What to say to your ex when you run into him

Sep 1, 2011 at 10:13 a.m. ET

As the song says, breaking up is hard to do. No matter who ended the relationship, it still hurts. Think through the eventuality that you'll run into your ex before it happens so that you'll have a strategy.

what to say when you run into the ex

1Fake surprise

Maybe you're not really surprised to see him -- especially if you walk into a mutual friend's party or show up at his favorite club -- so fake it. Don't make a beeline for him; don't be obvious about steering clear of him, either. If he sees you from across the room, give him a smile and an easy wave, and continue on with the conversation in which you're engaged. The point is to look effortlessly cool. You don't want to freeze him out with a killer look; that's almost as bad as rushing to his side and gushing about how good it is to see him.

2Act calm & casual

Staying cool and collected while talking to your ex won't be easy, but remember: You know this guy. He asked you out the very first time because he thought you were amazing, and you still are. Keep the conversation simple: "Hi," "How are you?" and "Good to see you" are appropriate remarks. When he asks how you are, don't go into a lot of details on your emotional ups and downs since your breakup. "How are you" is really just a greeting, so tell him you're great and leave it at that. It's tempting to offer tidbits about how fabulous your life is now -- even if you're actually miserable without him -- but you will end up regretting any lies that you tell him. Sticking to light conversation is safer and helps you maintain control of the encounter.

Asking him how his parents, siblings or pets are is all right. Things you'd normally ask an old friend are appropriate here. Just keep it easy and friendly.

3Keep it short & sweet

You want to be the first to walk away, so it's up to you to end the conversation. Chatting for just a few minutes is fine, but lingering will make you seem needy. Limit the conversation's length to the amount of time you'd spend greeting a casual business associate. Remember that you are a strong, fabulous woman with friends -- or a date -- waiting for you. Be the first to say goodbye. If you're with someone, simply tell your ex that you have to get back to your friend and leave it at "Nice seeing you" or "See you later."

Now walk away and don't look back -- head up, back straight and a little swish in your step. You've handled this first encounter with style and class.

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