Dear Carolyn: I strongly suspect I will run into my ex-girlfriend at an upcoming party, which promises to be awkward and uncomfortable. She basically left me for another man while I was prepping for my board certification exams, and we clearly weren’t going to remain friends. She and I haven’t spoken in more than a year.
Telling her how badly she acted obviously won’t fly in a party setting. But as I try and fill the time with her with pleasantries, do I ask how her work is going when I really don’t care? Should I wish her and her new boyfriend well when I don’t mean it? Should I fake that everything is cool between us when it’s anything but and she broke my heart big-time and owes me a huge apology?
I’m all for not making waves, but there’s also a point when faking politeness is so transparent that it doesn’t seem worth it. Should I avoid her altogether at the party, talk with her and fill the time with platitudes, or tell her how I really feel and that we should talk about it another time? – R.
Avoiding her, faking pleasantries, telling her off – all of these have a significant negative element. Do you really want to be the guy who hides, lies or scolds?
You didn’t give me the one option I was looking for: Say hello and keep on walking.
She might approach you, of course, but for that you can have a clear but courteous response ready, along the lines of, “[Honest compliment to show decency.] Please excuse me; I’d rather not talk.” Walk away.