunately, this healthy trait makes us vulnerable to high-conflict people—who are constantly and emotionally asking for help, often playing the role of a victim.
- We especially trust people in groups that we identify with. Lots of brain research shows that, from infancy, we stereotype people based on our own background and culture. We overly trust people who belong to the group we identify with—especially our own ethnic, racial, political, or religious group. Yet we shouldn’t trust about 10 percent of them. And we overly mistrust people who belong to different groups than we do—yet we can trust about 90 percent of them.
- We tend to trust our emotions. Emotional connection is one of the strongest drives of human beings. We constantly want to be loved, liked, and respected. Yet manipulating our emotions is one of the key techniques of the people who may ruin your life. You will fall in love with them. You will be impressed with their stories. You will be persuaded by their charm and their interest in you.
- We doubt our own behavior. Ironically, while we easily trust other people, we’re harder on ourselves. When we’re in a conflict with someone, our first impulse is to question ourselves. Did I say something wrong? Did I do something stupid or offensive? What should I do differently next time? This normal human trait helps us learn, change, and grow. But when dealing with high-conflict people, this trait can lead to trouble—especially when you start to trust one of them more than you trust yourself.
These are all normal human traits. There’s nothing wrong with having these responses. In fact, they will work 90 percent of the time. You just need to learn when to override them. Otherwise, you risk becoming a Target of Blame. That’s what this book is all about: learning to recognize warning signs that most people ignore or don’t see—and then overriding your natural responses with actions based on your newfound wisdom about HCPs.
The COVID-19 pandemic is making health disparities in the United States crystal clear. It is a clarion call for health care systems to double their efforts in vulnerable communities.
- The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated America's health disparities, widening the divide between the haves and have nots.
- Studies show disparities in wealth, race, and online access have disproportionately harmed underserved U.S. communities during the pandemic.
- To begin curing this social aliment, health systems like Northwell Health are establishing relationships of trust in these communities so that the post-COVID world looks different than the pre-COVID one.
COVID-19 deepens U.S. health disparities<p>Communities on the pernicious side of America's health disparities have their unique histories, environments, and social structures. They are spread across the United States, but they all have one thing in common.</p><p>"There is one common divide in American communities, and that is poverty," said <a href="https://www.northwell.edu/about/leadership/debbie-salas-lopez" target="_blank">Debbie Salas-Lopez, MD, MPH</a>, senior vice president of community and population health at Northwell Health. "That is the undercurrent that manifests poor health, poor health outcomes, or poor health prognoses for future wellbeing."</p><p>Social determinants have far-reaching effects on health, and poor communities have unfavorable social determinants. To pick one of many examples, <a href="https://www.npr.org/2020/09/27/913612554/a-crisis-within-a-crisis-food-insecurity-and-covid-19" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">food insecurity</a> reduces access to quality food, leading to poor health and communal endemics of chronic medical conditions. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has identified some of these conditions, such as obesity and Type 2 diabetes, as increasing the risk of developing a severe case of coronavirus.</p><p>The pandemic didn't create poverty or food insecurity, but it exacerbated both, and the results have been catastrophic. A study published this summer in the <em><a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11606-020-05971-3" target="_blank">Journal of General Internal Medicine</a></em> suggested that "social factors such as income inequality may explain why some parts of the USA are hit harder by the COVID-19 pandemic than others."</p><p>That's not to say better-off families in the U.S. weren't harmed. A <a href="https://voxeu.org/article/poverty-inequality-and-covid-19-us" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">paper from the Centre for Economic Policy Research</a> noted that families in counties with a higher median income experienced adjustment costs associated with the pandemic—for example, lowering income-earning interactions to align with social distancing policies. However, the paper found that the costs of social distancing were much greater for poorer families, who cannot easily alter their living circumstances, which often include more individuals living in one home and a reliance on mass transit to reach work and grocery stores. They are also disproportionately represented in essential jobs, such as retail, transportation, and health care, where maintaining physical distance can be all but impossible.</p><p>The paper also cited a positive correlation between higher income inequality and higher rates of coronavirus infection. "Our interpretation is that poorer people are less able to protect themselves, which leads them to different choices—they face a steeper trade-off between their health and their economic welfare in the context of the threats posed by COVID-19," the authors wrote.</p><p>"There are so many pandemics that this pandemic has exacerbated," Dr. Salas-Lopez noted.</p><p>One example is the health-wealth gap. The mental stressors of maintaining a low socioeconomic status, especially in the face of extreme affluence, can have a physically degrading impact on health. <a href="https://www.scientificamerican.com/index.cfm/_api/render/file/?method=inline&fileID=123ECD96-EF81-46F6-983D2AE9A45FA354" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Writing on this gap</a>, Robert Sapolsky, professor of biology and neurology at Stanford University, notes that socioeconomic stressors can increase blood pressure, reduce insulin response, increase chronic inflammation, and impair the prefrontal cortex and other brain functions through anxiety, depression, and cognitive load. </p><p>"Thus, from the macro level of entire body systems to the micro level of individual chromosomes, poverty finds a way to produce wear and tear," Sapolsky writes. "It is outrageous that if children are born into the wrong family, they will be predisposed toward poor health by the time they start to learn the alphabet."</p>Research on the economic and mental health fallout of COVID-19 is showing two things: That unemployment is hitting <a href="https://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2020/09/24/economic-fallout-from-covid-19-continues-to-hit-lower-income-americans-the-hardest/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">low-income and young Americans</a> most during the pandemic, potentially widening the health-wealth gap further; and that the pandemic not only exacerbates mental health stressors, but is doing so at clinically relevant levels. As <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7413844/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the authors of one review</a> wrote, the pandemic's effects on mental health is itself an international public health priority.
