As a former CIA military analyst, Cindy Otis has faced some incredibly difficult situations.

"For most of my career as a CIA military analyst and manager, I was around negative or disturbing content," Otis writes in an email. "It was my job to look at security issues — such as political instability, war, and terrorism — in foreign countries and help senior U.S. government officials think through what they could do about them. It was important in my career to find ways of coping with the deluge of information so that I could be useful to the federal government while still maintaining my humanity."

Photo courtesy of Cindy Otis.

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Imagine you're getting ready to drop some bad news on someone. Say, breaking off a months-long relationship.

"I'm not sure how to say this," you start. "This has been really great. Dating you has been a lot of fun. You're really wonderful. And—" You roll out a string of platitudes and compliments, dreading and delaying the part that comes next, when you finally say "It's over."

You think you're being nice. Protecting their feelings. You don't want to be coldhearted, right?

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