TL; DR: Don’t say “STFU” in your communications.
I recently spent way too much time working on a “closing out” email to a long and painful process with an abusive ex-friend. My commitment to being a kind person was really tested and I kinda failed, sending a final “so STFU and Go Away” email that I regretted (…saying ‘STFU.’ I don’t regret speaking my truth clearly and as compassionately as I could). So here are some thoughts on how someone practicing kindness can tell someone to take a flying leap. Compassionately.
- Recognize their pain (and their acting out of their pain) is theirs and has nothing to do with you. This can help reduce your own reactivity.
- Check your reactivity, as much as you can. If you feel “reactive” commit yourself to working through the thoughts, but not taking any action (like hitting “send” or replying to a text) while you are being reactive.
- Allow yourself to be angry, hurt, frustrated, afraid and express it to yourself and or trusted friends/advisors. Get clear about what those feelings are. It’s not inherently bad to feel those things. Just separate the feeling from action.
- Stick to the facts. Avoid assessments (“you were a jerk when…” or “I thought it was messed up when you….” or “you callously ignored me when…” ), avoid declarations/namecalling (“you are a jerk”). Has to be said to not be said.
- First write a stream of consciousness. Get it all out and figure out what you want to say. DO NOT SEND THIS TO ANYONE. The entire and only purpose is to get out all the feelings so you can see with your eyes all the things you want to say.
- Then condense that into bullet points and simple sentences. No sentence more than 12 words. Remove repetition (we tend to loop when we’re in “reactive” mode). Avoid unnecessary detail. Put each sentence on its own line and scrutinize it: “is it true?” “is it necessary?” “is it kind?” Take everything out that isn’t that.
- Then do that again. When you feel like it’s close to done, literally walk away. Go outside, to another room, to another day… Give it some time and space. Then come back to it and scrutinize it again. “Is it true?” “is it necessary?” “Is it kind?”. You might combine or eliminate some points.
- Ask a trusted friend to give you reflection on how this shows up. Does it sound untrue, unnecessary or unkind? Listen openly to their opinion.
- You can be a practitioner of kindness and tell someone “no” and establish a clear boundary AND be kind at the same time. Look to eliminate stabby statements, or statements intended to provoke or poke the other person. Like “STFU and Go Away.”
- Don’t say “STFU and Go Away.” You might say instead, “For the reasons stated, I’m no longer open to communicating with you. So I won’t be responding to anything further.” And then leave it at that. No “Cheers” or “Thx” or snarky wrap-up. Just say “that is all” and let that be all.
- If you end up hitting “send,” go take a vigorous walk or dance or do something to move your body and release the pent up energy you’ve been holding. Really important to move the body. And hydrate. And then move on with your life.