In general it’s really difficult to tell someone, “Yeah… this just isn’t doing it for me. Sorry.” Like who actually WANTS to say that to someone? Not me! Unfortunately, this fear of confrontation or of hurting someone’s feelings often results in “ghosting” or simply ending things rudely in an attempt to be done with it and run in the opposite direction.
It takes a lot of guts and a commitment to communication to end something (anything!) well. And let’s face it - even our best attempts can sometimes not have the intended result because in the end… it takes two to tango.
Having said that, let’s take a look at some simple techniques for laying groundwork for smoother business breakups:
Let the emotion pass first. I’ve botched many conversations just due to the fact that I had them too soon. If I had waited a day (or 3) I would have been a better listener and softer in my approach.
Ask yourself, “Do I have a responsibility here that needs to be fulfilled as I exit or end this?” If you signed a contract with someone then you need to honor your final payments and the breaking of the contract fees as outlined. It sucks, but if it’s an agreement you made then you need to honor it to remain in integrity. If you’re letting someone go from your team then you talk to them about a plan that honors their transition. Maybe they stay on part-time for a bit while they look for something else. Maybe you pay them severance. Maybe you help set them up with another opportunity that would be a better fit. It’s not possible, of course, in every scenario, but when you can, it goes a long way to collaborate on someone’s exit so it’s as smooth & loving as possible.
Own your piece. First and foremost it’s important to recognize where YOU went astray. Maybe your goals changed. Maybe you bit off more than you could chew. Maybe you aren’t great at commitment and got in over your head. Maybe you didn’t make your expectations clear or offer timely feedback. Maybe you’re just not able to afford the person any longer. Whatever the reason is… you likely played a part and acknowledging that part to the other person sets the stage for personal responsibility with everyone.
Offer feedback that’s balanced and simple. No one needs a laundry list of things they did wrong. They DO, however, need to learn from the experience and your opinions are likely valuable! Share one or two ways that they could have supported you better and then leave it at that.
Avoid the gossip fest. Here’s what you’re going to want to do if you’re breaking up with someone… you’re going to want to TALK ABOUT IT… likely to EVERYONE. This is so normal and so human but keep in mind that each time you share your feelings and experience you are tainting the other person’s understanding of that individual in a negative light. If you do this with your partner, therapist or best friend then the damage is light (or maybe even non-existent). If you share it with lots of friends and colleagues then it spreads like wildfire and can really destroy a person’s reputation over time. Do you want to play a part in uplifting or destroying? That’s a choice we make each time we use our words. Also, remember, a day may come when you’re on the opposite end of the equation and being broken up with. How would you want to be treated?
Having tough conversations is tricky at first but gets so much easier the more you practice. The first time I had to fire someone I wanted to throw up afterward. I also think I sucked at it. REAL bad. A few years later I let someone go and they hugged me at the end. We’re still friends on FB and I love to see what they’re up to. It wasn’t a great fit (for either parties) at the time, but it didn’t have to end like a train wreck either! If you find yourself surrounded by dramatic endings then YOU ARE TO BLAME. You are not a victim of dramatic individuals or special in any way. You aren’t handling your shit with grace. I’m sorry if that sucks to hear, but it’s very likely true. Anytime someone says, “Drama follows me everywhere!” I kind of want to run in the opposite direction! It doesn’t have to be this way. You can say your piece - short and kind - honor your agreements to have integrity and then move the fuck on.
When we avoid tough conversations it is often coming from:
fear of judgement
an inability to find the right words
an intense desire to be liked
an attempt to escape accountability
an avoidance of integrity
When we dive in to tough conversations and treat them like a skill to be developed, we:
grow as leaders
increase our communication skills
learn from others
expand our empathy
move through difficult emotions rather than hide or avoid them
let things go
I’ve been divorced twice (as some of you know) and though I’m not ashamed of that fact, I’m also not particularly proud of it. I think I chose incorrectly for myself in those relationships (for a variety of reasons) and then had to deal with the consequences. Both divorces were traumatic and difficult, but both times I didn’t allow them to drag on or become mortifying mud-slinging experiences. There were bad moments for sure, but it wasn’t the drama you typically think of when you conjure the word, “divorce”. In fact, when a friend went through their traumatic 2 and a half year divorce I had the thought, more than once, “Is THIS what normal divorces are like?!?” There was arguing for YEARS. Battles over everything. Money wasted. Money wars. Police were called. ALL THE DRAMA. Maybe that one was extreme, but I talk to women all the time who have experienced those things and worse.
Again, you can only keep your lane clean. The other person does their thing. It is, however, CRUCIAL that we do the work to keep our lanes clean. It’s the work of peace and relationship and love. Truly. Even as we stumble through it, at least we are stumbling forward and not in avoidance, victimhood or blame. And don’t ghost, guys. Like seriously. Ghosting sucks. You’re better than that.