The BIFF Response
Covid-19 has increased the personal attacks some co-parents experience when trying to negotiate with their former partner.
Bill Eddy is a lawyer out of San Diego, USA, who has created the BIFF response to negotiating with high conflict people. This is a method of responding to a toxic, high conflict person (HCP) who approaches any communication or attempt at problem-solving by blaming others; refusing to compromise; and demonstrating unrestrained emotions, language, and extreme behaviour. Mr. Eddy states that the usual conflict resolution methods don't work with these individuals. Communication with such people need to be managed to keep the central issue central, and to dismiss the other person's attempt to have you join them in at an all and out mud-slinging contest.
Bill Eddy suggests that all communications with such persons should be BIFF–
Brief: Keep it brief. Long explanations and arguments trigger HCPs. Avoid character bashing. It does nothing in terms of de-escalating an argument.
Informative: Focus on straight information, not arguments, opinions, emotions, or defending yourself (you don't need to prove anything to anyone besides those who like you).
Friendly: Start with a friendly greeting such as "Thanks for responding to my request”; close with a friendly comment such as "Have a good weekend”. Remember that there is no reason to prolong an argument and being friendly gives you the best chance of receiving a similar response.
Firm: Have your response end the conversation. Or give two choices on an issue and ask for a reply by a certain date.
He also warns to leave out the three A's–
Advice: Are you telling the other person what to do, how to behave, or how to feel? If so, you can expect a defensive reaction and more email/texts. It's better to avoid unsolicited advice such as "You just need to do X." Make a proposal instead.
Admonishments: Telling a defensive or upset person what they do wrong and how to fix it will just make them more defensive and earn you another accusatory reply. Things like "You're overreacting" or "You should be ashamed" are not going to help them hear you.
Apologies: Most of us apologize for upsetting HCPs, but it easily backfires. "Sorry I was late" is OK as a social nicety. "I'm sorry my email upset you" is accepting responsibility for the other person's emotions. It's almost guaranteed to be taken as an admission of guilt, which HCPs will use against you to place blame and defend their actions.
Does this email need a response?
Pause. Take a deep breath. Then read the email/text with a critical eye. Is there anything that really requires a reply (a deadline, an appointment, a required decision)? Look for valid matters and ignore the barbs. A decision on an appointment time is valid. An accusation that you never communicate is invalid. Asking what time to pick up a child is valid. Saying everybody is mad at you or blaming you is invalid. Additionally, a decision needed for a concrete issue is only valid if it's new. Further demands to discuss the same matter are not valid and need no reply. Don't take the bait when the next reworded email with the same demand comes along.
Mr. Eddy's informative website and article is found here.