Needing escape – and the tiny sense of forward motion that hopping on the freeway always gives me – I headed to a bookstore. Heading towards the Fiction isle, two twenty-somethings were already there, in deep discussion. Not about books, but job searches. One guy was doing most of the talking. A recent interview, he said, “seemed to go really well.” But two weeks later, “no call, no email; nothing.” The guy said to his friend, “I guess they just ‘ghosted’ me.” As I moved away (listening now felt weird) I thought about how blasé he sounded. An ‘Oh well’, or, ‘Whatever’ release of disappointment. In my head I made a writer’s response…”Trending: Ghosting Behavior for Dummies – How to Avoid Tough Conversations and Avoid Blame.” So many people seem to be doing it – why not call it out?
I haven’t been ghosted very often in my life. Most of the time, relationships that I’ve had that went-south-and-silent (“we just drifted apart”) felt like mutual agreement. But one instance in particular was personal, painful, and not at all something I wanted or felt I deserved.
It’s helpful to accept that ‘ghosting’ says more about the Ghost, than the Victim being left to wonder: WTF? Still, when I was on the receiving end some years back, the relationship had been the most constant, and important one in my life for decades. My mind checked-out. It was my heart that was shattered. My sense of worth and lovability as a human being? In total question.
The hallmark of true ghosting is that you never hear from, or see the person again in this lifetime. After I’d healed emotionally (it took longer than I hoped), I used to waste time on a fantasy. Accidentally bumping-into my Ghost; letting-loose a cascade of verbal abuse. Actually, I just wanted to know Why?
But that’s the thing about being ghosted; the power of the Ghost. “I’m going to shut your shit down and you will never even know why!”
People who ghost others – as I would write in my pretend-book (“Ghosting for Dummies”) – do it because they lack both skill, and motivation. Motivation to at least try to fake being an empathetic human being: “Here’s why you didn’t get the job”. Skill, because there’s not only time-management involved (creating space for conversation), but actual words that need to be spoken in a clear and compassionate way.
I’ll be the first one to admit that, when I have to have a tough talk (a performance review, or – much more rare – explain why a relationship needs to end), I’d just rather not. I’ve never liked to be the deliverer of what I know is going to feel hurtful.
In a lot of situations, ‘ghosting’ the person would be the easiest thing to do. Still, this is basically admitting…”I’m not comfortable with who I am. So much so, that I don’t know how to talk to you in a way that will make you feel valued.”
People who ‘ghost’ others might just do it to save time (like the manager who didn’t respond, post-interview). But rejecting another human being without explaining ‘the why’ is just that: pure rejection. I’ve known more than a few people who totally enjoy doing this.
What amazes me is how normalized ghosting has become. But for me, Living Bravely means making the effort and taking the time to be gentle and patient with myself. It also means extending those same considerations to anyone I have a meaningful relationship with.