Friday, February 26, 2010

Handling Hurt Feelings

Rejection is just someone’s opinion. You don’t like everyone, and not everyone is going to like you. Don’t allow your discomfort to make you mean. Stringing someone along, pretending you like him or her when you really don’t, is cowardly and cruel. In the long run, you’ll inflict more pain by pretending, which is really to protect yourself. Pretending is much harsher than saying upfront that this isn’t working for you. If your date is smitten, the truth is going to pinch a bit but for less time or intensity than if you lie. You’ve been honorable, have asked your date out, or have been asked out on the assumption of potential good stuff. You’ve now discovered things aren’t working out. No need to push the guilt button. No one likes to hurt anyone’s feelings. It’s important to be humane and human: When the news is hard to break and hard to take, be aware of what you’re feeling and why, and be specific about why it’s not working for you without being judgmental. Unless you are incredibly adept at letting your date down gently (how did you get so much practice? We may need to talk), you’re very likely going to hurt feelings.
When you do:
  • Acknowledge your date’s rights to feelings. Don’t pretend everything is okay or get defensive if your date lashes out or is upset. Listen quietly and patiently.
  • Don’t try to fix it. These are your date’s feelings, not yours. You deal with your feelings, and let your date do the same.
  • Apologize for the hurt, not the fact. Not liking someone isn’t a crime. You didn’t do anything wrong. As a human being, you feel bad when another human being feels bad, but when you start down the “sorry” road, the next thing you may find yourself doing is trying to make it up to your date. Don’t start down that slippery slope.
  • Let go. Ultimately, you have to make peace with the whole situation by realizing another fact of life: Not every date is terrific any more than every meal is wonderful, every sunset grand, or every flavor chocolate.

Telling the whole truth and nothing but the truth, sort of . . .

The one time you really do want to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth is when your date asks, “Can I call you?” — or worse, “Will you call me?” The phone thing is fraught with nearly every conceivable emotion —hope, fear, anxiety, trust, excitement, rejection, and anticipation. Now is the moment to take a deep breath and tell the truth. It’s not fair to leave her waiting by a phone that refuses to ring or have him logging on to check his e-mail every few hours. If you’re not going to call, now or in the millennium, don’t say you will. Period. It’s not cool. It’s not fair. It’s not what polite, respectful people do. That said, here are a few tactful ways to get the message across:
  • “Though I had fun tonight, I don’t think it’s going to work out between us.”
  • “To be honest, I see you as more of a friend.”
  • “We’re just too different, you and I.”
  • “I don’t want to mislead you by telling you I’ll call. I’m sorry, but I probably won’t.”
  • “I’m going to be really busy at work for the next couple of months.”
  • “Family concerns are going to keep me tied up.” It’s tough. No two ways about it.
Everyone wants to believe in love and union and two souls who were meant to be together. But if this isn’t that scene, don’t make it even worse by lying and leading your date to believe it might one day be.

Proclaiming Truth: Honesty Is a Tricky Policy

There you are sitting across from a date who’s eager and hopeful and trying her or his best to engage you. This person is perfectly nice. Perfectly acceptable. Perfectly wrong for you. For whatever reason, you know it’s not going to work out. How, then, do you let your date down easy? Be honest . . . without harming the poor, unfortunate soul unnecessarily. Truth-telling is a tricky bit of business. In the guise of “truth,” many a hurt has been inflicted. Do you really need to tell someone he or she is fat, even if that is the case? Do you need to say, “No, your nose isn’t big; it’s huge”?
Using tact
The difference between hurtful truth-telling and honesty is four letters: tact. The best way to be tactful is to put yourself in your date’s shoes. If you wouldn’t want to hear it, your date most likely won’t want to hear it, either. To help you out of any potential corner into which you might paint yourself during a date gone sour.