The Psychology of Making Contact

Exprts: Brk up old-skl wy – not by texting
By Cynthia Hubert – Bee Staff Writer

Adam Levine may have dumped Jessica Simpson electronically, but most regular folks are inclined to take a higher road when delivering bad news.

That’s one of the findings of a new survey about the psychology of communicating.

When it comes to breaking up with someone or surrendering other types of negative information, the vast majority of those who responded to the survey said they want to do it in person.

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Harris Interactive conducted the research in early January for, an online service that tracks addresses, e-mail contacts and telephone numbers.

The survey found that 88 percent of people prefer to end a relationship with someone in person. Only 6 percent think such matters can be handled over the phone, and 2 percent believe it’s OK to dump someone by e-mail or letter. The numbers hold true even when the respondents are the dumpees. Eighty-seven percent say that if someone is going to split with them, it should happen face to face.

The findings were less than surprising to Max Bardon, president and chief operating officer of the online company that commissioned the poll.

“They validate the premium that people place on personal interaction, despite the very busy lives we all lead,” Bardon says.

When it comes to breakups, in-person encounters are the only way to go, affirms etiquette expert Peggy Post.

“No matter how uncomfortable the situation, there are certain decencies to be observed,” she writes in the latest edition of her etiquette book.

“Someone you’ve been close to is owed a face-to-face meeting,” she advises. “Don’t resort to a ‘Dear John’ or ‘Dear Jane’ letter. Don’t e-mail or fax or send a text message. Phoning may be necessary when time or distance are a problem, but don’t leave a brush-off message or voice mail.”’s dating site also warns its users to end relationships “with class, consideration and decorum.” Gracious goodbyes are done in person, it says.

“Phone breakups are beyond tacky,” the site says. “E-mail breakups are worse. Assuming you’ve dated more than a handful of times, splitting up in person is the right thing to do.”

Sacramento psychologist Debra Moore agrees. Even in an intensely electronic age, she says, in-person communication is generally considered to be more sincere than the electronic variety.

“If you had a face-to-face relationship, then it’s a good idea to have it at all points, even the end point,” she says.

But Moore questions whether those who answered the survey were being entirely honest about their own behavior.

“I have a feeling that most people prefer to get bad news in person, but I’m not sure that most prefer to give it in person,” she says. “Yes, most of us feel that it’s the best thing to do, but a lot of us also prefer to avoid conflict.”

Perhaps that’s the reason that, according to the survey, most folks prefer an electronic buffer when they’re trying to reconnect with a lost love.

Fifty-one percent of respondents in the research said they would likely make contact with a past acquaintance either by e-mail or letter. Twenty-three percent said they would call the former love, and 23 percent said they would try to encounter them in person.

“That makes sense,” says Moore. “It’s less intrusive” to make contact by computer or on paper, she says. “If you call someone on the phone and they answer, they’re stuck. If they get an e-mail, they can follow up or just delete it.”

by Whitepages

2 thoughts on “The Psychology of Making Contact

  1. clarice says:

    There are things that should be done personally while others are better off through the phone or email. It is up to use to way things out… 🙂

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