Accidentally bumping into an ex-lover can be startling, surprising, and anxiety-producing, an all the more so if you haven’t considered how to handle the situation. You will probably feel awkward and be at a loss for words or start to babble on stupidly. Whatever the reason for your breakup, meeting an ex-lover at the most inopportune of times will sometimes prove unavoidable. However, mastering the moment and walking away with pleasant and relaxed moments should be your aim.
- Take a deep breath and say I can do this. Control the expression on your face. Before anything else, remember to immediately change the expression of shock or disbelief on your face to one of calm composure and control. Under no circumstances let your past nightmares of what was your relationship together be reflected by the expression on your face, and even more by any other forms of body language such as fidgeting, crossing your arms, or turning away.
- Be confident and friendly. These two approaches will ensure that you put aside past feelings and simply treat your ex-lover with the same thoughtfulness as anyone else you might happen to meet or bump into.
- Stand still and engage in the conversation. It is highly unlikely that this will develop into a lengthy heart-to-heart chat because your ex is probably about as thrilled to see you again as you are them. Seek to remain calm by not showing any outward signs of nervousness, such as fidgeting with your fingers or pulling your hair. Tell yourself that this encounter will be brief and that it will pass quickly, so remain calm and be polite.
- Have a little fun with the occasion. You’ve moved on and got your own life to lead without this person forming a part of it. While you’re determined to prove this through your relaxed and controlled composure, there’s no harm having a little fun knowing that your demeanor and friendliness is sending chills down the spine of your ex-lover. Try to adopt and maintain an amuse stance, and behave nonchalantly, even if the last thing you’re feeling is amused or carefree! Grin in a relaxed fashion and know that it’s both intimidating and surprising to your ex-lover to see you radiate such disinterest and a lack of concern for what the two of you once shared together. If you’re really good with putting across the devil-may-care attitude, your ex-lover may actually start making excuses to look for the nearest exit!
- Maintain eye contact. Even if you’re not keen to talk, eye contact shows that you’re neither scared nor perturbed by this encounter and that you continue to respect the dignity of your ex-lover as another person you just happen to know. Avoid looking away or finding distractions such as picking at imaginary fluff on your clothes or rhythmically stroking your cell phone in the vain hope it’ll ring. Instead, stay in the moment and sustain the conversation by sharing small talk and giving confident updates about the entertainment, music, or food in the place you’re currently in. You might even pepper the conversation with the things you’re doing brilliantly in right now, and people you’re spending time with but how much you reveal is up to you. It’s usually best not to speak about really personal things and it’s absolutely crucial to avoid any topic that drags up your intimate past with your ex-lover.
- Be polite and ask your ex-lover what they’re up to now and how life is treating them. Do it casually and boost their ego with lots of comments on how great they’re looking these days but not in such a way as to denote interest. A simple “You’re looking really healthy/happy/bubbly/bright, etc. at the moment” is sufficient.
- Keep your small talk brief and to the point. After all, small talk is about simplicity.
- Use humor to ease the tension of the situation. Being humorous can help to ease your discomfort and defuse the tense atmosphere between both of you. Humor also allows you to keep a deliberate distance between the two of you because it’s less likely to get intimate or angst-ridden when you’re being funny. Make funny statements to push aside questions or jibes that you can’t or don’t want to deal with, such as “You do know that I can only deal with that issue/the Joneses/you in small doses”. Be careful not to offend though; it must be funny and you’ll know whether or not your ex-lover will get what you’re saying is humorous. More than anything, being self-deprecating to allow the laughs to fall on you can quickly ease you out of any sticky moments and have you on your merry way sooner rather than later.
- Crack a few jokes to bring on a smile.
- Ask them something out of the blue, like “So how is Fido the leg-humping dog these days?” or “Yeah, I’m great although a bit tired; they’re still collecting garbage at 3am singing loudly”.
- Pace yourself. There will come a very distinct moment (be it 5 seconds or 5 minutes) into the conversation where all you’ll want to do is leave or have the ground open and swallow you up. Stay relaxed and prepare to ease yourself out of the encounter. Avoid showing outward signs of agitation and discomfort; once you feel uncomfortable, simply look at your watch, explain that you’d better be getting on and make a polite excuse before departing their presence. Most importantly, leave knowing you’ve kept your dignity intact.
- Leave your assessment of the situation for later. Most often after a breakup, we tend to spend time imagining how the person we’ve broken up with is coping without us. This form of scrutiny should be dealt with when you are alone. Your disappointments or joy can be processed in whatever way you desire, but do this privately. Standing right in front of your ex-lover and forming the opinion there and then that they’re miserable without you and that it’s a good chance to beg them back is a sure way of looking daft and opening up a lot of hurt for yourself again. Above all, remember that there is a good reason why this person never made it into your future.
- If you feel the urge to cry, scream or yell, excuse yourself and make a beeline for the bathroom or another place of escape. Let the emotional torrent out where your ex-lover cannot bear witness to it; this preserves your dignity and frees you up from admitting that you’re still working on getting over them.
- Do not give the person the pleasure of knowing how much they destroyed your feelings and hopes.
- Remember that being polite does not being a friend still. You are polite to people in all relationships and you don’t necessarily consider everyone a friend. Use manners as a form of respect for their dignity and your own too but also as a way to keep the distance and to make it clear still that you don’t consider your ex as a friend.
- While your emotional mind might be recalling unpleasant memories of the two of you together once, use your rational mind to push down the unpleasantness and to treat this as a professional, business-like encounter. Otherwise, your feelings risk making the current situation even more unpleasant.