Ghostbusting: Unmasking the Unacceptable Art of Disappearing
In the last few years, I have been astonished by the lack of mature communication that has become common place in our culture. Professionally, and personally, ghosting is a childish way of communicating a desire to end engagement.
"Ghosting" is a phenomenon perhaps adopted by a generation that has evolved with a lack of accountability, and has been accepted as a common practice of cutting off relationships. However, the repercussions of avoiding uncomfortable conversations are numerous. Not only does this behavior reflect poor character and a lack emotional intelligence, it has the ability to be extremely disruptive to the other parties involved.
To illustrate consider the situation of a patient who abruptly discontinues therapy. A patient that suddenly stops coming to therapy is doing an injustice to themselves and the therapist. The ending of therapy provides a unique opportunity in that it provides the patient the space to address the complex emotions involved with ending a relationship. Simultaneously, the desire to end the therapeutic relationship warrants validation. A patient has every right to end their therapy treatment, and/or look for a different therapist. Asserting this desire is a way of reinforcing self-worth and decision making. On the other end of the relationship the therapist is shown respect and consideration, and not left guessing or hypothesizing about the fate of their patient.
In addition to the emotional toll, ghosting can have significant professional repercussions. Avoiding e-mails and phone calls in a professional setting is harmful to your brand. Under the normal course of business, it is likely there will come a time to pivot from a working relationship, and how you approach moving on will impact how you move forward. Responding is a form of respect, not just for the other party, but also for yourself as a professional. Nothing says “I don’t take myself serious” than flakey communication. Your brand offers legitimacy to the work you offer. Ghosting a potential client or customer tarnishes that brand and instead paints the picture of an imposter business.
Furthermore, it's important to consider the long-term consequences. In the article “Ghosting- The Most Hurtful Way To End A Relationship” by Romana Hrivnakova, the more personal consequences of ghosting are highlighted. Hrivnakova illuminates the emotional affects of being ghosted, such as experiencing confusion, a sense of betrayal, and low self-esteem. The seemingly harmless tactic of avoiding an uncomfortable conversation can have dire impact for the person on the receiving end. Themes of abandonment and rejection have the propensity to reemerge, which can lead to obsessive-thoughts and erratic behavior. Research has also shown that the (not so) simple experience of being ignored can lead to significant distress resulting in emotional dysregulation and even physical pain. Being ignored is not easy to ignore. As as result, individuals who have been ghosted may experience long-lasting emotional challenges.
While some may argue that ghosting is a quick solution, it is essential to consider the damage it can cause. Ghosting is an efficient way to sever a relationship or communicate disinterest. However, it also translates to “you are invisible to me” and “not worthy of time or consideration”. In contrast, addressing uncomfortable conversations head-on can lead to healthier outcomes. Approaching personal and professional communication with assertiveness and clarity promotes the perception of an authentic and serious person. Yes, some conversations are difficult and can be cause for discomfort, but so is branding yourself as unprofessional or immature.
At the very least it’s rude and tacky.