Learning How to Say Goodbye

Saying goodbye can be hard, especially for teenagers. An important part of growing up is learning to say goodbye. I don’t mean to dying people. I mean on the phone. With the advent of texting, the art of saying “goodbye” has fallen by 92%. My wife, I’ll refer to her as Cynthia, and I are trying to explain to our teenage daughter how to end her rare phone conversations with the word “goodbye”.

Most of my friends my age had teenagers many years before me. I talked to those teenagers on the telephone on ocassion. Those teenagers all had similar telephone abilities. Generally, a small selection from several families proved to have limited abilities of passing messages on to parents and saying goodbye at the end of a conversation was a near impossibility.

I was able to remedy the problematic message taking by simply not relying on my friends’ children to take a message, but there was nothing to do about the awkward no “goodbye” goodbye. Luckily for me, I’m a big proponent of non-conformity. However, the social cue of ending a phone call with the word “goodbye” or sometimes “bye” was something I had grown used to over multiple years of phoning.

I get it. Things change. Elvis swung his hips and the teens turned out ok. And every generation after, the teens did something the older people didn’t like. Yet every time, the older people end up dying and the teens become the older people – who eventually don’t like something the new teens are doing. Because of this history, I could really only be amused by the lack of “Bye” knowledge of the new generation.

Somehow I had learned the protocol of saying goodbye from watching the previous generation use the telephone. It seemed less like a form of etiquette and more like a verbal marker to let the other person know the call was officially over. However, that said, ending a phone conversation without a goodbye was paramount to a hang up on the other party, falling directly into the bad manners section.

But some years ago I started to think that maybe the teens were onto something. At the time, my business partner and I ran a successful online business with me in Minneapolis and him in Virginia. My business partner, I’ll name him Dave for this story, and I spoke a minimum of ten times each day. We talked about everything that people in business would talk about ranging from customers to workflow to new equipment purchases. Unfortunately for Dave, he also heard long stories from me that had nothing to do with the work we did each day.

In thinking about my friend’s teenager hanging up on me when he was done talking, I struck upon what I thought to be a revolutionary idea. Every conversation that Dave and I had ended with a “goodbye.” I told Dave that if we worked in an office and talked near our cubicles or if I went into his office and had a conversation, we wouldn’t end each conversation with us both saying goodbye. By us saying goodbye, over the course of the year we were wasting upwards into the minutes of productive time.

Dave listened patiently to my rant as he often did – as I literally wasted minutes of productive time explaining to him how we could be more efficient with our time. After making my point, I hung up immediately without saying goodbye. Dave was (is) such a nice guy, so it seemed a little rude. But I realized that I just needed to get by “The Man’s” goodbye programming and begin these time saving measures immediately.

We implemented only like a two person operation could, phasing this new plan in like right now. It took a while to make the no goodbye system work. First, Dave kept forgetting that we weren’t saying goodbye anymore. Next, we went through a phase where we weren’t quite sure if we should hang up. We would ask if the other had anything more to say. If no, there was a quiet pause where the word goodbye would have gone, followed by the hang-up.

These are the kind of things that I find humorous and for this reason I can keep this in the front of my head at all times. For me, every phone call was just another chance not to say goodbye and see how quickly I could hang up. Dave was usually thinking about more important things than me and sometimes would forget not to say goodbye. I would even call back and ask to try that hang up again if we weren’t too busy. I didn’t know this at the time, but Dave had a lot on his mind and to top it off he may have been in an abusive relationship – with me.

This only lasted for a couple weeks and eventually ended. The stamina it took to stay on top of not saying goodbye was too tremendous. I don’t have any pictures from the time, nor did Dave tell me this, but I believe the stress of not saying goodbye could have led to Dave shedding some 30 pounds of his already lean frame. On the other hand, I began ending conversations at home with Cynthia by saying “goodbye” in order to compensate for never saying it on the phone. Up was down and down was up.

What I learned from this experiment is that while the goodbye was not always necessary, it was a helpful social marker to end conversations. Maybe switching to the shortened version of “bye” would have been the best option.

We are now teaching our teenage daughter how to talk on the phone. Believe it or not, there are times when it’s actually easier to just talk. I try to stay patient when I call her and I get a text back that says, “What?” If she would have only answered her phone, she would have instantly had her answer. The talking on the phone requires the use of full words and not just acronyms. And at the end of those great big unabbreviated sentences via the voice, you get to use the friendly indicator named “goodbye.” Maybe my daughter can cut it down to “GB”. I’m ok with that. As long as she occasionally answers her phone with her voice. Thanks for listening. Goodbye.

Saddly Yours,

Jason Spafford

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