Best Communication Practices in Divorce…
Whether you want to or not, you’re going to have to communicate with your ex during your divorce. If you have children or something else that ties you together, you’ll have to continue communicating long after those papers are signed. Knowing the best communication practices in divorce can go a long way in alleviating- or even preventing- conflict with your ex.
When in doubt, BIFF it out.
The best tool you can have on your side when it comes to communication is the BIFF method. BIFF stands for Brief, Informative, Friendly, and Firm, and it’s a method created by a renowned attorney, therapist, and author, Bill Eddy. Eddy developed the BIFF method after witnessing countless families suffer from high conflict over the course of his decades working as a Certified Family Law Specialist and Licensed Clinical Social worker.
When you first see what the BIFF method stands for, you might think it means you have to suck up to your ex. That’s not the case at all. Being friendly can look like simply saying, “I appreciate you responding in a prompt manner” versus something like, “Well it’s about time you responded to my message”. The delivery of what you’re asking is just as important as what you’re asking.
The other components of the method involve being brief, informative, and firm. Brief means to only communicate what is absolutely necessary. In most cases, a paragraph is more than enough. It can be easy to go down a rabbit hole when communicating with your ex, and before you know it, you’re arguing about something that happened five years ago. Keep it short and simple.
The informative portion is perhaps the most difficult part of the method. Many of us are guilty of divulging too much, especially when we’re communicating with an ex who hurt us in some way. Before you say something, ask yourself if it’s really going to benefit what you’re trying to achieve. If not, leave it out.
The last part- firm- may not always be easy, especially if you’re dealing with a manipulative or narcissistic ex. They will try to weasel their way out of any situation, but this is when being firm becomes even more important. Setting boundaries is crucial for effective communication. They can try all they want to instigate an argument, but your firm boundaries will keep them from invading your headspace. Reiterate what you’re trying to communicate in the most informative and polite way possible and leave it at that.
Until you master it, proceed with caution.
It takes time to master a new way of communication, especially if you and your ex were in a toxic relationship for a long time. It may be difficult at first to keep your communications brief and friendly when all you really want to do is lash out at your ex.
Until you have mastered the BIFF method, it’s a good idea to have your divorce coach or a trusted friend or family member look over your communication to ensure you aren’t coming from a place that’s emotional and at risk of triggering an argument. You might also want to consider leaving your text or email as a draft to send at a later date if the issue isn’t pressing. Oftentimes, once we go back to a communication sent in the heat of the moment, we end up feeling regretful, so holding off on sending it until you’ve cooled down may help avoid that feeling of regret.
Once you learn it, be consistent.
When you’ve finally mastered the BIFF method, make sure to stick with it. Consistency is key, especially when your ex has a high-conflict personality. If they see you falling back into old patterns, they will capitalize on that.
It might help to keep a sticky note on your computer or a reminder in your phone with all of the BIFF method components so you can check them off each time you communicate with your ex. Over time, it will become second nature, and hopefully, your ex will see they no longer have access to you in a way that will disturb your peace.
Remember to listen just as much as you talk.
Successful communication won’t be achieved if you aren’t willing to listen. If your ex has something they need to tell you, be willing to hear them out. Setting boundaries is key with this as well, and don’t be afraid to be firm if they start to cross the line of acceptable communication.
If you want your ex to listen to you, you have to be willing to listen to them. Even though you may be hurting and angry, you still need to somehow figure out an effective communication plan with your ex. Once you are able to get to that place, your life- and your children’s lives- will be a lot easier.
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