Learning to Communicate With the Other Parent in High Conflict Situations
Co-Parenting brings its various challenges, but the one that parents talk about facing most is hostile communication from the other parent. Even on a good day, communicating can be tricky, but dealing with a parent who has a combative, high conflict personality can make this seem impossible.
For most parents in these types of situations, learning techniques and developing ways to handle these is the best way forward.
One popular tool is known as the BIFF method. This method teaches parents how to respond to aggressive communications from co-parents, like emails, texts, and social media posts.
BIFF stands for Brief, Informative, Friendly, Firm.
Responses to aggressive communications need to be brief. This helps to lower the risk of back and forth and therefore lowers the risk of escalating the conflict. Being brief means sticking to the point and leaving little for the other parent to latch onto and argue about. If a parent reacts to personal jabs, or stoops to making similar personal comments, it keeps the dialogue alive.
It is also important to be informative in these responses. Stick to the facts and to what are important details. Sometimes this means including things like dates, timelines, and explaining situations in an objective way. This helps keep things accurate and easy to follow. Keeping it neutral and void of negativity, sarcasm and passive aggressive comments ensures that nothing is drawing the focus away from what is important.
It can be very difficult to keep emotions in check, especially after reading a particularly heated email. However, trying to keep things as friendly as possible will go a much longer way. It will heighten the chance of neutralizing the argument. It is also a way to encourage fewer hostile emails in the future. Many people will write a first draft and then then step away. When they are ready, they come back, re-read and work to make their response more respectful, understanding and pleasant.
That being said, it is important to come across as confident and decisive in these correspondences. Being firm means holding your position and explaining why. If the other parent responds in a way that tries to continue the conflict, you can decide whether a brief reply reiterating your position is warranted, or if silence is the better course of action.
It can be hard to get into the rhythm of dealing with these types of communications in this way, especially when they seem to be never-ending. But, using this type of tool can help lower stress, minimize conflict for the parents and the children involved, and manage what can already be an emotional situation.