How to Get Out Of Arguments with Aggravating People --
If you’ve been reading the blog and website, you know that we espouse taking an approach with high-conflict people (HCPs) that is often counter to what you feel like doing. Take the BIFF Response(SM) method for example - one of those F’s stands for “Friendly.” About the only complaint I hear from clients is that they don’t want to be friendly with an HCP. They feel like they’re being attacked all the time, they’re sick of it, and being friendly to him/her seems ridiculous. Worse, some clients fear that by being friendly, they’ll encourage the HCP’s bad behavior to continue and they just want it to stop! Both of these feelings are perfectly understandable, but it’s a mistaken assessment, and here’s why: What’s wrong with BIF?
The BIFF Response method is Brief, Informative Friendly and Firm. To be honest, we could have said to be polite but BIPF is too hard to say. Some people are sidetracked by the word itself, but the thing is-- being friendly in this context simply means to avoid lashing out or responding in anger toward the attacker. The reason is that being friendly diffuses anger instead of encouraging it, which is one way to get the HCP to stop his rant.
There’s no need to go over the top in the nice department, and you do not have to fake affection to be friendly. It’s as easy as tossing in a “Thanks” or saying “Hello, Frank” instead of “Look here, Jerkface!” Yeah, I know: the person IS being a jerkface but will telling him so get you out of the conversation any faster? It’s a lot more likely you’ll get yet another angry call, text or email, right? You’ll get the same backlash by explaining why he’s wrong or how unreasonable he’s being. Think of it this way: Have you ever been mad and have someone tell you, “Just calm down!” or “You need to do X.” Did you get calmer or do X just because he told you to? Be honest – you probably just got more irritated. So will the HCP and he’ll take it to an extreme. Being friendly is not giving up or giving in, nor implying that HCP behavior is OK, it’s simply a way to help avoid making a situation worse so you can end it as quickly as possible.
But, If I’m Friendly, He’ll Never Stop
Yes and no. It is important to remember that as much as we might want to; changing another person is difficult or impossible, whether or not an HCP is involved. Most people resist change unless it is something they decide to do for themselves. If you have a true HCP on your hands, or one with strong traits, then it is very unlikely that they will change that pattern, and in fact, you can expect that they will go off on you again. That can be discouraging, but it also gives you information you need to be able to make decisions and manage the HCP effectively.
- If you decide terminate your relationship with an HCP, you can but you should do so with some caution. See the BIFF Response book for tips on how to it while avoiding triggering the HCP further.
- If you can’t distance yourself permanently, then remember to expect future outbursts. The next time it won’t catch you so off guard, and that makes it easier to remember to use the BIFF Response method.
- Give up trying to change HCP behavior permanently. Your quickest escape route is to learn how to deal with the confrontations.
- Being friendly can help you get what you want, which is an end to the current discussion.
- Practice. Practice. Practice. The BIFF Response technique has four basic steps, and it’s easier to do if you get it down before the next confrontation.
What’s In It For Me?
Learning and using the BIFF Response technique with both F’s helps you stop feeling so controlled and can save you countless hours of fruitless arguments you cannot win. Since you can’t make an HCP stop behaving badly in the future, you can do what it takes to avoid being sucked into the HCPs world of defensiveness and blame each time it comes up, even if being friendly feels weird at first. Remember, the BIFF Response technique is designed to give the HCP (and yourself) an “out” so s/he can break out of the cycle of high-conflict thinking and move on. It works especially well in written attacks (click HERE for more help with verbal confrontations). Once you master it, the technique is fast, so you can get back in control of your day, your thoughts and your emotional responses and at the same time, get out of the hostile communication.
You can learn more about the BIFF Response technique at our website. The BIFF Response video is only 20 minutes and we have personal BIFF Response coaching for you as well. And – Ta Da! - the new book comes out in September 2014! Pre-order HERE.
© 2014 High Conflict Institute