Break-ups over the phone

“Hypothetical” situation between a girlfriend and boyfriend, who also have a professional relationship but do not work at the same company.

J calls S at work.
J: I thought your last email was plain rude, S.

S: I didn’t think it was rude. It was professional.

J: Well, you’ve done this before, and not just in our business relationship. You have been personally rude to me before.

S: Listen J, if you want to talk about our professional relationship, keep it to that. You heard my opinion–I don’t think I was being rude. But I think we should keep our personal relationship out of this discussion.

J: But our personal relationship is very related. This is a pattern of yours, whether it be personal or professional relations.

S: I said, keep our personal relationship out of discussions of our professional relationship.

J: Do you have something to say to me?

S: I do, but I prefer to keep our personal relationship out of this discussion.

J: Just say it.

S: Do you really want to discuss our personal relationship right now?

J: Yes.

S: Are you sure you want to discuss our personal relationship NOW?

J: Yes, I do.

S: Fine. We are breaking up. When can we exchange all the stuff we have at each others’ apartments?

Later, the issue of breaking up over the phone, at work even, comes up. Who has a right to be angry for this situation?


Clearly, J was in the wrong for mixing the personal into a professional complaint. On the other hand the proper response by S to “Do you have anything to say to me?” should be “We’ll discuss it tonight,” through very clenched teeth, followed immediately by terminating the conversation.

I’m with Kunilou.

I’ve forced a similar comment out of someone on the phone in the past, because I knew it would be several days before we could speak in person and I felt the situation (which had been building for some time) had gone on long enough and I wanted to know where I stood. I knew what I was doing though, and would never have blamed the guy in question for breaking up with me over the phone when I basically cornered him into it.

If S had no reason to believe that J thought a break-up might be coming then (s)he should have waited until a more appropriate time no matter how insistant J was. On the other hand J was asking for trouble bringing up obviously difficult personal issues in a professional discussion. Even if the two overlap, it’s probably still better discussed away from work and in person.

Being rude in e-mails is bad. For one, the recipient can read it over and over, getting madder and madder each time.

Breaking up over the phone may be the safe way in some circumstances, but, if there was a loving relationship, then kindness would dictate an honest, open, and non confrontational face to face meeting.

Hey, breaking up on the phone almost sounds like politeness to me. The last time I was dumped it was via text message text message!!!

Strewth! Am I glad I am out of that one if that was the sort of person she turned out to be…