A New Kind of Ghost
As a young girl, I was used to hearing about ghosts in the month of October. Of course, right? Skeletons, goblins, jack-o-lanterns, and ghosts. They’re all part of the scariness and fun of Halloween.
In recent years, though, ghosting has taken on a new meaning. It first made its presence known in the online dating world and even found its way into the dictionary as a new entry in 2017:
Ghosting: the act or practice of abruptly cutting off all contact with someone (such as a former romantic partner) usually without explanation by no longer accepting or responding to phone calls, instant messages, etc.
Today, ghosting isn’t just for online daters. It’s present in the professional world as well.
Professional ghosting is the employee who stops showing up at work without giving any notice or replying to your attempts to reach out.
It’s the prospective client who said she couldn’t wait to get started and then stops replying to your emails or picking up your calls.
It’s the colleague who not only declines your lunch invitations but also seems to dodge any communication with you.
Why It Happens
There are as many reasons for professional ghosting as there are professional ghosters!
A few reasons the ghosting could be happening:
- People are busy. They hop from one meeting to another. They skim an email quickly before beginning a client call and then forget to go back to said email. They rush out of work to get to the soccer game and neglect to follow up with you by the end of the day as they said they would. People are overwhelmed, overcommitted, and busy.
- People choose comfort over discomfort. I’ve yet to meet anyone who tells me they love having uncomfortable conversations. Conversations where a job candidate is told he’s not getting hired. Conversations where a service provider hears, “Thank you, but we’re moving in a different direction.” In the short term, the comfort of silence over the discomfort of the conversation is chosen.
- People have differing priorities. The top of your priority list might be the bottom of someone else’s. You’re ready to move forward with a new client relationship or a new job opportunity or a new project. The other person? (S)he might be doing all (s)he can just to stay afloat with today’s commitments.
What to Do About It
Ghosting can have a deep psychological impact on the person being ghosted. All too often, the person being ghosted takes responsibility for the experience. The ghostee thinks things like:
Maybe I was too pushy.
This could be because I dropped the ball on that project last month and caused a late delivery to the client.
I’m a mess, and I understand why that person doesn’t want to have anything to do with me now.
The ghostee takes the ghosting personally rather than for what it is. A circumstance that happened.
One effective approach is to ask yourself the question, What am I making this mean about me?
In answering that question, you give yourself the gift of introspection and an opportunity to take the weight off your shoulders, the weight that’s only there when you blame yourself for being ghosted.
How to Move Past It
I’m no stranger to ghosting. As a small business owner, I’ve had my fair share of prospective clients who don’t reply to my emails, take my calls and/or pay the initial invoice.
It never feels good, but I’ve discovered each ghosting experience includes an important lesson for me.
The practice I’ve found to be most helpful and healing is a Close the Loop process. After receiving no reply from a professional contact, I reach out again. And sometimes again.
If the no-response response is consistent, I close the loop with a final message expressing my appreciation for their time and honesty in our prior communications. And then I wish them all the best. Essentially I put a bow on our professional relationship which allows me to clear any mental clutter I may have been storing in my brain.
And then I ask the question I ask myself frequently: How is this perfect for me? In other words, what have I gained, what will I commit to not doing to someone else, how does this ghosting actually help me?
Where Do We Go Next
Ghosting is unfortunately a practice that isn’t likely to go away anytime soon.
The good news? You’re in complete control of how you manage being ghosted as well as how you move forward when the easiest solution in the moment might be to ghost someone rather than dive into that uncomfortable conversation.
You know what it feels like on the receiving end. And so you buckle up and move to the responsible, mature conversation that will ultimately keep those ghosts away. At least until Halloween. You can count on those ghosts every single year!