Thinking of ghosting? Here are some things to remember before going through with it.
I have to admit, this post is a direct personal response to some of the ghosting I’ve witnessed and experienced lately in a multitude of spheres. This phenomenon of disappearing (literally or via stopping to return texts, calls, emails or by making false excuses), instead of telling someone honestly why you no longer want to engage or be in relationship is, in my opinion, the antithesis of accountability. Human relationships feel a lot more disposable these days, with the ability to ‘leave someone on read’ so easy and widely accepted.
To be clear there are going to be times when avoidance and ghosting are the appropriate paths to choose for one’s safety or wellbeing, but those are not the situations I am exploring or insinuating here. In my experience, most of the ghosting I have witnessed has been used as a way to: ‘spare someone’s feelings’, avoid having to tell the truth or to procrastinate making a decision. In those instances you are not risking your safety, but instead avoiding taking responsibility for your actions or choices.
When your safety isn’t at risk but you’re considering ghosting because you’re worried, indecisive or avoidant, remember that:
You have a right to your own needs and boundaries (the right to say no)
You are allowed to say no, to not want something to continue, to want to leave, etc. Knowing your needs and boundaries is a good thing and stating them models that behaviour to others. You do not need to feel bad for wanting to leave or to say no.
You are not responsible for the feelings of others and how they react but you are responsible for your actions and behaviour
People’s feelings are their own and you are not responsible for someone being upset or hurt or even angry for you stating your needs or boundaries. However, you are responsible for your actions and behaviours and their impact on others.
You cannot control someone’s reaction or response, and that avoidance (in this case ghosting) often doesn’t minimize ‘negative’ response
Again, you have no control over how someone will respond to stating a need or boundary. But avoidance or ghosting when someone is seeking, initiating or expecting communication with you is likely not going to de-escalate a situation. You cannot expect others to intuit your needs, boundaries, decisions, choices, etc. It is your responsibility to let others know.
Your response and reaction matters because it is the one aspect of the situation you can control
The way you choose to respond, even though it cannot guarantee the outcome, can contribute to the outcome. An honest and compassionate response even if it hurts to receive, offers feedback, closure and reinforces that that person still deserves basic human care even if you no longer want to engage with them.
Your triggers are your responsibility and often ghosting is a symptom of the stress ‘flight’ response
Often people ghost because they’re afraid they’ll hurt someone, that conflict will erupt and that it will trigger them. Or perhaps the reason you want to ghost is because a person unknowingly triggered you. Here I would refer you back to the points above and to the infographic I made on ‘tips for confronting someone when you’re worried’.
Unless safety is truly at risk, honesty builds trust, offers closure, and demonstrates respect for other people’s feelings, time and energy
In a world where treating people like they are disposable has become the norm, being upfront and honest (while obviously adhering to your own boundaries and needs, because those matter, too) is truly a transformative act that models accountability and humility.
I know that this is a controversial topic and perhaps people have varying opinions on my take, and that is fine! But everyone who has been ghosted knows how bad it feels and we have all likely ghosted someone else. We are stuck in this cycle that in my opinion further promotes flawed (unsuccessful) notions of ‘individual self care’ over actual community care, and disposability over accountability.
Thanks for coming to my ted talk! I urge you to self reflect and sit with your discomfort next time the desire to ghost presents itself.