Responding to an email, text, or social media message from a narcissist can be challenging because their messages are often abusive and manipulative.

According to lawyer, therapist, mediator, and the President of High Conflict Institute, Bill Eddy, the most effective response method for high-conflict people, such as narcissists, is BIFF, which stands for brief, informative, friendly, and firm.  

In this how-to guide and with the help of Marriage & Family Therapist Jenni McBride McNamara, I will teach you how to use BIFF to respond to a narcissist’s message.

Here are Jenni McBride McNamara’s insights on the BIFF Method:

Note: This clip comes from our parallel parenting series. However, Jenni’s insights on the BIFF technique are universal and can be applied to a wide range of scenarios.

Step 1: Be Brief

The first step of the BIFF Method is to be brief.

This means you should limit your response to a few sentences and address only the core issue or question in the email and avoid giving more information than necessary.1 

Step 2: Be Informative

The second step of the BIFF Method is to be informative.

This means providing clear, factual information related to the core issue, question, or overall topic of the email you received from the narcissist.2

Pro Tip: If corrections to the narcissist’s statements or assumptions are needed, state them clearly. Do not include any non-essential information. 

Step 3: Be Friendly

The third step of the BIFF Method is be friendly.

This means use a neutral and polite tone in your reply.3  

Pro Tip: It is important to avoid sarcasm, passive-aggressiveness, or any language that could be perceived as hostile to keep the exchange civil and professional. 

Step 4: Be Firm

The fourth step of the BIFF Method is be firm.

This means clearly stating any decisions, boundaries, or next steps.4 

Pro Tip: If you’re declining a request, do so confidently but without aggression. Be clear on what you’re willing to do or not do.

A visual guide to the BIFF Method.

Co-Parenting Example

The Narcissist’s Message:

“I’ve noticed several issues with how you’re handling our co-parenting schedule, and it’s clear to me you’re not taking this as seriously as I am.

The kids have mentioned they’re unhappy with the way things are going, and I have several changes I expect to be implemented immediately to address this.

We need to sit down and discuss my proposed adjustments because the current situation is unacceptable and clearly not working for anyone, especially the kids.”

A message from a narcissist about co-parenting.

Your BIFF Response:

“Thank you for sharing your concerns.

I agree it’s crucial we both feel confident in our co-parenting schedule. I’ve reviewed the current schedule and am open to discussing specific issues you’ve observed.

Ensuring our children’s happiness and well-being is my top priority, as I know it is yours. I appreciate our working together on this.

Yes, let’s arrange a time to go through your suggestions. I’m sure we can find a solution that benefits the children.

Let’s aim to create a constructive and balanced plan.

Please send over the details of your proposed changes before our discussion, so I have time to consider them properly.”

A message from a non-narcissistic person about co-parenting.

Family Member Example

The Narcissist’s Message:

“I’ve been thinking about our upcoming family gathering, and I’ve decided the current plans just aren’t going to work for me.

The date, time, and place we’ve settled on are inconvenient, and I have a much better idea that will suit everyone.

I expect everyone to be flexible and accommodate these changes.

I’ll send over my new plan later, but I wanted to give you a heads-up now because we’ll need to move quickly to make the necessary arrangements.

It’s vital that we do this right, and frankly, I don’t think you put enough thought into the original plans. Let’s get this sorted out as soon as possible.”

A email from a narcissistic family member.

Your BIFF Response:

“I noticed your message about changing the family gathering plans again.

I understand adjustments might be needed.

As per our last discussion, we agreed on the date and venue to accommodate everyone’s schedules, including booking the necessary spaces.

Any significant changes now could lead to complications.

I value our family time and know how important it is for us to get together.

Let’s find a way to work this out that keeps our original agreements in mind and still allows for a memorable gathering.

I propose we stick to the current plan unless there’s an urgent reason to alter it.

If changes are necessary, we should discuss them as a family to decide together. Thank you for your message. I hope we can finalize the plans soon.”

A response message from a non-narcissistic family member.

Divorce Example

The Narcissist’s Message:

“It’s become increasingly clear that the divorce settlement discussions are dragging on without any real progress, primarily due to your inability to see reason.

I’ve drafted a new settlement proposal that better reflects what I deserve and expect from this process that you’re trying to sabotage.

This new proposal corrects the oversights and mistakes in the previous agreements and aligns more closely with what is fair, considering my contributions and sacrifices.

I expect you to review this proposal promptly and agree to the terms without further argument. It’s time to conclude these proceedings efficiently and to my satisfaction.”

A message from a narcissist about divorce.

Your BIFF Response:

“Thank you for sending over your revised divorce settlement proposal.

