This article exists as part of the online archive for HuffPost Australia, which closed in 2021.

How To Break Up With Someone If You Hate Conflict

No, you can't do it by text.
Probably don't break up with them while sitting on the edge of a bridge though.
Probably don't break up with them while sitting on the edge of a bridge though.

Look, unless you're some kind of serial heart breaker who gets off on that kind of thing, nobody likes having the break up chat.

Even if you have the ick and can't wait for them to get out of your life, the actual process of telling someone you don't like them anymore is awkward, painful and likely to end in tears.

But tempting as it may be, if you have had an intimate relationship with that person, you owe it to them to break up in person. Yes, introverts, that includes you. A text message, voicemail, post-it note or carrier pigeon will not do.

So how do you break up with someone as smoothly as possible without being a total jerk?

Pick the right time

So no, not the night before a big job interview or after you've had a big fight. The first because it's not fair on them, and the latter because emotions are more likely to escalate and get out of hand.

"This is not a conversation you want to have in a middle of a fight or with high intense emotions," Jenny Douglas from Relationships Australia told HuffPost Australia. "As then it's more likely to go pear shaped.

"I also think it's worthwhile giving the other person a bit of notice, so they can preempt the fact you are going to have a challenging conversation. Give them the chance to psychologically be ready for that conversation, rather than it come out of the blue and have them psychologically derailed.

"Depending on the situation, the more ready they are to have the conversation with you, the better the conversation will be."

Choose a quiet (but public) space

"The other thing is to make sure the physical environment supports a calm and considered conversation," Douglas continued.

"It's not something to do on the run. You may, depending on the circumstances, might want to do it in a public place but where you can actually speak [intimately] with each other. A conversation rather than a hit and run instance.

"If you feel [worried about their reaction], most people are a little more contained when in a more open environment, so that might be worthwhile keeping in mind. They're likely to hold onto their own emotional state a bit better.

"So yes, I'd recommend a public but not a busy place, such as a quiet corner in a coffee shop. But you definitely need to meet someone face to face, as it's also about trying to keep respectful."

Be prepared

Not that you want to rock up with palm cards or anything, but particularly for those who don't handle conflict well, an idea of how to steer the conversation and exactly what you are going to say can be helpful.

Have a rough idea of what you're going to say.
Have a rough idea of what you're going to say.

"It's like being the bearer of bad news, and knowing how to get ready for that process is important," Douglas said.

"Just like any other difficult conversation that requires a bit of courage, it's always better to come to that conversation calm and well prepared. It's helpful to have a bit of a script around it."

Which brings us to...

Use 'I', not 'you'

This may seem like a strange piece of advice, but when it comes to your wording choice, Douglas said refraining from phrases like 'you did this' or 'you didn't do that' can make a big difference.

"Generally speaking these sorts of conversations are better started from an 'I' position," she said. "So 'I have been feeling, I have noticed'... because once people hear the word 'you' they think they are going to be blamed for something.

"Take some ownership of your own ways and why you've come to the decision you had. 'I wasn't ready. I'm set in my ways.' It can be hard to refute what appears to be a well thought out decision."

Avoid clichés and false promises

So yeah. Maybe avoid the line 'it's not you, it's me'. And don't insinuate you might get back together if you have no intention of ever doing so.

"Even if that's essentially what you want to say, maybe phrase it more along the lines of 'I know I'm very set in my ways. I find it difficult to change.' You don't have to say the real cliché of 'its not you it's me', especially if it feels like just a line or lacking in sincerity," Douglas said.

"Try and make it come from a genuine place.

Whatever line he's giving her, she's not buying it.
Whatever line he's giving her, she's not buying it.

"The other important thing is to not give ambiguous messages. If you really have made a decision to leave the relationship, don't say things like 'we can still see each other' or 'let's just take a break'.

'The focus should be on clear communication. Sometimes if we're trying to let someone down easily, it's easy to give confusing messages."

Give the relationship respect

... if it deserves it.

"The status of the relationship should reflect the nature of the break up," Douglas said.

"If you have just been on a couple of dates, you don't need to make it bigger than it is. But if you have been in a significant relationship, that warrants a bit more time and effort. The break up should match the relationship status."

Even if you've adjusted to the idea, it might take them a while to process.
Even if you've adjusted to the idea, it might take them a while to process.

And if the other person makes a scene?

While running toward the nearest exit probably isn't the best course of action, there does come a time when the conversation has to come to a close.

"There's a point around recognising that you're talking over the same material and the conversation isn't getting anywhere," Douglas said. "But if your key message is about letting the person know the relationship is over, for you at least, you still have to be mindful that while you might have done a lot of preparation and preparatory thinking about this, the other person hasn't.

"So I would say something along the lines of 'it's probably best I leave you with that message at this stage and if you want to talk further, we can do it at a later time'.

"If they are insistent in asking what they've done wrong, I probably wouldn't [tell them] there and then. You can come back to that later on. Even though people are asking that they might not be ready to hear it. Try and leave the other person's ego a little bit intact."

Suggest a correction
This article exists as part of the online archive for HuffPost Australia. Certain site features have been disabled. If you have questions or concerns, please check our FAQ or contact