There's no perfect way to break up with someone.
But science may have pinned down a good general guideline. Most people seem to prefer getting bad news given to them directly.
A study coming out of Brigham Young University and the University of South Alabama says the average person would rather people be upfront with them about ending a relationship instead of beating around the bush and working up to the bad news.
For the study, 145 people were given a range of scenarios where they got bad news in two different way. They ranked the deliveries on how direct, efficient, honest, specific, and reasonable they were. They also ranked which traits they thought were most important. Generally, clarity and directness were the most valuable characteristics.
All you need is a 'we need to talk' buffer.
In a break-up situation, the person getting broken up with tended to prefer being given a few seconds of buffer and then immediately the bad news, instead of working towards it through a few minutes of chatting or small talk.
"An immediate 'I'm breaking up with you' might be too direct," Alan Manning, one of the researchers, said in a university press release. "But all you need is a 'we need to talk' buffer — just a couple of seconds for the other person to process that bad news is coming."
The study didn't look solely at breakups.
When losing a job, people had similar feelings. They wanted a few seconds of buffer, but no hedging around the issue for too long.
If your house is on fire, you just want to know that and get out. Or if you have cancer, you'd just like to know that. You don't want the doctor to talk around it
When it came to bad medical news, participants overwhelmingly reported that they didn't want any buffers at all. They wanted doctors to get straight to the point with the problem.
"If we're negating physical facts, then there's no buffer required or desired," Manning added. "If your house is on fire, you just want to know that and get out. Or if you have cancer, you'd just like to know that. You don't want the doctor to talk around it."
If you are working on how to dump someone though, HuffPost blogger Marcia Sirota also recommends being direct with your partner and not dragging things out. She also recommends making sure you're ready to let go so that you don't go through all the messy pain of breaking up only to get back together.
Sure, dragging out a tense conversation might feel better for the person delivering the news, but it doesn't make the receiver feel better about the information they're getting.
If you're going to be the bearer of bad news, don't make it any worse than it has to be.
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