When (Not) to Burn a Bridge

Sunday, August 6, 2017 / 4:23 PM

It can be difficult to spot when you're being taken advantage of – whether personally or professionally – but when you realize it, I've often struggled to answer the question: is it too harsh to cut off ties completely?

Here's the thing: burning bridges is generally never advised as a first resort. The internet has actually made our worlds a bit smaller, I think, and even if you tried to do everything possible to keep someone out of your social media feeds, they're never really excised a la Eternal Sunshine.

That having been said, I've wondered when exactly it is the "right" time to say, "No, I don't want this person in my life." That can be a harsh decision to make. You're essentially saying to yourself – and the other person – that you actively do not want them to be a part of anything you do. Sometimes, it makes sense to cut certain people out: an abusive ex, a bully who made your life hell... but often times, there's no easy answer when it comes to trying to figure out how/when/why the time is now.

I've historically been the type of person who likes second chances because everyone makes mistakes. I make mistakes. I've been on the end of asking for forgiveness and being the one to forgive, and when someone really has made a difference in your life and you want to work past all of the bumps in the road, it can be worth it to give those second, third, fourth chances. It may not always work out, but isn't it worth it to try?

OK, so back to the original question: when is it not worth it to try? For me, lately, I've come to see that it isn't worth it when the other person's motives are purely selfish.  In my job, I've come across more people than I expected who only sidled up to me because they wanted something: the student who pretended she was interested in freelancing and being a part of the company to get a free conference banquet gala ticket out of us; the colleague who put in a lot of effort to become friends only to cut off communication once I told her we weren't looking for on-camera talent; the producer who gave me a giant middle finger after he undermined my authority and I called him out on it because I'm tired of having people use my age and gender against me.

And I get it: it's a business. That's (sometimes) how the industry goes. But I'd prefer upfront honesty about it instead of a false friendship that serves as a foundation.

I don't know if there's a time when you just know that that person isn't someone you want in your life anymore. And maybe some decisions are a mistake, and that person you cut out is someone you really need someday. I just hope when those extreme decisions are made, we've all thought it out thoroughly.

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