November 20, 2017

The Breakup Exit Strategy Part II: Everybody Should Have One

Leslie Baxter's Disengagement Strategies

At some point in your romantic life you’ve probably given the, “We need to talk” conversation.  As much as it may hurt to hear on the receiving end, it makes you cringe to think about it.  You’re about to breakup with someone and they might not have a clue.  You’re nervous about the reaction you may get and you don’t want to hurt their feelings.  Do I really want to say what I’m feeling, you ask yourself?  Do we really need to talk?

Fact of the matter is you do need to talk.  If you’ve done your planning and analysis as discussed in The Breakup Exit Strategy Part I, you’ve discovered the relationship is at an impasse.  There is no opportunity for growth and you’ve decided to leave.  Prolonging the inevitable wastes precious time for both parties and if you desire a healthy, long-lasting relationship, you don’t want to waste time on someone you know you have no future with.

There are two ways to communicate a break up: directly and indirectly.  If you look at the illustration above there are 6 direct and 6 indirect breakup or “disengagement” strategies.  Leslie Baxter, PhD., and communications professor at the University of Iowa researched these strategies and also discovered they are unilateral or bilateral, meaning one person or both contribute to dissolving the relationship.

Now that you have a choice of strategies, which one should you choose?  You could put yourself on the receiving end for an answer.  Would you want your mate to avoid or withdraw from you?  Would you want them to have a third-party tell you they are unhappy?  Better yet would you like them to say, “let’s spend some time apart”, or be mean and obnoxious so you will break up with them?  Probably not.  Unfortunately though, these strategies are the most common.  According to Baxter, 76% of people choose to breakup indirectly.

When you look at the indirect methods, all six have one common theme: avoidance.  People fear using direct communication break up strategies for three main reasons.   They either don’t want to hurt the other person’s feelings, they don’t want confrontation, or they don’t want to explain themselves.   They’ve decided to avoid the whole situation by resorting to the aforementioned methods.

To implement a breakup exit strategy effectively, the first hurdle isn’t choosing a communication style or breakup method, but getting over yourself.  That’s right; you are in your own way!  The tendency to avoid breakups and other types of conflicts stem from…drum roll please…passivity and submissiveness.  Communications Coach Joshua Uerbergang says we become passive communicators because we want to please people, avoid being uncomfortable, dodge responsibility, and be accepted.  He also says passive people receive the benefit of praise for being submissive.  Early in life we learn being selfless earns compliments.  We receive kudos for sacrificing for the good of someone else or “taking one for the team.” We learn to stifle what we say to people because we don’t want to say potentially hurtful things.  We in turn hope they remember our sacrifice and don’t say hurtful things to us.  In reality this behavior is not about them.   It’s about us and how we want to be viewed.  We secretly do this because we are preserving our own self-image.  We are actually sparing our own feelings, not theirs.

You don’t want to be the bad guy or girl, and I empathize.  You want things to end amicably and you want to feel good about yourself.  If you really want to feel good about yourself, be direct.  Indirect communication sends mixed signals.  You’ll leave the other party with more questions than answers.  True praise will come from honest, sincere, direct communication.  At the very least, you may earn their respect.  If you’re interested in seeing a direct breakup strategy executed, subscribe so you can be notified about The Breakup Exit Strategy Part III: Everybody Should Have One.

Comments

  1. As the saying goes Breaking up is always hard to do. It’s like pulling of a bandaid the longer you take a drag it out/pull it off the more it’s going to hurt, or without having a plan and not having all your thoughts properly processed and prepared your conversation no more than likely be calm a heated argument or confrontation.

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