A few weeks ago, I talked about why people are drawn to “narcissistic” personalities. That same week I also happened to spend two days training for Parent Coordination, which is basically an intervention for high conflict divorced parents, who seem incapable of co-parenting. (Trust me, do everything you can to avoid this.) Two days of delving into how to manage and contain high conflict relationships. So I thought today would be fun to talk about one of my favorite strategies for dealing with such situations, whether the person is a family member, neighbor, co-worker, etc. Sometimes we just can’t avoid difficult relationships.

And a disclaimer, this is only a strategy that I employ. It was developed by Bill Eddy, LCSW who I think is fantastic and I highly recommend reading his work. BIFF:

Brief: Be succinct and to the point. The more you say, the greater the likelihood that words will be misinterpreted, that defenses will be triggered, that off-topic tangents will occur. Enough on this, I’m practicing being brief.

Informative: Keep the dialogue to an exchange of information only. Avoid assumptions, accusations, emotional diatribe…everything that I call “smoke and mirrors,” which only serves to detract from the key issue.

Friendly: Remember you catch more flies with honey than vinegar. That saying means that you are more likely to be heard, get what you would like, etc. if you are kind and respectful. And truly no matter how horrible you believe the other person is, kindness costs nothing. Of course, this does not mean being a doormat. Nonetheless, you can’t control how the other person acts or reacts yet you can choose how you do so.

Firm: If you have followed the above, be firm in your actions and responses. It does not mean that you should not comprise or that you should not change your view with further clarifying information, it just means do not allow yourself to be bullied.

Remember that relationships are systems. Snoring is only a problem if it is a health issue or if that person’s partner is a light sleeper. A person might be a lovely person in other situations yet in their relationship with you, they may seem high conflict. Or they could truly be a high conflict person. That is why I refer to high conflict situations.

So whenever you are in a high conflict situation or are feeling your buttons being triggered, think of BIFF, he should be your best friend McFly.

And if you have difficulty with this, think about consulting with a friend, family member, therapist, or some other person to help you with your communication. That is one good thing about email…you can take your time and get input from others before hitting send or reply.

Emotions are contagious and intense emotions are intensely contagious. Billy Eddy