In the words of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: “Great is the art of beginning, but greater is the art of ending.” Everything in life has a beginning, middle, and end. Beginnings are easy to spot. Middles are peppered with highs, lows, and humdrum routines. Endings can be hard to accept, long anticipated, or completely unexpected. Yet, endings are inevitable, and to end something well helps prepare you for what’s next.
There is an art to ending a chapter in our lives and thus to saying goodbye. Mr. Longfellow and I are not referencing the cheery “ba-bye” our beloved airline attendant offers to each passenger that exits the aircraft. Nor are we addressing the “so long” expressed to co-workers at the end of the workday. The goodbye I am referencing is the one that comes with gut wrenching acceptance of something lost while moving forward with your life . . . and toward a new beginning.
Make no mistake, saying goodbye can be the most difficult solution to a problem. But, there will be a time that ending a relationship, whether personal or professional, is the only choice you have. Saying goodbye well is to step with confidence across the line you have drawn between past and future. A “good” goodbye announces to others, and more importantly to yourself, that you are ready for the next adventure.
If goodbyes can be characterized as skillful or good, that means they can also be described as bad or inept. Ghosting is a wretched way to end a relationship. For those unfamiliar with the term, ghosting, with its genesis in electronic communication, describes the phenomenon of leaving a relationship by abruptly ending all contact with the other person—no goodbye, no nothing, just silence. Ghosting leaves unfinished business on both sides. Unresolved matters in one relationship are likely to resurface in the next.
Some bridges need to be burned, never to be crossed again. But before you say, “Don’t let the screen door hit you on the way out,” or utter, “Bye, Felicia,” too quickly and with all the snarkiness the internet meme deserves, think twice about interjecting a dismissive sendoff into your goodbye, particularly in a work environment. Why sacrifice years of respect and put your goodwill at risk when you may cross paths again professionally in the future? A “bad” goodbye can leave a lasting poor impression that will be hard to overcome.
Whatever you do, don’t lose heart. Remember, endings signal a fresh beginning. The key to a “good” ending is always to seize the long view, embracing the lessons learned from both the shiny start and tumultuous or mundane middle. Be grateful that the relationship happened. Through the experience, you learned something about your personal “must haves” and “cannot tolerates” to be happy and content. This self-knowledge sets the stage for future relationships and will help you be successful in them.
I’m here if you need me, until then, y’all behave.