As empathetic problem solvers, when ending relationships that no longer work for us, our first instinct is to be self-reflective.
We ask ourselves if we’ve communicated effectively, set up agreements and expectations as well as we could, and covered all our bases. Did we give enough chances? Did we give the other party a chance to respond?
If you’ve been hanging out with me for any period of time, you know that I shout from the mountain tops about clear, kind communication that sets expectations upfront.
You know that my first question is always “what is your desired outcome?” and my first advice is usually to do whatever you need to do create clear agreements around those outcomes.
I tell people to work out shit on the phone, even. Shudder!
I am pro giving people a second, third, fourth chance.
Sometimes, however, I’m coming to wonder if that isn’t bad, bad, very bad, advice.
Today, I’m here to close-one-eye-and-slowly-reach-out to the the idea that we do not have to cover all our bases to be sure we did all we could do before ending a relationship that no longer works for us or our business.
It’s true. We do not have to bend over backward to be sure that we’ve exhausted every option.
I’ve been researching this “nice = professional” idea for several months.
What I found is that it’s all too common for people, especially women and other underrepresented communities of business owners, to be told to “exhaust every last solution before you throw in the towel” and have this be framed this as “being responsible.”
- Asks us to take on the sole burden of creating harmony, as if harmony is the highest value.
- Makes being able to justify our emotions a prerequisite for moving toward greater happiness.
- Steals brain glucose/increases decision fatigue for those who are already forced into making a disproportionate amount of decisions in society – like women and other underrepresented business owners.
- Connects responsibility with putting other people’s (perceived?) emotional needs ahead of the person who desires to end the relationship. Uh, codependent much?
- Assumes that a solution is possible.
- Assumes that a solution is needed.
- Assumes one needs a reason to end a relationship other than simply wanting to.
You may be noticing: advice like “exhaust all your options” comes from a pretty privileged perspective.
So where’s the line?
I can’t answer that for ya.
And I am not going to try because I’ve come to believe it’s the wrong question.
We don’t need to know when it’s right, or good, or acceptable, to “exhaust options” or throw in the towel.
We get to measure that mess with our heart. We get to do what we want to do. (See my article “What do you want. MY SOP for the secret to success” if you need some help figuring out what you want!)
And you don’t have to justify it, explain it, or reason it all out.
Are you uncomfortable yet? Because I am.
I have a guess that our discomfort stems from an ingrained belief that we are “supposed to” give people reasons for things.
But do we, really? Do we really owe people?
We could say, it depends on the relationship.
Or, we could own the fact that no, in fact, we do not owe anyone a damn thing.
I just wonder: Is it a choice we make to draw out goodbyes?
A choice we make try to find a way to make us feel better, or nicer, or more compassionate.
A choice that we make that is about us feeling some sort of way about how we will be perceived.
And what does this make the flip side? That we then feel like others owe us explanations. But, do they? And do the explanations actually help, anyway? I mean, endings hurt no matter what.
As you head into your weekend, I offer that the amount of labor we put ourselves through may be … unnecessary.
And that if there is a relationship with a client, or a team member (see note below!), or a vendor, or friend even (eeeep!) that needs some ending – just do it.
No justification necessary. Probably.
All My (UNCOMFORTABLE) BeastyBoss,
*Note: if you have employees, wrongful termination is a thing and that’s not what I am talking about here. Get a lawyer!