© 2015 By Bill Eddy, LCSW, Esq.
Beth was fairly annoyed. Marvin is on the same church committee and was prone to sending angry, blaming emails. Beth is the charitable committee head. She had read the BIFF book, watched the video and was feeling pretty good about her response to his latest rant, but then he just wrote back angrier than before.
What The Heck Happened?!?
Let’s take a look:
A BIFF Response is Brief, Informative, Friendly and Firm with a goal of ending the conversation or giving two limited choices. When asked, Beth concluded it was Brief. She thought it was Informative and Firm because she pointed out behaviors and implied he needed to stop sending emails. She thought the overall tone was Friendly. When she re-read it though, she realized she’d forgotten something.
Remember Your Triple A’s
Advice, Admonishments and Apologies – These are less obvious and a little trickier than the four basic steps in a BIFF Response. An entire chapter is dedicated to this in the BIFF Response Book, but the highlights are:
1. Are you giving Advice? Are you telling the other person what to do or how s/he should feel or what they should do to solve a problem? If so, you can expect a defensive reaction and more email. It’s better to avoid unsolicited advice such as “you will feel better if you do [blank].”
2. Are you Admonishing the other person? Chances are you would not be writing a BIFF Response if the person was not already acting defensively. Assuming that’s true, telling them what they do wrong and how to correct it will simply make them more defensive (or angry, or both) and earn you another defensive reply.
3. Did you Apologize? Most of us will apologize sometimes to make someone feel better, but sometimes it backfires. “Sorry I was late” is OK as a simple social nicety. “I’m sorry my email upset you” is accepting responsibility for the other person’s emotions. It’s almost guaranteed to be taken as an admission of guilt, which will likely fan the flames or be used against you to place blame and defend their actions.
With the Triple A’s in mind, Beth Revised Her Reply:
The revised BIFF Response® hits the 4 main points and omits the Triple A’s. It’s Brief and Friendly, Informs Marvin she is available to work on future issues and is Firm by subtly indicating that this occurrence is now closed.
In a charitable committee, Beth’s position has similarities to that of a manager in a company. However, if this were a workplace scenario she would be faced with a slightly different situation. After all, managers sometimes must set limits and correct behaviors.
Bill Eddy is a lawyer, therapist, and mediator. He is the co-founder and Training Director of the High Conflict Institute, a training and consultation firm that trains professionals to deal with high conflict people and situations. He is the author of several books and methods for handling high conflict personalities and high conflict disputes with the most difficult people.