Community Built Knowledge Base => Library: Tools and skills workshops => Topic started by: CalicoSilver on December 07, 2010, 01:56:38 PM

Title: 2.03 | B.I.F.F. Technique for Communications
Post by: CalicoSilver on December 07, 2010, 01:56:38 PM
This technique was recently shared with bpdfamily.com - by Randi Kreger (Co-author of SWOE, among others)

While it was written - with a different audience in mind, its principles can be adopted then applied to email exchanges with (problematic) family members. Its tenets: Brief - Informative - Friendly & Firm are simple, common-sense tools we can all use.

Given the litigious nature of our modern society, we shouldn't ever be surprised when something we wrote in an email later surfaces to "bite" us when we least expect it. It never hurts to keep this in mind whenever we're attempting to engage our disordered relatives using email.

Some of our members have struggled with (custody battles) when the family situation devolves into a crisis mode. When this happens, the last thing any of us would want to "defend" is an email we've sent out of anger/frustration. I think many of us can use the advice given here.

The booklet "Splitting: Protecting Yourself When Divorcing a Borderline or Narcissist" by Bill Eddy, often seen as the bible for divorcing a BP or NP, is going to be published as a book in July, 2011 by New Harbinger.

Bill and I rewrote large portions of Splitting for publication, and I would like to share some materials with you that aren’t in the current version.

During divorce and beyond, hostile emails are common. Bill came up with something called the B.I.F.F. method for responding to them. You can get the current version of "Splitting" at my website.

Remember BIFF When Responding to Hostile E-mails

Hostile e-mail exchanges have become huge in divorce. Blamers love sending them and use them to attack you, your family and friends, and professionals. It’s extremely tempting to respond the same way. Hostile e-mail has also become huge in family court, as a document used to show someone’s bad behavior. While you are encouraged to save copies of hostile e-mail sent to you, it is very important that you not send hostile e-mails to anyone. They will be used against you. Instead, assertively use a BIFF response, as described next, and encourage people in your support system to do the same. It will save you a lot of wasted time and energy to be brief, informative, friendly, and firm.

Do You Need to Respond?

Much of hostile mail does not need a response. Letters from exes, angry neighbors, irritating coworkers, or attorneys do not usually have legal significance. The letter itself has no power, unless you give it power. Often, it is emotional venting aimed at relieving the writer’s anxiety. If you respond with similar emotions and hostility, you will simply escalate things without satisfaction, and just get a new piece of hostile mail back. In most cases, you are better off not responding. Some letters and e-mails develop power when copies are filed in a court or complaint process—or simply get sent to other people. In these cases, it may be important to respond to inaccurate statements with accurate statements of fact. If so, use a BIFF response.


Keep your response brief. This will reduce the chances of a prolonged and angry back-and-forth. The more you write, the more material the other person has to criticize. Keeping it brief signals that you don’t wish to engage in a dialogue. Just make your response and end your e-mail. Don’t take your partner’s statements personally and don’t respond with a personal attack. Avoid focusing on comments about the other person’s character, such as saying he is rude, insensitive, or stupid. It just escalates the conflict and keeps it going. Make sure to avoid the three “A’s”: admonishments, advice and apologies. You don’t have to defend yourself to someone you disagree with. If your friends still like you, you don’t have to prove anything to people who don’t.


The main reason to respond to hostile mail is to correct inaccurate statements others might see. “Just the facts” is a good thing to keep in mind. Focus on the accurate statements you want to make, not on the inaccurate statements the other person made: “Just to clear things up, I was out of town on February 12, so I would not have been the person who was making loud noises that day.”

Avoid negative comments, sarcasm, and threats. Avoid personal remarks about the other person’s intelligence, ethics, or moral behavior. If the other person has a high-conflict personality, you will have no success at reducing the conflict by making personal attacks. While most people can ignore personal attacks or might think harder about what you are saying, high-conflict people feel they have no choice but to respond in anger—and keep the conflict going. Personal attacks rarely lead to insight or positive change.


While you may be tempted to write in anger, you are more likely to achieve your goals by writing in a friendly manner. Consciously thinking about a friendly response will increase your chances of getting a friendly or neutral response in return. If your goal is to end the conflict, then being friendly has the greatest likelihood of success. Don’t give the other person a reason to get defensive and keep responding.

This does not mean that you have to be overly friendly. Just make your message sound a little relaxed and nonantagonistic. If appropriate, say you recognize your partner’s concerns. Brief comments that show your empathy and respect will generally calm the other person down, even if only for a short time.


In a nonthreatening way, clearly tell the other person your information or position on an issue; for example, “That’s all I’m going to say on this issue.” Be careful not to make comments that invite more discussion, unless you are negotiating an issue or want to keep a dialogue going back and forth. Avoid comments that leave an opening, such as, “I hope you will agree with me that…” This invites the other person to tell you, “I don’t agree.”

Sound confident and don’t ask for more information, if you want to end the back-and-forth. A confident-sounding person is less likely to be challenged with further e-mails. If you get more e-mails, you can ignore them, if you have already sufficiently addressed the inaccurate information. If you need to respond again, keep it even briefer, and do not emotionally engage. In fact, it often helps to just repeat the key information using the same words.

