Divorce is never an easy event in one’s life, especially when there is a break down of communication. Divorce is even more challenging when there are kids in the middle. With high conflict parents, talking about kids’ schedules, appointments, and other aspects of the kids can be difficult and sometimes cause more problems. So how can high-conflict parents successfully communicate about their kids? BIFF. Brief, Informed, Friendly, and Firm responses.
The BIFF Response And Blamespeak
BIFF Responses are used when a high-conflict person uses Blamespeak, or high-conflict blaming language. Blamespeak can be recognized by language that is emotionally intense, very personal attacks, and indicating, “it’s all your fault.” It is emotionally driven language that focuses on personality and behavior rather than on an objective solution. Although it is tempting to respond to Blamespeak with more Blamespeak, this will only cause more conflict and not help resolve the problem. BIFF Responses help to stop the Blamespeak and move the conversation in a productive direction.
Elements of a Proper BIFF Response
How to write a BIFF Response:
Brief – Your response should be short. 2–5 sentences or one paragraph response is ideal. Less is better to minimize triggering language and it gives less information that the other person can respond to.
Informative – Provide straight, useful information. Stay away from your own personal opinion or defensiveness about the subject; just provide information. The goal is to shift the conversation from opinions about each other and move towards a productive objective subject.
Friendly – This puts a positive light on the conversation and takes away the need to be defensive. It can be as simple as saying, “Have a good day,” or “I appreciate your concerns.” Let the other person know they have been heard, but move the conversation away from subjective, opinionated statements.
Firm – You want to let the other person know that what you have written is all you are going to say on the subject and giving clear choices for future action. The goal is to end the conversation and disengage from the high-conflict situation.
Language To Avoid In A BIFF Response
Some language to avoid when drafting a BIFF Response includes: advice, admonishments, and apologies. Responding with advice would be trying to tell the other person how to handle a situation in a particular way. This should be avoided as it may trigger a defensive or attacking response. Admonishments are scolding or condescending language. This never works, as it could escalate the situation and does not help in calming the person down and ending the conversation. Lastly, apologies are not productive in a BIFF response. This may sound counter intuitive; however, in a high-conflict situation an apology may encourage the other person to use that against you. This also encourages more Blamespeak and furthers the conflict conversation.
It is good practice to show your BIFF Response to someone, as they may be able to offer feedback and catch language that is not consistent with a BIFF Response. It is important to respond quickly to the high-conflict person to de-escalate the situation and shut down the Blamespeak.
Although BIFF Responses are helpful, sometimes not responding at all is better. When deciding whether or not you need to respond consider:
- Are you and the other person the only individuals in the conversation?
- Are there no real issues being discussed?
- Is it the other person’s opinion about your behavior or personality?
- Have you already responded sufficiently on the subject?
The Use of BIFF To De-Escalate
If you answered “Yes” to any of the above questions, you do not need to respond. If you answered “No” to any of the above questions, a BIFF Response would be encouraged to de-escalate the conversation and end the Blamespeak.
The goal of a BIFF Response is to move the conversation into a productive and problem-solving form of communication. It can be hard to just focus on the kids when aspects of divorce conflict are present during parents’ communication. BIFF Responses help to re-focus the conversation between parents to help the kids transition during this difficult time.
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