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Under the best of circumstances, attempting to win an argument is fruitless.

As I’ve discussed previously, trying to persuade someone invariably causes measurable stress. Even using data to support your position works against you: The other person twists your facts to support their pre-existing belief.

Evidence-based advisors have encountered this phenomenon when they try to convince others of the merits of indexed investing. How often have you heard responses like these:

Some mutual funds outperform. Why do you assume my broker and I can’t pick them?

What about Warren Buffett?

I want an advisor who knows when to enter and exit the market.

While your chances of winning an argument on any given topic are slim, there’s one situation where it’s non-existent.

That’s when you’re confronted with a high-conflict personality.

Signs of a high-conflict person

Bill Eddy is the president of the High Conflict Institute and an authority on high-conflict personalities. To identify those people, he looks for the following behavior patterns:

  • Preoccupation with blaming others;
  • All-or-nothing thinking and solutions;
  • Unmanaged or intense emotions; and
  • Extreme behavior and/or threats.