Managing Emotions

“Our modern problems are too complex to simply react to them – we need to use our full capacities to analyze and manage them.”

Don’t Comment!

BIFF book cover - red

© 2015 Bill Eddy, LCSW, Esq. There is a lot going on in the world right now, and opinions are running rampant. Automatically commenting on social media posts and in other places has become a habit for many.  Should we be doing that? Bill Eddy, co-founder of the High Conflict Institute, says “no.”___________________ Recently in my divorce mediation sessions I have noticed an increase in commenting by the parties on each other’s way of saying things, intent of what they say and repeating remarks that obviously trigger defensive reactions from the other person. By and large these are sincere people, working hard at reaching agreements. This “commenting” seems to occur almost unnoticed by each person saying it, as if it was part of the language of the day. I’m spending more of my time as a mediator redirecting people to talk about the future and “don’t comment” on how each other speaks, their tone of voice, their intent, their intelligence or morals – and “don’t comment on each other’s comment.”  I don’t remember this happening so much ten or more years ago. Unfortunately, I think that negative commenting HAS recently become part of the language of today. Over the past ten years, blog postings, Facebook entries, news articles and all forms of online communication officially invite “comments.” While initially this was designed to get discussions and interaction going, it frequently devolves into “your comment was so stupid” and “no, you’re the one who’s REALLY stupid!” and back and forth. I have seen this happen even in professional communication online, including professional listserves and blogs. Online comments seem to carry no immediate negative response and no risk. There’s no frown or angry look to discourage the “commentator,” as there is in person. It even happens in the news. Recently, a talk radio commentator said that a political group invented the term “polar vortex” to explain a severe drop in temperatures, especially in the Midwest. It was a criticism of those who believe in global warming, since these extreme cold temperatures seem to counter the idea that the planet is getting warmer. The radio commentator negatively “commented” on those who created the term polar vortex as having a political agenda. But interestingly, in response to this criticism, a TV Weatherman got out his old school textbook and showed the page explaining polar vortex from the 1950’s. He did a great educational presentation on the news one morning, but then he ended with telling those who challenged the term that they could “stuff it.” It was almost a perfect “BIFF Response®,” until the ending. The idea with a BIFF Response® is to keep it Brief, Informative, Friendly and Firm – a method we teach in most of our programs for High Conflict Institute. Thinking about this I flashed back to my childhood in the 1950’s and 1960’s, when my parents made sure that the six of us had family dinners several nights a week. I distinctly remember my parents saying to me and my siblings “don’t comment.” Because we were regularly tempted to comment on what each other said about their day, and our parents were going to have none of it. They trained it out of us early and gave us the message: “If you don’t have something nice to say, then don’t say anything at all!” From my observations of truly effective people in today’s world, especially successful business leaders, they don’t comment, except to encourage the people around them. “Public praise and private criticism,” used to be a common motto. I think we’ve lost that in today’s world of easy commenting without consequence. I hesitate to ask for comments on this blog, but I’m open – especially to constructive feedback about the ideas presented here (rather than personal “comments” about the blogger). BILL EDDY, LCSW, ESQ. is the co-founder and chief innovation officer of the High Conflict Institute. He pioneered the High Conflict Personality Theory (HCP) and is viewed globally as the leading expert on managing disputes involving people with high conflict personalities. He is the author of 20+ books and has a popular podcast and a blog on Psychology Today.

