Ghosting happens when someone disconnects from you for seemingly no reason. Poof! One day they’re gone. This action generally leaves the other person in a state of pain, stress, worry, or, at the very least, wonder. Ghosting isn’t about someone disconnecting when feeling harassed, threatened, unsafe, abused, or when communicated boundaries have been crossed in some way. Survival situations are not ghosting situations. Some will say ghosting is OK under normal circumstances. I wholeheartedly disagree. It’s psychologically, emotionally, and socially damaging and cruel. It speaks volumes about the ghoster’s inability to process and communicate thoughts or emotions effectively and the action steps moving forward. As you can imagine, ghosting has deeper roots than just poor communication.
You may see this a lot when dating, but did you know it can happen in business too? A recent conversation reminded me of this experience…
Before the term ghosting was trendy, I applied for a job. I went through two interviews and a prepared presentation, as I moved up the hiring process. I received my presentation feedback and I was told I would hear something either way. That day never came, even after several status inquiries. I knew there were just a handful of applicants left. Weeks later, I found out they did, indeed, fill the position, but no one I knew received correspondence that a decision was made. My initial reaction was one of disappointment, but as I sat with how the experience unfolded, I was grateful that I wasn’t hired. This was a communication style that I didn’t value. Ultimately, I questioned the company’s culture. I never applied for any other position that they offered in the future.
Submitting an initial application and not hearing back is a natural, common occurrence. I still don’t label this as ghosting. Personally, and professionally, the energy shifts once a relationship is established and, as humans do, expectations and perceptions are created.
People, especially in personal relationships, use ghosting to either avoid emotions or conflict or as a power play (manipulation). Both motivations can be unconscious. Ghosting is not a strategy. It's a sign of dysfunctional communication. Unfortunately, it has become normalized over the years. Whether you're the ghoster or ghostee, it may be an uncomfortable, even devastating process with potentially long-term consequences, but this is an opportunity to expand your awareness. For each, there are ways to bounce back and perspectives to embrace and truths to be uncovered.
If you’re a manager, leader, healer, or human using ghosting as a communication strategy, consider exploring with a professional why you’re avoiding or manipulating, and then challenge yourself to apply new communication skills that build trust and safety. If you’re the recipient of ghosting, do your best to find the gift in the disconnect, explore the bigger picture of what needed to fall away to create something new, including finding new connections. More than likely you will stress over an explanation or role you may have played, but I caution you not to go down a rabbit hole of storytelling, guessing, worry and shame. This mystery will only block you from your growth, eventually giving your power and self-worth over to the ghoster. Being ghosted has no correlation with your self-worth. Finally, be prepared to face the fact that you may never, ever, know the truth.