September 16, 2013

Communicating in Divorce: From B.F.F. to B.I.F.F.

Categories: DivorceMental Health


When you are in love, communicating seems easy. No rules are needed because you choose your words as a way to connect with this person. What happens when you fall out of love? It’s not uncommon for soon-to-be or ex-spouses to communicate in harmful and hurtful ways. However, engaging in verbal warfare can be exhausting, is unproductive and ultimately is harmful to you and your children.

What’s the alternative? B.I.F.F. – communicating in a Brief, Informative, Friendly and Firm manner. William Eddy, President of the “High Conflict Institute,” is the brainchild of this method. Not only is it effective in the context of divorce but is also a useful tool at work or whenever dealing with difficult people in your life.

Mr. Eddy suggests that when responding to hostile communication, email is the most common form, keep in mind the following tenets:

  • Keep your response brief and to the point. The more you write the more material you provide the other person to criticize. Also, keeping it brief is a signal that you are not interested in a “dialogue.”
  • The content of your email or communication should be informative and contain just the facts. Focus on accurate statements you would like to make rather than pointing out the inaccuracy of the other person’s statements.
  • Watch the tone of your email. Although it can be tempting to shoot off a witty barb, refraining will keep the communication moving. Remember, your goal is to end the conflict.
  • Lastly, tell the other person your position on the issue and leave it at that. Do not invite comments or more discussion; be confident in your response and do not ask for information. If you receive further emails, you can ignore them since you have already addressed the issue.

So, next time you are invited to a verbal showdown, disengage and make your response B.I.F.F. You will save yourself time, emotional anguish and possibly even turn around hurtful and unproductive communication.

Elizabeth I. WrobelABOUT THE AUTHOR
Elizabeth Wrobel

Elizabeth Wrobel, JD is a partner with Wrobel & Smith, PLLP. She practices in the areas of collaborative family law and health insurance disputes. Although Elizabeth’s legal roots are in government practice, she now enjoys working directly with real people and their real-life challenges. Elizabeth’s passion for helping families is met in her collaborative law practice where she can use creative problem solving to assist families through the challenges of transition. Elizabeth understands that conflict can be expected, but how the professionals respond and guide a couple through divorce is critical in minimizing the harm.

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