Breaking up is never going to be a painless process, and if it is, you’re probably doing it wrong (i.e. breaking up with someone via Edible Arrangement and then never speaking to them again). 1960s crooner Neil Sedaka summed up the precise difficulty of casting off your significant other in one of his most popular songs, “Breaking Up Is Hard To Do.”
Though it may be difficult, you do have some sort of control over the process—and according to a new study from Brigham Young University and the University of South Alabama, there is a proper way to jettison your lover. It may seem like a no-brainer, but your best bet is to be direct, but with a buffer, according to Men’s Health.
The research involved gathering responses from 145 participants after they were presented with bad news.
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The participants were asked to note the most important parts of how the messages were relayed and, across the board, clarity and directness were considered to be the most valued characteristics. These two communicative traits were found to be more important than how considerate or how reasonable the bad news bearer was.
But even though directness was paramount, there still needed to be at least a little bit of a warmup before the bad news when it came to social relationships. “An immediate ‘I’m breaking up with you’ might be too direct,” said lead study author Alan Manning in a 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.”
So, if you’re breaking up with somebody, allow space for a buffer. But if you’re telling somebody that Santa Claus is dead, the extra padding might not be needed.