We all know how challenging interpersonal relationships can be. Unfortunately, difficult situations like divorce and child-related legal proceedings can bring out the worst in people, making such relationships even more trying. Of course, at the same time, individuals are more accessible to one another and connected like never before, thanks to modern digital technology. Thus, it is easier than ever for your soon-to-be ex-spouse to lash out and send an angry text or email, tempting you to respond in kind. Doing so, however, can be detrimental to your case, and it is important to keep your focus on moving forward.
Responding Is Not Always Necessary
When you receive a hostile communication from your former partner or your child’s other parent, keep in mind that the email or text has no power over you unless you allow it to have power. Angry messages may be an attempt by the sender to vent or relieve his or her own frustration, or they may be intended just to stir up your emotions. Before deciding how to respond, step back and determine if a response is even necessary or appropriate.
See Through the Hostility
Although it is easier said than done, you need to break down the email or text to determine what, if any, actual issues are being raised. Your spouse may be attempting to address a legitimate concern, but has buried the problem in vitriol and emotion. If you cannot decipher what issue needs to be addressed, responding is probably pointless.
Crafting a BIFF Response
Once you have determined that a response is needed, you should proceed under the assumption that your communication will ultimately be seen by the court. Emails, text messages, and social media posts are increasingly used as evidence in divorce and family-related proceedings, and an angry outburst in response to a hostile message can reflect very poorly on you.
Communication experts recommend using a simple mnemonic device to help guide your response. Applicable to more than just family law, your response should be BIFF: Brief, Informative, Friendly and Firm.
- Brief: Say no more than necessary to address the actual issue at hand. Long-winded replies can quickly go off track and may venture back toward emotion;
- Informative: Stick to the facts. While your feelings and anger may be justified, avoid letting them cloud your communication;
- Friendly: Continued hostility can lead to a never-ending exchange of angry words. With a friendly tone that avoids sarcasm, you can handle the current issue more efficiently;
- Firm: Do not be afraid to show strength, but do so without threats. Provide your answer and announce your intention to end the conversation. “I’m not discussing this further,” for example, can be very effective when used with the other three elements.
Let Us Help
If hostile communication is becoming a serious issue in your divorce or related legal matter, contact an experienced St. Charles family law attorney. We can help you develop a communication strategy that addresses the relevant issues without jeopardizing your case. Call 630-377-7770 to schedule your free consultation at Bochte, Kuzniar & Navigato, P.C., today.