Histrionic personalities

This is the last in my short series on difficult behaviours. Remember the context is that although mediation has a success rate in the region of 85-90%, some of the cases don’t achieve settlement can be due to the personality types of difficult people.  So far I have covered Borderline, Narcissistic and Antisocial personalities. This week I focus on Histrionic Personalities (HP).

People who display traits associated with HP are likely to be highly emotional, but behind the emotion may lay few facts. They can often blame others for everything that happens. In some cases, this can become highly exaggerated as the event in question may not have even occurred.

According to Dr Boland, people with HP can lack insight and integrate experiences poorly. Their judgment tends to be undependable and highly erratic. On the surface, they may appear charming to casual acquaintances. HPs often get found out though. Family members, friends and colleagues are likely to quickly pick up that they are regularly required to watch a performance and begin to see the person as irritable and manipulative.

People on the continual receiving end, will feel a lack of empathy for this person and begin to draw away. The danger for the person with the HP trait is that no one may be kind enough to provide them with some honest feedback. Ultimately, their behaviour can cost them greatly.

They like to draw attention to themselves and if they are not the centre of attention, might make something up to rectify this. If you are working with someone displaying this trait, emotions may be used to get your attention, to make numerous demands upon you, and to try to persuade you of something.

In disputes, working with the HP can be hard work. This is because to resolve a dispute by compromise would shatter the HPs illusion that the problems are all caused by other people. Learning to focus on facts and details, and to replace dramatic words and emotions with more realistic ones, can be arduous. Therefore, negotiation and mediation may be difficult.

Histrionic personalities: A summary

  • Always dramatic
  • Dramatic and exaggerated speech and stories
  • Demands to be centre of attention
  • Superficial emotions and relationships
  • Will fabricate stories and lie for attention

Tips and techniques for dealing with histrionic personalities

  • Maintain healthy scepticism
  • Listen respectfully, and then try to focus on tasks
  • Provide structure and focus
  • Ask for facts

Note: Since starting to write this short series I have had many calls and emails about difficult personality types. I should point out that for each of the four categories, research shows that around 1-3% of the population might fit under each category. There is also some interesting research about gender correlations. We could all, of course, show traits from any of the four when we are under pressure.

Next week: Equality – the big focus area for 2010

Helen RobinsonRelationships