Working to close the health gap<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDc5MDk1MS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxNTYyMzQzMn0.KSFpXH7yHYrfVPtfgcxZqAHHYzCnC2bFxwSrJqBbH4I/img.jpg?width=980" id="b40e2" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="1b9035370ab7b02a0dc00758e494412b" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Northwell Health coronavirus testing center at Greater Springfield Community Church.
Credit: Northwell Health<p>Novel coronavirus may spread and infect indiscriminately, but pre-existing conditions, environmental stressors, and a lack of access to care and resources increase the risk of infection. These social determinants make the pandemic more dangerous, and erode communities' and families' abilities to heal from health crises that pre-date the pandemic.</p><p>How do we eliminate these divides? Dr. Salas-Lopez says the first step is recognition. "We have to open our eyes to see the suffering around us," she said. "Northwell has not shied away from that."</p><p>"We are steadfast in improving health outcomes for our vulnerable and underrepresented communities that have suffered because of the prevalence of chronic disease, a problem that led to the disproportionately higher death rate among African-Americans and Latinos during the COVID-19 pandemic," said Michael Dowling, Northwell's president and CEO. "We are committed to using every tool at our disposal—as a provider of health care, employer, purchaser and investor—to combat disparities and ensure the <a href="https://www.northwell.edu/education-and-resources/community-engagement/center-for-equity-of-care" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">equity of care</a> that everyone deserves." </p><p>With the need recognized, Dr. Salas-Lopez calls for health care systems to travel upstream and be proactive in those hard-hit communities. This requires health care systems to play a strong role, but not a unilateral one. They must build <a href="https://www.northwell.edu/news/insights/faith-based-leaders-are-the-key-to-improving-community-health" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">partnerships with leaders in those communities</a> and utilize those to ensure relationships last beyond the current crisis. </p><p>"We must meet with community leaders and talk to them to get their perspective on what they believe the community needs are and should be for the future. Together, we can co-create a plan to measurably improve [community] health and also to be ready for whatever comes next," she said.</p><p>Northwell has built relationships with local faith-based and community organizations in underserved communities of color. Those partnerships enabled Northwell to test more than 65,000 people across the metro New York region. The health system also offered education on coronavirus and precautions to curb its spread.</p><p>These initiatives began the process of building trust—trust that Northwell has counted on to return to these communities to administer flu vaccines to prepare for what experts fear may be a difficult flu season.</p><p>While Northwell has begun building bridges across the divides of the New York area, much will still need to be done to cure U.S. health care overall. There is hope that the COVID pandemic will awaken us to the deep disparities in the US.</p><p>"COVID has changed our world. We have to seize this opportunity, this pandemic, this crisis to do better," Dr. Salas-Lopez said. "Provide better care. Provide better health. Be better partners. Be better community citizens. And treat each other with respect and dignity.</p><p>"We need to find ways to unify this country because we're all human beings. We're all created equal, and we believe that health is one of those important rights."</p>
A study by UK archaeologists finds that longbows caused horrific injuries similar to modern gunshot wounds.
- UK archaeologists discover medieval longbows caused injuries similar to modern gunshot wounds.
- The damage was caused by the arrows spinning clockwise.
- No longbows from medieval times survived until our times.
Battle of Agincourt.
The angle of entry into a cranium found during the excavation at a medieval Dominican friary in Exeter, England.
Credit: Oliver Creighton/University of Exeter
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Vegans and vegetarians often have nutrient deficiencies and lower BMI, which can increase the risk of fractures.
- The study found that vegans were 43% more likely to suffer fractures than meat eaters.
- Similar results were observed for vegetarians and fish eaters, though to a lesser extent.
- It's possible to be healthy on a vegan diet, though it takes some strategic planning to compensate for the nutrients that a plant-based diet can't easily provide.
Comparison of fracture cases by diet group
Credit: Tong et al.<p>The results showed that vegans were especially vulnerable to hip fractures, suffering 2.3 times more cases than meat-eaters. Vegetarians and pescatarians were also more likely to suffer hip fractures, though to a lesser extent.</p><p>One explanation may be that non-meat eaters consume less calcium and protein. Calcium helps the body build strong bones, particularly before age 30, after which the body begins to lose bone mineral density (though consuming enough calcium through diet or supplement can <a href="https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Calcium-Consumer/" target="_blank">help offset losses</a>). Lower bone mineral density means higher risk of fracture.</p><p>Protein seems to help the body absorb calcium, <a href="https://www.bonejoint.net/blog/did-you-know-that-certain-foods-block-calcium-absorption/#:~:text=Historically%2C%20nutritionists%20have%20warned%20that,may%20increase%20intestinal%20calcium%20absorption." target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">when consumed in normal levels</a>. The recent study, along with past research, shows that people who don't eat meat tend to have lower levels of both protein and calcium. When the researchers accounted for non-meat eaters who supplemented their diets with calcium and protein, fracture risk decreased, but still remained significant.</p>
Credit: Pixabay<p>Another explanation is body mass index (BMI). Non-meat eaters tend to have a lower BMI, which is associated with higher fracture risk, particularly hip fractures. In the new study, vegans with a low BMI were especially likely to suffer hip fractures. That might be because having more body mass provides a cushioning effect when people fall.</p><p>Still, the study has some limitations. For one, White European women were overrepresented in the sample. The researchers also didn't collect precise data on the type of calcium or protein supplementation, diet quality or causes of fractures.</p><p>Another complicating factor: Producers of vegan products, such as plant-based milk, are increasingly fortifying foods with nutrients like calcium and protein, so modern vegans are potentially at lower risk of deficiency.</p><p>The researchers wrote that their findings "suggest that bone health in vegans requires further research."</p>