Guest Blog: Megan Hunter Quick Responses to High Conflict People, Their Personal Attacks, Hostile Email and Social Media Meltdowns

© 2012 By Megan Hunter, MBA

Hi, I’m Megan Hunter, CEO/speaker at Life Unhooked, publisher at HCI Press and CEO/founder at Unhooked Books. I’m dedicated to being your resource for information on unhooking from high conflict people at work and in your personal life so that you can be happier and healthier. Ever get an email that knocked you for a loop? Drove you over the edge? Was your reaction abnormal for you? In other words, did you overreact and wonder why? You were probably dealing with a high conflict person, according to Bill Eddy in his book, “BIFF:  Quick Responses to High Conflict People, Their Personal Attacks, Hostile Email and Social Media Meltdowns.

I recall being the recipient of an attack email that put me into overreact mode. It took mere seconds to light me up and much, much longer to calm down.

Eddy explains why we get fired up over hostile emails, texts, letters and social media attacks. It’s because the email is filled with blamespeak, projection and personal attacks against you (hint: personal attacks are the first red flag). Let me give you an example of blamespeak and personal attacks from BIFF (page 1):

“It’s all YOUR fault!”

“You should be ashamed of yourself!”

“You’re a disgrace to your _________________!”  [family][community][country][team][profession][party][you fill in the blank]

“What’s the matter with you? Are you crazy? Stupid? Immoral? Unethical? Evil?”

And now my own example from the hostile email I received that elevated my blood pressure. It started with an email I sent to two consultants doing a project for me and it was after a pretty significant mistake was made by one of them.

Me:  Thanks for your work on this. We need to be more careful so we don’t have errors like this down the road.”

Consultant 1:  “No problem.”

Consultant 2:  “How dare you blame me? If you took better care of your business you wouldn’t have mistakes like this.” A successful businessperson does A, B, and C if they want to have a successful business.  YOU do NONE of these thing!!!!!!. Maybe you should stop playing the victim and blaming everyone else – you know – the IT’S ALL YOUR FAULT!!!! attitude!

I’ll spare you from the full email. Believe me, it was very long and left me feeling battered, bruised and angry.

Immediately, I had a choice to make: 1) react via email, or 2) wait and respond with a BIFF response. I wanted to react with a very strong email; however, my left logic brain prevailed and I held back from indelicately hitting the Send button. After waiting a day, I took Bill’s advice and formulated a BIFF response.

So, what is a BIFF response? BIFF stands for Brief, Informative, Friendly and Firm. Mr. Eddy developed the BIFF method to help people have structure to cling to in difficult situations when we’d rather reach through the monitor and choke that person!  A BIFF response is intended to avoid triggering defensiveness in the other person. Being Brief does just that. Being Informative means providing a sentence or two about the subject, without giving opinion about the other person. Being Friendly (the hardest part of all sometimes) is important to help keep their emotional hemisphere calm. Being firm helps end the conversation (the ultimate goal) and gives structure, something typically lacking in people who communicate this way – high conflict personalities.

Mr. Eddy explores whether a response is needed at all and provides explanation why it’s not useful to give advice, to admonish or apologize if you do respond. The remaining chapters hold specific information for all kinds of disputes: friends, family, ex’s, neighbors, colleagues, businesses/professions, organizations, governments and politicians.

Bill says it is a waste of time to respond with anything other than a BIFF response because it assumes we expect the receiver to be operating with logic – often not the case with them. While it’s exceedingly difficult to do sometimes, use a BIFF response next time you find yourself overreacting to written communication.

This is a simple, easy-to-ready and understand book that does not take long to read and should be required reading for everyone!

Co-founder Megan Hunter is a speakerauthor, and international expert on high conflict disputes, complicated relationships, and Borderline Personality Disorder. She has over 13 years’ experience as the Family Law Specialist with the Arizona Supreme Court, and Child Support Manager of the Dawes County Attorney’s Office in Nebraska. 

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