By Chris Seiter

Updated on February 23rd, 2021

Unexpectedly running into an ex can be stressful, and you might draw a blank and not know what to say.

So today we’re going to talk about the rules for running into an ex who dumped you.

In my professional opinion, there aren’t enough practical videos, articles, or podcasts out there about the rules for running into your ex.

Yeah, you can find lots of generic stuff, but that doesn’t really tell you what you should do or what your goal should be.

By the end of this article I’m going to tell you exactly what you should aim for when you run into an ex and then we’ll dive into a brand new concept that will help you to achieve that goal!

Oh what the heck, let’s just talk about what your overall goal should be.

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Your Final Goal For When You Run Into Your Ex

It always astounds me how little people really understand about the interaction and purpose of accidentally running into their ex.

I mean, as you’ll find out in the next section so many people force these interactions with their exes and then when the time comes to actually do something they clam up confused.

Luckily, you ran into this article and many others like it so you should have a pretty good idea of what your goal should be.

I’ve taken the liberty of outlining a goal for you – when you run into an ex, your goal should be to leave a lasting impression and give them something interesting to think about for when you’re gone.

I’ll get into more details about the kind of conversation to have, but let’s first address the fatal flaw people make in interactions with their ex:

People Often Force Interactions With Their Exes

When it comes to running into an ex, people try to force interactions, so running into an ex isn’t exactly spontaneous for them.

This is a major problem because if you try to force an interaction with your ex in the middle of a no contact rule, the results aren’t going to be great.

This article is specifically for those of you who spontaneously run into your ex or even those who work or go to school with their ex, so they know for a fact that they’ll be in an environment where they run into their ex.

So, what is it that I’m trying to say?

Do not force interaction with your ex. Let it happen naturally.

Ah, but you probably want more than that don’t you?

The Ground Rules For Running Into Your Ex

I get that there are a lot of rules being thrown out in this article but I promise you there is a point to the madness. Overall, there is one simple rule you should stick to if you find yourself in a situation where you unexpectedly see your ex.

Keep the interactions sweet/simple/short

But what exactly does that mean?

For starters, the run-in with your ex should last no longer than 10 minutes.

A lot of people tend to ramble when they run into their ex because they get overly excited and that’s not what we’re trying to do here.

There is brilliance in brevity.

Short interactions are going to stick in your ex’s mind longer than longer ones.

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Of course, it’s not that simple.

It never is.

Do you ever recall short conversations you have with people about random things like the weather?

No exactly, right?

So, you don’t only need to have a short and satisfying casual conversation, but one that stays with your ex even after you leave.

But how do you do that?

Well, that’s where I’d like to introduce my newest tactic to you.

Tell A Convincing And Engaging Story

I’m a big believer that stories leave gigantic impressions on our lives, but not all stories are made equal.

The best-told stories are often also the most memorable ones.

So, after years of research I’ve stumbled across an amazing way that can help you structure stories when you find yourself in front of your ex.

I’d like to introduce you to Dan Harmon’s story circle.

If you don’t know who Dan Harmon is, he is an incredibly famous professional writer.

He’s the mastermind behind popular shows like “Rick and Morty” and “Community”.

When Dan was trying to break into Hollywood, he often had trouble breaking stories.

So he did what all good writers do, he studied other stories.

So, after watching/reading thousands of stories  he began to notice something interesting. He found that almost every single story follows a similar patterpattern.

He called that pattern his story circle and it goes something like this.

  1. A character starts off in a zone of comfort
  2. But they want something
  3. So, they enter an unfamiliar situation
  4. They then adapt to that situation
  5. They get what they wanted
  6. But they paid a heavy price for it
  7. Then they return to their familiar situation
  8. Having changed as a person

So how can studying this help us learn how to tell a proper story that leaves a proper lasting impression on our ex?

Usually, I’m not a fan of coming into interactions with prepared talking points to have conversations.

However, generally speaking, when you run into a potentially awkward situation of running into your ex, you’re going to be caught off guard without anything interesting to say.

You’ll probably just say the first thing that comes to mind, like some boring observations about the weather.

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My recommendation is that if you’re in a situation where you think you might run into your ex, have a story planned in your back pocket.

Here’s the trick, though.

It needs to be a story that resonates with him so he can think about it after you leave.