How to handle social media attacks like a champ

© 2015 By Rebecca Carroll-Bell Just about everyone has a social media presence these days, leaving us vulnerable to intentional and unintentional arguments for the whole world to see.   George Takei, most known as Sulu on the original Star Trek series, encountered this dilemma recently. His public reply was longer than the BIFF Response we’d normally suggest, but he embodied the concept and dealt with the matter like pro.This article was originally posted by Rebecca Carroll-Bell on Australian Mediation Perspectives as “Resolving conflict on social media: George Takei shows us how.”   Once again an internet meme has prompted strong criticism and complaint, this time on actor and activist George Takei’s social media accounts. How “Uncle George” chose to respond was both eloquent and insightful. You may recall Aussie clothing label Black Milk’s social media meltdown earlier this year; Takei’s response shows us how social media conflict should be handled. Meme? What meme? Scott Jordan Harris writing in theNational Post this week, says this particular meme* is not new. “It is a photograph of a woman struggling out of her wheelchair to fetch a bottle from a liquor store shelf…I despise it for two key reasons. First, many people who use wheelchairs can stand and walk short distances. Second, we are allowed to drink alcohol, and to shop for ourselves, just like any other adult. The “miracle” meme has been around for a while—long enough to be infamous among those of us who use wheelchairs—but George Takei recently shared the photo several times with his colossal social media audience, and that brought it unprecedented exposure.” Takei Said What? Writing on his Facebook page a few days later, Takei said: “I’ve just come back from an extended trip to England, and I came home to a large number of fan emails concerning a meme I shared more than a week ago. In that meme, a woman in a wheelchair was standing up to reach for a bottle of liquor in the store, and the caption said something about a miracle in the alcohol aisle. To this I added a quip about her being touched by the holy spirits… After I’d posted the meme, I noted in the comments an inordinate amount of very uncivil behavior on the part of many fans, including both those who demanded I take it down and those who said I should leave it up. I also received a good deal of email IN CAPITAL LETTERS asking me if I would feel the same way if someone called me FAG or a JAP. Now, I took down the meme from my timeline shortly after it went up, but I admit I was decidedly irked by the tenor of some of those criticizing me. In that moment, I posted a follow up telling fans that perhaps they should “take it down—a notch” which, in retrospect, was not the most sensitive response.” Just like the Black Milk Team, Takei initially went into defence mode, telling his fans to “take it down a notch”, in other words, devaluing and dismissing their concerns. Unlike Black Milk, Takei then reflected upon the feedback from his fans, and on his own reaction, and decided to take a different, more constructive approach – he apologised.** He BIFF’ed that meme! US author, attorney and mediator Bill Eddy developed the BIFF Response formula, which can be applied to any mode of communication. BIFF stands for Brief, Informative, Friendly and Firm, and is the subject of Eddy’s book BIFF: Quick Responses to High Conflict People Their Personal Attacks, Hostile Email and Social Media Meltdowns The aim of a BIFF response is to diffuse the conflict, end a ‘high-conflict discussion’ and perhaps even solve the underlying problem. A BIFF response® can also give you a great sense of relief. Whether it was his intention or not, Takei’s open apology is a BIFF Response®. Brief: At 511 words, Takei’s apology is long for a social media response, and is certainly longer than the 2 – 5 sentence Eddy suggests; however it needed to be that long to convey all that Takei wanted to say, and is no longer than necessary. Informative: The post includes a lot of useful information on the subjects being discussed, delivered in plain English and without frills. Providing useful information shifts the discussion away from subjective opinions and focuses it on objective matters. Friendly: Takei manages to blend informal and formal language in a way that makes the reader feel as though Takei is speaking to her/him directly. For example: “Now, before all of you go and start defending my right to post what I want, I want first to thank the many fans who wrote in with the hopes of educating me on the question of “ableist” bias… The fact that I was surprised by the response the wheelchair meme received indicates that I do indeed lack knowledge, and some sensitivity, over what is clearly a hot button issue, and that I and others can take this as an opportunity not to dig in, but rather to open up to the stories and experiences of those in the disabled community. I appreciate those who took the time to write in. I wish I’d had the chance to respond sooner, but until today I was not able to go through all the mail I’d received… Very well then, carry on, friends. Carry on” This is a rare skill, and may be one reason why his online following is so high. As Eddy notes in his book, adopting a friendly tone is often the hardest part of the BIFF response®, because truthfully, we often want to lash out and ‘take down’ the person to whom we are responding. By adopting a friendly tone, you reduce the risk that the other party will take (further) offence, and avoid giving them (more) fuel for their anger/hurt/upset. This, in turn, increases the likelihood that the conflict will fizzle out without the need for further interaction. Firm: “The goal of many BIFF responses® is to end the conversation – to disengage