Sunk Costs and Etiquette

Cafe Confrontation

A reader wrote to describe a situation that was perplexing.  Her ex confronted her during a large gathering as she was talking with friends, sarcastically commenting loudly “that she has a certain way about her that was born rude.”  Still having feelings of loss about this person after many years of relationship, she was hurt that he would say such a thing.

But then and there she decided the end of their relationship was clear.  She smiled and said, “I wish you the very best going forward, David.  I’m letting this all go.  It’s a sunk cost.”  She turned and began talking to friends and one person shouted out, “Yay, Jenny!”  The reader described her own feelings as “powerful,” and saw the situation as a chance to move on gracefully in the company of friends and acquaintances.

Etiquette and sunk costs don’t typically go hand in hand.  However, knowing when to graciously accept a loss or move on from a social situation, is core to etiquette-ful behavior.

The Sunk Costs Fallacy

Accepting the fact that you can never be sure you or someone else made the right choice is a way of avoiding the sunk costs fallacy.  Avoiding the sunk costs fallacy in relationships is etiquette-ful because it reflects a respectful approach towards oneself, and others involved.

In avoiding her “sunk cost fallacy” our reader was kind to herself.  She:

  • Lived in the present of the new situation and witnessed that to others.
  • Is respectful of her own boundaries going forward.
  • Gave herself something on which to congratulate herself.

She was etiquette-ful in that she showed consideration of everyone involved, including people nearby who surely appreciated not witnessing a scene.  Even if the outcome of her relationship was not as she had previously hoped, she demonstrated kindness towards her ex as she sincerely wished him well.

Her focus now can be on lessons learned.  She created the opportunity to think on the future positively, having publicly committed herself to letting go of what once was and no longer is.

By avoiding the sunk costs fallacy, she gave herself permission to extend wishes for her ex for growth and happiness.  Her actions promoted self-respect by not getting bogged down in the facts of her loss which frees her up to pursue healthy and fulfilling connections down the road.

“It doesn’t make sense for us to remain in a relationship where what we feel good about is in the past.” ~ Natalie Lue, Baggage Reclaim

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