Opinion: Polite lies

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Although there are countless ways to do it, there are none that don’t hurt, at least a little. When it is time for the breakup, somebody always feels the sting. Sure, Hollywood types talk about the “conscious uncoupling” from their fourth marriage.  nd occasionally, the relationship is not particularly beneficial to either party – it is just that neither side wants to call it quits. In business, and also family, not everything lasts forever. It may have been the best contract ever when it was signed, or so it seemed. Still, we rarely benefit in exactly the same way all the time.

So the conversation, whether in person, by email, phone, video call, post-it note or sky writing, usually starts with some attempt to make the soon-to-be injured party think that the person delivering the bad news is still a good person. “It is not anybody’s fault. It’s not you, it is me. We’re going to try another direction but don’t want for us to end with any negative feelings.” OK.  If there is so much love, why is the relationship ending?

What they probably are avoiding saying is more like, “This relationship does not work and cannot end fast enough to suit me – it is your fault and there is no way to make it go with an idiot like you.” Well, maybe it is not quite that mean-spirited. But when we hold back, are we doing so to protect the feelings of others or to assuage our own guilt for our part in the failure? If we are entirely correct in the decision, would it be more helpful to the other person to say why, or would it be pointlessly cruel to explain our understanding of the problem? If we learn from our mistakes, what can we learn from a polite lie?


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