There is so much to love about Oprah. . . her fluctuating weight, Steadman, the fact that she's gotten millions of Americans to read, Nate Berkus, her freaky spoiled dogs, Gayle, Kathy Griffin's impersonation of her. But I'm afraid the latest issue of the Oprah magazine gets it all wrong.
Okay, I didn't actually pick up the magazine this month, I found this story through CNN. It's called "The Dear John talk and other dreaded conversations." In it, one of Oprah's writers claims that if you're going to have a difficult conversation with someone—like say, you're going to dump them or fire them—you should do it in person.
How many kinds of wrong is that?
The last person I fired (and there haven't been many of those), ran into my office, locked herself inside, and started shredding contracts and computer disks (see how long it's been?) once I gave her the heave-ho. How I wish I'd just called her first thing and told her not to bother coming in.
And breaking up—unless you're married or living with the person, again, the phone is your friend.
Though I did get a whole lot of satisfaction from breaking up with New Wave Kevin in person. I administered that dumping in person in front of a bar full of our friends. Sick of his bad behavior and even worse hygiene, I marched in, picked up the drink he'd bought with my money, and poured it over his head. As it was probably the only liquid to touch his hair that entire year, you could say I did him a favor. But the sociopathic closet case? Dumped him over the phone and have no regrets, besides the one where I went out with him in the first place.
Oprah's writer also advises you do the breaking up in a private, yet somewhat public place. Like a restaurant. No thanks. I'd much rather get a phone call blow-off than find out I've shaved my legs just so some mope can kick me to the curb at my favorite cafe.
Other tips include rehearsing your dismissal speech—but only a little. Again, wrong. You rehearse it a lot or you get distracted once the other person starts yelling at you. My friend Julie turned me onto the flash card idea. When you know you're about to embark upon a hideous conversation, it's best to jot down talking points. This works over the phone—you avoid getting sidetracked—but would look kind of idiotic in person. And even if you feel bad about breaking up with someone, you want them to remember you as infinitely cooler than you actually are.
I can just gang up the rest of her tips, because they're all equally stupid:
- Remind yourself you're not the bad guy. Why? Everyone's an asshole at some point in their life. It's the smarmy jerkoffs who refuse to believe the worst about themselves that always wind up irritating me the most. You hurt someone's feelings, therefore, you're kind of a shit. Man up and deal with it.
- Acknowledge how hard this is. Yes, it's difficult to break up with someone, but it's way harder to be the one shown the door. Did anyone else's mom tell them "this is hurting me more than it's hurting you" as she beat the crap outta you? Don't be that person.
- Slip in some praise. Adding "you're so beautiful and great" as you're breaking someone's heart is both smarmy and patronizing and will most likely net you a punch in the head. I'm reminded of the ex who broke up with me, but slipped me the tongue as he turned to go.
- Let the other person react. Which, if you're smug enough to have thrown in a compliment, will mean standing your ground and not ducking the left hook you so richly deserve.
- Express empathy. Okay, this I get. It's the decent thing to do. But couldn't you just express it via email?