The courage to stare someone in the eye and tell them something they do not want to hear is becoming an increasingly rare commodity in today’s society.

As Almost DailyBrett has commented in “Losing the Art of Verbal Confrontation,” digital technology has provided us all with the means to be analog cowards.

If you need to deliver some unpleasant news to a soon-to-be ex-boyfriend, ex-girlfriend, also-ran job seeker or one of the losing competitors for a RFP (Request for Proposal), then simply send an e-mail…or even more touching, deliver the news via a text.

Think of the beauty of this gutless approach, you don’t have to see the look of the recipient’s face or faces. You don’t have to hear the reaction. The transmission of unwelcome and uncomfortable news has never been easier.

When singer/songwriter Phil Collins decided to split with his second of three divorced wives, he had to compose a hard-copy message and feed it into a fax machine, and wait for electronic confirmation that the message had been delivered. How primitive.


Today, we don’t have to worry about fibre-optic lines. We can dispatch the unwanted message via wireless technology with the aid of a handy satellite or two, but that doesn’t have to be the case.

What I am about to do is very un-male-like: Admit a romantic setback.

My policy at Almost DailyBrett is to omit the exact name of the person involved; in this case because she may be tad uneasy and maybe a smidge embarrassed, even though she has every reason to be proud. I will refer to her as Mizz “A.”

Over a  dinner last Sunday of grilled pesto chicken breast on a bed of linguine, steamed green beans and pinot gris, Mizz “A” told me that she had boiled down her romantic finalists to “Ron” and myself. I restrained the impulse to campaign for her vote, simply thanking Mizz “A” for her candor.

Three days later, she sent me an e-mail asking if I was available for drink after work. We met in downtown Eugene (or what passes for “downtown” in Eugene). She looked at me and said, “Let’s get a glass of wine (“wine” is a bad sign; “dinner” is a good sign).” My male intuition (not an oxymoron) turned out to be correct.

After some procedural small talk, she prefaced her remarks by saying, “This is not what you want to hear…” Ron had won the competition for her heart. Similar to Bert Parks and the “Miss America” contest, I was the first runner-up (translated: I was the first loser). My competition got the girl.

She expressed her sympathy to me. I replied that she was a “stand-up woman,” someone rare in our modern society. I told her that a phone call would have been sufficient; how it was miles better than the ubiquitous text or email. She didn’t even think that a phone call would have sufficed. Gee, there is a reason I liked this woman.

I asked, what were the deciding factors? She said there were two: First, Ron had expressed a desire to live overseas, something that has always interested Mizz “A.” I countered by reminding her of my receipt of the Zertifikät Deutsch from the Goethe Institut and how I always wanted to live in a Schloss, drinking schnapps and clicking zee heels in the Bavarian Alps. She also said that Mr. Ron was a very religious and spiritual man, and that was very important to her. Alas, that is not me…and that clearly separates the two final contenders.

Upon departing, I resisted the temptation to say to her that she could contact me if things do not work out with Mr. Ron. That statement in my humble opinion sounds weak and may be perceived that I am rooting against their relationship, which is not the case.

Looking back at this experience and venturing forward to the continuation of my post-marriage (I am a widower after 22 years of blissful matrimony) dating life — characterized by more activity than accomplishment — I know that at least one person exists out there who knows how to treat people right. She clearly follows the Golden Rule.

Sooner or later, we all have to deliver less-than-cheerful news. The rule that I humbly submit is the more that someone genuinely puts into a relationship, the search for a position, the quest for a project, the more they deserve a face-to-face delivery of your difficult news and an explanation of your decision. That may not be physically possible every time, which leaves the phone as a distant second best option (at least you can hear the reaction). E-mails and texts should never be used to deliver bad news to those who have invested considerable time, resources, emotion and effort. If you do, it says more about you (and your organization, if applicable) than the person or persons receiving the news.

One last point: If you are fearful of an inappropriate reaction to your eyeball-to-eyeball transmission of less than stellar news, then I would opine that you shouldn’t be in this “relationship” in the first place. Have to call me as I see em.

Editor’s note: Here are three recent Almost DailyBrett blog posts about the adventures of mid-life crisis dating and social media.