Putting The Story Circle Into Practice With Your Ex

For practice im going to tell you a very personal story using Dan Harmon’s story circle.

This is a 100% true story that I’ve never told anyone outside my family.

It’s also extremely painful and (kind of still ongoing.)

(Side Note: For all the naysayers out there that don’t believe what I’m about to tell you. I have pictures to prove it 🙂 .)

The Character Starts Off In A Zone Of Comfort

In this case, the character being me and the comfort zone being my family.

However, something just wasn’t right.

There’s this fascinating psychological concept that usually when our needs get met, we need to find a different problem to solve.

So even if 100% of everything is perfect in your life, there is always something else you will want.

But They Want Something

In this situation, what I wanted was some alone time.

While I love my family more than anything, sometimes, it can be a little hard to get alone time with a daughter and a wife who are constantly at home while you work from home.

But technically a story doesn’t become a story until conflict gets introduced into the equation an that’s when we enter our unfamiliar situation.

They Enter An Unfamiliar Situation

In the past year and a half, I’ve had 3 surgeries for a pilonidal cyst.

If you don’t know what that is, don’t google it.

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It’s gross.

Let’s just say it’s an incredibly painful cyst on your tailbone that could eventually burst and make it impossible for you to sit down.

It then heals up and then bursts again, and the cycle continues.

Again, if you don’t believe me… I have the pictures to put you in your place!

Anyways, the only way to fully heal it is to get surgery.

With the advent of surgery I entered into a familiar situation, one where I’ve never experienced a surgery before, into an unfamiliar situation.

They Adapt To The Unfamiliar Situation

Adapting to the situation for me was all about trying to get used to life after surgery and going through the rehab that requires.

The problem is that rehab doesn’t always go too well…

In some cases the adaptation to a new situation isn’t always good.

In fact, the first surgery was botched by the surgeon, and they actually glued my wound together, and it filled up with fluid and got infected, so they had to operate again.

Then that next surgery still didn’t do the trick as it got infected again, after which a third surgery was required.

You get the picture.

The Character Gets What They Wanted

I got what I wanted, alright.

I got so much alone time I was actually designated to a different portion of our house.

I couldn’t even sleep next to my wife in our bed because if she moved around in her sleep and accidentally hit my healing would it could be disastrous.

But sometimes the “character” getting what they want has some pretty dramatic consequences.

They Pay A Heavy Price For It

As the main character, I got what I wanted, but I had to pay a heavy price for it.

Turns out a lot of alone time isn’t great for my mental health.

I missed out on so much in my daughter’s life that I grew very depressed.

I definitely paid a heavy price for my alone time.

The Character Returns To Their Familiar Situation

Eventually, my wound heals, well kind of – it’s still not 100% healed, but for the sake of the story lets assumed its fully healed.

I’m back to the familiar situation of not having too much alone time.

This is where reflection comes into play.

The Character Has Experienced Change

Because I got so much alone time, I had a better respect for people who go through chronic illnesses.

I also learned that the most important thing in life is not alone time; it’s interacting with those you love and enriching their lives and having them enrich yours.

In other words, I took my family for granted, and it took that whole story circle to realize how wrong that was.

That’s how you tell a story.

Generally speaking, the more profound the change a character faces by the end of the story, the more profound the story becomes.

That’s why we resonate with shows like breaking bad.

Through five seasons, the show sets up the nicest man in the world and turns him into the devil.

We get to watch that transformation happen and the lies he tells himself and those around him to get what he wants.

All of this follows the story circle.

My recommendation for you is that it’s not enough to make up a fake story.

What you can do though, is restructure stories from your life in this way, so it becomes a more profound story that sticks in your ex’s brain.

It’s also important to remember that what your character wants in your story needs to affect the change you go through because you should get what you want and then realize that it’s not really what you needed.

You need to show a profound change resulting from getting what you wanted.


I know I’ve used the word ” profound ” too many times in this article, but that’s not because I love the word; it’s because your interaction with your ex needs to be genuinely profound for them to remember.

A great way to have a profound conversation is to tell a compelling story using Dan Harmon’s story circle.

But remember, you only have ten minutes to make that happen, and you have to make sure it still sounds natural. A lot of people miss that, and sometimes they come in preloaded with a fascinating story, but it flops because they cannot interact naturally.

Be natural, have a good story to tell, and practice telling it in the way of the story circle.

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