I recently heard through a friend that my terrible ex (as they’re known to my friends) had moved to my town. I didn't even realize until that moment how grateful I was for the geographical bulwark. Granted, they only lived four or five towns away, but in rush hour, that’s a good hour away. I live in a fairly small town, so stripped of that soothing traffic congestion buffer, there was a very real chance that I could run into them at any moment. I would have to learn how to stay calm when you see your ex fast, because it was just a matter of time before we bumped into each other in the produce aisle, at my local dive bar, or in line at Chipotle. (Please, universe, I'm begging you, don't make it the latter. There is no dignity in being busted by an ex in the midst of negotiating with a Chipotle crew member for double chicken and guac.)
It’s one thing to decide to stay calm and be cool when faced with an accidental run-in with a former love, but it’s another thing entirely to actually pull it off. Sure, some people are effortlessly cool, calm, and collected. But for the rest of us panicky normals who need to plan ahead, here's how to do it.
1. Have A Game Plan
While you can never control every variable, having a rough game plan is a great way to build some confidence should you run into your ex — and confidence is everything. Picture in your mind exactly how you want it to go. While you can't guarantee how they'll behave, you can plan in advance how you want to react. No matter how they act, just know you can fall back on your game plan.
2. When The Panic Rises, Take Deep, Steady Breaths
There may be a moment where your nerves get the best of you, particularly if the breakup is fresh, it’s the first time you're seeing them, or they are with someone new. In these moments, it’s important to go back to basics; take deep, calming breaths to soothe your frayed nerves; and get back to your game plan of confidence.
3. Keep It Light, Breezy, And Positive
There may be a small part of you that wants to do something bonkers, like, say, rehashing the past and demanding closure. Bad plan. If you want to avoid spiraling into a ton of frantic feelings, avoid the emotional landmines by keeping it light, breezy, and positive. Talk to them like you would a friend of your parents: polite, positive, but not overly personal.
4. When Possible, Enlist The Aid Of A Wingwoman
If this ex run-in is a semi-planned event, take advantage of that knowledge by enlisting a friend to help you out. Pick someone who knows how to steady your nerves, boost your confidence, and, if needed, have your back by saying all the things you're too cool, confident, and over all of it to say yourself. Ahem.
5. Resist The Urge To Get Wasted At All Costs
If you're really freaked out, you may feel the need for some liquid courage. While one glass of wine may steady your nerves, each subsequent drink is one giant leap toward hot mess town. Nothing says, "I'm freaking out because I am so not over you," like being a sloppy mess. Don’t give them the satisfaction, and don't give yourself the literal and emotional hangover of overindulging before the showdown.
6. Have An Exit Strategy
Last, but definitely not least, plan your exit strategy ahead. Just as important as the plan to play it cool at first is the plan to extricate yourself from the situation with ease. Knowing how you will get out of the conversation ahead of time gives you power, and it can also be your saving grace if, in the midst of talking to them, you realize you're starting to feel some kind of way. Keep it breezy with something like, "Well, it was great to catch up with you. Glad you're doing well," or, "Hey, it was fun bumping into you like this, but I better go. I'm running late. See ya!"
While running into an ex can be very awkward, it doesn't have to be a total nightmare. Just put your game face on, play it cool, exit with style, and you'll feel like a boss.
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