How to Communicate Effectively with High Conflict People using the BIFF Response Method

Have you ever been in a situation where everything you say to someone seems to “set” them “off”? Where emotions are always extreme, intense and sometimes even erratic? From time to time, I run into volatile situations where everything is high conflict. That’s when I step back, evaluate the circumstances and make sure I’m communicating properly to ensure a successful outcome. 

I hope you enjoy this quick read from one of my favorite resources on the most effective ways to communicate during high conflict situations

Key Characteristics of a High Conflict Person (HCP)

Someone who has a pattern of: 

  • Preoccupation with blaming others (their Targets of Blame)
  • All-or-nothing thinking and solutions.
  • Unmanaged emotions that can take over.
  • Extreme behaviors or threats (some that 90% of people would never do).

Teaching BIFF Responses to Hostile or Misinformed Communications.

Brief: Keep it brief. Long explanations and arguments trigger upsets for HCPs. A paragraph is often fine.

Informative: Focus on straight information, not arguments, opinions, emotions or defending yourself (you don’t need to)

Friendly: Have a friendly greeting (such as “Thanks for responding to my request”); close with a friendly comment (such as “Have a good weekend”).

Firm: Have your response end the conversation. Or give two choices on an issue and ask for a reply by a certain date.

Coaching for BIFF Responses: 10 Question

  1. Is it Brief?

  2. Is it Informative?

  3. Is it Friendly?

  4. Is it Firm?

  5. Does it contain any Advice?

  6. Does it contain any Admonishments?

  7. Does it contain any Apologies?

  8. How do you think the other person will respond?

  9. Is there anything you would take out, add or change?

  10. Would you like to hear my thoughts about it?

(Don’t give your thoughts until they have answered all 9 questions.)

Connect with EAR Statements

Statements that show Empathy, Attention and/or Respect:


  • I can understand your frustration – this is a very important decision in your life.
  • Don’t worry, I will pay full attention to your concerns about this issue and any proposals you want to make.
  • I have a lot of respect for your commitment to solving this problem, and I look forward to solving it too.


Fears and EARs for HCPs

Their Fear

Your EAR Response

 For any of these:

  • Being abandoned
  • Being seen as inferior
  • Being ignored
  • Being dominated
  • Being taken advantage                    

 Use any of these:

  • I want to help you
  • I respect your efforts
  • I’ll pay attention
  • I’ll listen
  • It's just rules we all have to follow
  • I understand this can be frustrating
  • I’ll work with you on this
  • I know this can be confusing

Avoid Second-Hand Trauma

Remind Yourself, when dealing with HCPs:

  • “It’s not about you!” It's about their lack of skills
  • “The issue isn't the issue.” Their personality is the issue, so your communication is what matters.
  •  “You’re not responsible for the outcome – just do your job.” HCPs will blame you regardless. Change the other’s thinking?
  •  “Forghedaboudit!” It’s the person’s dilemma. Keep it on their shoulders. When they resist, tell them
  • It’s up to you!”

• Get lots of support & consultation from colleagues

• Don’t let it run your life (Have fun in your free time)


© 2020 High Conflict Institute 

Katina Farrell, CDRE is an experienced Realtor & Managing Broker who specializes in real estate transactions, with expertise as a trained Certified Divorce Real Estate Expert and a Certified Negotiation Expert. To schedule a complimentary chat and discover more ways Katina can help you resolve the real estate challenges plaguing you or your divorce cases, call: 720-295-8848 or email: [email protected]

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