"We need to talk."
When I hear those words, alarms immediately start going off in my head, for any words following that phrase are never good ones. Used to end a relationship, or to start a “serious” talk that usually leads to the ending of a relationship, the phrase “we need to talk” is one that both men and women dread.
The second those words reach my ears, my walls are up and I am ready for the pain, the arguing, and the reoccurring bitterness, knowing that I’ve heard that damned phrase too many times before. But it wasn’t until last night, as I was watching Sex and The City, getting lost in the relationship flaws of fictional people, that I began to wonder about a common mistake people in the real world make.
There had to be other ways to tell someone that you needed to talk to them. There had to be different words you could use that could take away the cringing produced by "we need to talk." The message may be the same, but different word choices would at least take away the bitterness and humiliation I feel when hearing “we need to talk” for the umpteenth time in my life. Furthermore, I might even give the guy some credit for taking the time to choose an alternative phrase.
Relationships aren’t easy, and neither is the ending of one, but an ending that honors what I had with someone makes it somewhat bearable. And spitting out the pathetic and over-used phrase “we need to talk” just doesn’t do it. The next time you feel yourself about to throw out the “we need to talk” card, think about your options:
- Just say what you really want to say. That’s right, just spit it out. There’s no need for an introductory sentence if all you want is to break up with the person. Just be straight and to the point. Some people prefer abrasive honesty to sugar-coated words that usually leave one feeling confused and lost. If you’re direct and straightforward, it leaves little room for misunderstanding.
- "Listen, you *insert favorite explicit word here*." This works especially well if the person you are trying to talk to won’t listen, is oblivious, or is avoiding the subject because they know what is to come. Say it forcefully and firmly and you’ll get their attention quick.
- "Let’s have a mature discussion between two adults." While this option sounds like a more refined version of "we need to talk," it's slightly more creative and doesn’t carry the same heavy baggage. If you’re well-mannered and proper, this articulate alternative should work out great for you. In addition, it shows that you were trying to be mature and sensible about the situation, rather than inconsiderate and unkind. That way, if the person erupts in a fit of rage, at least you can say you wanted to handle it like two mature adults.
- "I’m going to say a few words and you are going to listen to them." I suggest using this if your soon-to-be ex-significant other takes longer than most to process full sentences. Maybe even add the words “OK honey?” to help give a more gentle tone to the rude awakening they are about to receive. Ease them into the discussion carefully and sweetly and you can ease out of the relationship with no problem.
- "Hey, so, funny story…" Imagine you are standing in your apartment, awaiting the arrival of your significant other. They open the door, walk in, and greet you with an unknowing “hello.” This is your chance. Option #5 lets you quickly slip in the notion that you aren’t here to update each other on your days, but without making it blatantly obvious. For all they know, you’re just greeting them back and about to tell them a funny story. This phrase is also versatile, as you have many words you could choose to use afterwards. Quick. Sly. But not quite painless.
- "Want to meet me for coffee?" The beauty of this option is that it’s a fairly normal question you could ask your significant other. Because they won’t be expecting anything, they will be sure to say yes. Also, they won’t be prepared with reasons to persuade you to stay together, or be on the defensive. You will be able to say what you want to say while they are stuck drinking a $3 coffee they probably didn’t want in the first place, unable to leave. The neutrality of a coffee shop also provides a great way to ensure that the other person won’t cause a scene.
- "So…about this…" *with hands moving to indicate “this”*. If you choose this option, two things will happen. First, the listener will give you a quizzical look. After this look is given, expect the question, “What about ‘this’?”. Once you hear those three words, you are in the clear to plunge into your break-up speech. The hand motions also provide a good way for you to release some tension you may be feeling about the whole situation. Just be sure you don’t swing your arms too much and hit your significant other.
- "I need you to pay attention for five minutes, OK?" If the person you need to talk to can’t focus, try this option. Placing your hands on their shoulders and making them look you in the eye adds a nice touch. Be sure you get a nod of understanding before moving on to make sure you are on the same page.
- Don’t say anything. This is the avoidance tactic. If you’re passive-aggressive, this one’s for you. Use simple gestures instead. Changing your phone number, locking the person out, and changing your status on Facebook should send the message you weren’t able to verbalize. While they may be confused and persistent at first, that will subside and they will eventually let you be. However, I should warn you that in choosing this option, you risk the chance of the person going to extreme lengths to communicate with you, including desperate pleas and “but I love you” confessions. Use wisely.
- The question technique: make them bring it up. Ask questions such as: are you happy? Is this what you want? Do these pants make me look fat? Where do you see this going? Why don’t you call me as much as you used to? Would you like to take a break indefinitely? By subtly dropping hints, trying to start fights, and planting doubt in the person's mind, you will most likely make them pull out the “we need to talk” card. Also, by getting them to break up with you, you save yourself from the guilt-trip that comes from seeing how hurt the dumpee is. Option #10 gets you single without getting your hands dirty.
No one wants a bad breakup, and it is possible to avoid one. The next time you feel yourself about to vomit up the “we need to talk” phrase, just pause, ponder, and try to think of something more unique to say to save yourself - and me - from some unnecessary pain.