Example of BIFF Response

Joe’s hostile e-mail: “Jane, I can’t believe you are so stupid as to think I’m going to let you take the children to your boss’s birthday party during my parenting time. Have you no memory of the last six conflicts we’ve had about my parenting time? Or are you having an affair with him? I always knew you would do anything to get ahead! In fact, I remember coming to your office party and witnessing you making a total fool of yourself, including flirting with everyone from the CEO down to the mail-room clerk! Are you high on something? Haven’t you gotten your finances together enough to support yourself yet, without flinging yourself at every Tom, Dick, and Harry?”…

Jane’s response: “Thank you for responding to my request to take the children to my office party. Just to clarify, the party will be from 3:00 to 5:00 on Friday at the office, and there will be approximately thirty people there, including several other parents and their school-age children. There will be no alcohol because it is a family-oriented firm, and there will be family-oriented activities. I think it will be a good experience for the kids to see me at my workplace. Since you do not agree, then, of course, I will respect that and withdraw my request, because I recognize that it is your parenting time.”

Comment: Jane kept it brief and did not engage in defending herself. Since this was just between the two of them, she didn’t need to respond. If he sent this e-mail to friends, coworkers, or family members (which high-conflict people often do), she would need to respond to the larger group with more information, such as the following.

Jane’s group response: “Dear friends and family, as you know, Joe and I had a difficult divorce. He has sent you a private e-mail showing correspondence between us about a parenting schedule matter. I hope you will see this as a private matter and understand that you do not need to respond or get involved in any way. Almost everything he has said is in anger and not at all accurate. If you have any questions for me personally, please feel free to contact me and I will clarify anything I can. I appreciate your friendship and support.”

And that’s it: BIFF!

Title: Re: B.I.F.F. Technique for Email Communications
Post by: Penguinectomy on December 07, 2010, 02:07:53 PM
This is really good.  I'm very lucky that I was able to switch into "work mode" a lot of the time in responding to uBPDxh's whacked-out emails, so did BIFF almost by default b/c it made me feel less out of control to wear my work-hat when dealing with him.  But it would have really benefited me to 1) realize that I didn't have to respond to him and 2) realize that 99% of his words are just an emotional smokescreen, devoid of actual content, by looking at "just the facts" more dispassionately.  I would have spared myself many panic attacks

Title: Re: B.I.F.F. Technique for Email Communications
Post by: BMama on December 07, 2010, 07:06:00 PM
This is what someone was talking about in another thread.  Thank you!

I started doing this last year, for which my mother's response was that I had gotten "cold and clinical."  That is how I knew I had written the right kind of email.

I love the acronym and example though.  Reminds me to edit down to only the essential information.  K.I.S.S as they say.  And sometimes the best response is no response.


Title: Re: B.I.F.F. Technique for Email Communications
Post by: readthisdaily on December 07, 2010, 10:29:43 PM
Thank you!

I used this today!

I received an email telling me where I was required to be and what I'd be doing.

I had other things more important to do, so I simply said no, this wont work and left it at that. (I was missing "friendly" but oh well  )

This has saved me an unbelievable amount of time!  Usually I'd respond with a lengthy explanation & several FOG-induced interractions back & forth.  This is really helpful   

Title: Re: B.I.F.F. Technique for Email Communications
Post by: Randi Kreger on December 26, 2010, 06:57:50 PM
I'm glad everyone has found this so helpful! I let Bill Eddy know.

Title: Re: B.I.F.F. Technique for Email Communications
Post by: boatingwoman on January 07, 2011, 12:34:27 PM
This is helpful, thanks.


Title: Re: B.I.F.F. Technique for Email Communications
Post by: MyNascence on January 07, 2011, 12:37:00 PM
Ironic, I was JUST looking for this.  Guess you DID post it! 

Thanks again for sharing this.

Title: Re: B.I.F.F. Technique for Email Communications
Post by: MyNascence on January 07, 2011, 12:50:18 PM
This tool should should be added to our resources.

Title: Re: B.I.F.F. Technique for Email Communications
Post by: FamilyFirst on January 07, 2011, 08:27:52 PM
Thank you! This is exactly what I needed to learn how to do. With that said, what would be your advice on having this behavior happen over TEXTS? ... .Usually when I receive a text from the specific BPD - a family member , I wait, to think about what I want to say, and not respond out of anger or emotions (like I used to do -which would backfire, and make matters worse). When I do wait a while to respond (usually not too long -  maybe 10 min.)  - I usually get an angry text back, as if I had ingorned her last text on purpose. Even if I text something simple, and "just the facts", I still receive MANY texts after... .sometimes it can reach over 40 a day.

I want to throw up everytime I hear my phone beep from a text, knowing that its the start of another battle, that takes up alot of time and energy that I do not have to spare.

I would like to be civil, and friendly, but this is hard to do, sometimes. Any suggestions? thanks so much! I am a newbie to all of this, and learning as I go.  

Title: Re: B.I.F.F. Technique for Email Communications
Post by: Sharonon on January 07, 2011, 09:49:19 PM
Good to see this again. Even better the second time around.

And it helped me see more clearly that I don't have to defend or prove myself to the PD or anybody unless there is a real, practical need to do so -  & then I can basicall B.I.F.F. too.