I’ve carefully reviewed it.

After consultation, it’s clear some terms do not align with our initial discussions or the equitable principles outlined by our legal agreements.

Specifically, the proposed division of assets and support terms require further negotiation to ensure fairness and compliance with legal standards.

I am committed to finalizing our divorce settlement in a manner that is respectful and fair to both of us.

I believe through constructive dialogue, we can reach an agreement that acknowledges both our contributions and needs.

To move forward, I suggest we meet with our lawyers present to discuss the proposal in detail and work towards an amicable resolution.

Please let me know your availability for such a meeting.”

A message from a non-narcissistic person about divorce.

Work Environment Example

The Narcissist’s Message:

“I’ve taken a look at the project you submitted, and honestly, it’s nowhere near the standard I expected.

It seems like you’ve completely ignored the guidelines we discussed, and as a result, the whole thing needs a major overhaul.

I’m surprised at the lack of effort and attention to detail. We need this project to be top-notch, and what you’ve delivered just doesn’t cut it.

I’ll need you to redo the entire project following my specific instructions this time.

I expect this to be your top priority, and I need it done by the end of the week. Let’s make sure you get it right this time around.”

A message from a narcissist about a work project.

Your BIFF Response:

“Thank you for your feedback on the project. I understand your concerns and am ready to address them.

To ensure I align with your expectations, could you please specify which aspects of the project did not meet the guidelines?

This will help me focus my revisions more effectively.

I appreciate your guidance in achieving the high standards we set for our work. I’m committed to making the necessary improvements.

Given the scope of the requested revisions, I would like to discuss a realistic timeline that allows for thorough quality.

Can we meet to outline a detailed plan of action and adjust the deadline accordingly? I look forward to your input and working together to refine the project.”

A message from a non-narcissistic person about the work project they are on.

Romantic Relationship Example

The Narcissist’s Message:

“I’ve been reflecting on everything that’s happened, and I’m shocked at how things turned out. You deciding to walk away like this is unbelievable.

You’re making a huge mistake, and deep down, you know it. I’ve always been the one who truly understood you, and without me, you’re going to realize what you’ve lost.

But, because I’m the bigger person, I’m willing to look past your mistakes and give you another chance. Nobody will put up with you and love you like I do.

This is your opportunity to make things right, but it seems like you’re just throwing it all away out of pride or whatever you’re telling yourself.

I’m trying to save you, which is more than most would do. Think about it, and let me know when you’re ready to apologize and try again. This is your last chance.”

A message from a narcissistic partner.

Your BIFF Response:

“I’ve received your message and appreciate you sharing your thoughts.

It’s important to clarify that I decided to end our relationship after careful consideration, and I stand by it.

This choice is about respecting both our needs to move forward separately.

I wish you well and hope you find the happiness and fulfillment you’re looking for.

For clarity, I am not interested in rekindling our relationship. I believe it’s best for us to focus on our individual paths from here on out.”

A message from a non-narcissistic partner.
For more helpful information like this, visit Unfilteredd’s Institute of Healing from Narcissistic Abuse today.

What Should You Take Away from This Guide?

The BIFF technique works well because it keeps responses simple, clear, and respectful, which helps to avoid escalating conflicts.

By focusing on facts, maintaining a polite tone, and setting clear boundaries, it minimizes the chances for abuse and manipulation.

Therefore, it is an effective response method that you can use to keep yourself safe, preserve your peace, and aviod further conflict.

If you’re interested in learning about other strategies you can use to protect yourself from narcissistic abuse

If you want to learn more about protecting yourself from narcissistic abuse, look at our latest how-to guides. They’re packed with helpful information on this very subject.

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About the Author

Hey, I’m Elijah.

I experienced narcissistic abuse for three years. 

I create these articles to help you understand and validate your experiences.

Thank you for reading, and remember, healing is possible even when it feels impossible.

Unfilteredd has strict sourcing guidelines and only uses high-quality sources to support the facts within our content. You can learn more about how we ensure our content is accurate, actionable, inclusive, and trustworthy by reading our editorial process.

  1. Bill Eddy. (2017. January, 19). How to Reply to Angry Texts & Emails – 5 BIFF Response® Examples. High Conflict Institute. ↩︎
  2. Eddy, B. (2007). How To Write A BIFF Response®. High Conflict Institute. ↩︎
  3. Bill Eddy. (2018. September, 30). BIFF: 4 Ways to Respond to Hostile Comments. Psychology Today. ↩︎
  4. Bill Eddy. (2007. June, 22). How To Write A BIFF Response. High Conflict Institute. ↩︎

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