WEDNESDAY, MARCH 25 — Q: I’ve been seeing this guy long distance. I haven’t really been feeling it and kind of let it drop off, thinking he’d get the hint. He keeps texting and calling. I keep telling him I’m just really busy. The truth is I’ve met somebody else. Do I have to tell him?
A: Even milk and meat have the courtesy to let you know when they’re expiring. You, on the other hand, reeled in a guy’s heart, watched it flop around on the carpet, and then misplaced it under a pile of old newspapers.
“Life is short!” you hear people say. And it can be — if you’re in the habit of Snapchatting while meandering across bus lanes. But as the Stoic philosopher Seneca said, “It is not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it.” Unfortunately, other people sometimes waste it for us, like by expecting us to “get the hint” that they’re done with us. By the way, men, especially, tend to be poor at hint taking. So yes, you actually have to tell the guy — rather than continue with your current approach: “I dumped you. You’re smart. You’ll figure it out eventually.”
To be human is to procrastinate — to put off till tomorrow (or the second Tuesday in never) what we could do today. Behavioral science research finds that we are biased toward the RIGHT NOW, irrationally overvaluing a small payoff we can have right away over a substantially larger one down the road. We’re especially quick to put off anything that involves duty (and its conjoined twin, discomfort). This is irrational because deferring almost always costs far more — like if we delay going to the doctor until we have not only a tumor but one with 3,651 Facebook friends.