Improving Family Communications in Conflict Focus of 2016 Harshman Lecture


A conflict resolution specialist will discuss better family communications during this year’s Harshman Lecture at the University of Guelph.

Bill Eddy, president of the High Conflict Institute of San Diego, California, and a lawyer and mediator, will speak Nov. 15, 7 p.m., at Cutten Fields.

Bill Eddy

Bill Eddy

He will discuss the key skills of flexible thinking, managing emotions, moderating behaviours and checking yourself.

Eddy said it is difficult to move past emotions during a disagreement, especially with a family member.

“High-conflict situations are increasing and require a different approach,” he said.

“Anger, logical arguments and focusing on the past just backfire. Yet that’s what professionals often do; I know I used to. This can make the situation much, much worse.”

Eddy became an attorney in 1992. Earlier, as a licensed clinical social worker, he provided therapy to children, adults, couples and families in psychiatric hospitals and outpatient clinics.

It’s easy for communications to spin in the wrong direction, he said.

“That’s why this type of community training is so important—and the skills taught can be fun.

“This program will give a good understanding of how high-conflict people think differently and how to work with them effectively together.”

Eddy developed a “New Ways for Families” method for working with potentially high-conflict families in and out of family court. The method is being implemented in several family court systems in Canada and the United States, said Prof. Donna Lero, Family Relations and Applied Nutrition.

“His strategies will help people protect the most important relationships in their lives, both at home and at work,” said Lero, who holds the Jarislowsky Chair in Families and Work.

“Conflict is a natural part of human relationships, but how we communicate in conflict situations is critical to help maintain relationships and provide the willingness to pull together in the long-term to achieve common goals.”

Eddy will present a full-day workshop, “Strategies for High-Conflict Families,” Nov. 16. More details are available online.

Sponsored by the Harshman Foundation, the lecture series began a year after the death in 1977 of Dr. Page Harshman, former chair of the foundation. Previously involved through U of G’s former College of Family and Consumer Studies, the Harshman Foundation now supports undergraduate and graduate scholarships in the College of Social and Applied Human Sciences.