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  • Writer's pictureOlivier S.E. Courtois

Why Are Some People So Lousy at Ending a Relationship?

I was reading the other day that nowadays, some people end a love relationship with a simple text message. Cowardice, lack of courage are the most moderate words that came to my mind to describe this bad behavior.

As I thought about it a little more, I realized that the problem is broader than that and can affect anyone. Is it an unfortunate evolution of morals or an age-old human trait? I'm talking about the lack of closure in a relationship, regardless of the type of relationship!

A few examples: a long-time client who decides one day to change suppliers, which is legitimate and defensible. This is not the problem! What is more questionable is the total lack of communication. No need to make a big deal of it, just a communication like "thank you for your contribution, we have made another choice for the future". Possibly with a brief explanation. Or an employer, direct report or colleague who, from the day you leave the company, ignores you completely, assuming you are no longer useful to them. Or a supplier for whom you are either a customer or an enemy. Or some headhunters who introduce you to their clients and you never hear from them again. Unfortunately, examples abound.

Of course, let's face it! Human beings tend to optimize their time according to their interests. This is normal. But this should not prevent us from doing things right. In an interconnected world, you never know what tomorrow will bring. A fired colleague may become a potential customer, a former supplier may become your future employer, a dissatisfied customer today may return tomorrow.

For purely opportunistic reasons, but also and perhaps more importantly out of elegance and concern for our reputation, each of us should be careful about how we end a relationship. Whatever the cause, it is always in our best interest to take courage and do and say the right thing to end a relationship gracefully.

A few months ago, I cancelled a trip booked on a booking platform to book another one. The resort contacted me personally via email to ask for my feedback on why I cancelled to help them better anticipate their clients' needs. I responded honestly. A few hours later, I received a personalized email, signed by the manager, thanking me for taking the time to respond. A few weeks later, a last minute change. We were forced to cancel the new trip we had ordered. Looking for an alternative, guess who I went back to!

Let's never forget to end a relationship with style! Let's not forget that behind every transaction is a human being! And let's spread this culture within our organizations!


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