Things acceptable to end via email:
- A gym membership
- A Tinder date gone wrong
- A casual job
Things not acceptable to end via email:
- A relationship occupying a space anywhere on the spectrum of friends to soul mates.
Because when it comes to human connections,
email requests to be “amicable”
feel about as sincere as the shiny screen they’re read off.
There are lots of adjectives to describe people who opt to have life’s important conversations electronically.
But one consistently returns to mind: gutless.
I recently received an electronic “ending” from a person I considered a friend. Wrapping up the friendship like a transaction (albeit it a rather well drafted transaction).
This is a big deal for me for two reasons: 1. because I’m a firm believer that good friends are hard to come by, and 2. It’s hard for me to stop caring, even when the email is screaming ‘they’re not worth it.’
But when all is (not) said and done, being left with nothing but typed words makes it difficult to recall if there was anything worth ending in the first place.
Psychologists have a term for this:
The peak–end rule [noun]: people judge an experience largely based on how they felt at its most intense point (its peak) and at its end, rather than based on the experience as a whole.
In 1993 psychologists studied the peak-end rule.
Participants were split into two groups:
- the first had to submerge their hands in 14 °C water for 60 seconds.
- The second also submerged their hands in 14 °C water for 60 seconds, but then kept their hand submerged for an additional 30 seconds with the temperature raised to 15 °C.
When asked which version of the trial they wanted to repeat, most participants chose the second (even though it was the worse option).
This is because their final memory was a positive one, relatively speaking.
Ever hated a job, but had such a heartfelt farewell party that you started wondering why you were leaving?
It’s the peak-end rule.
So what does this mean for personal connections?
The way you say goodbye matters.
It’s the final interaction that people will remember most vividly.
The lens through which they will judge the entirety of the relationship.
But perhaps the pursuit of good goodbyes is a futile one.
We live in age of tinder and text messaging.
Ghosting. Gas lighting. Grindr.
Benching and bread-crumbing.
Email and emojis.
Millennials, welcome to the coward’s playground.
Rare in this playground?
A friend. A real one.
So, if you stumble across one, romantic or otherwise, remember that some words deserve a conversation.
A proper one.
Part I of my III lessons from 2017: treat important words with the respect they deserve.