Ghosting (v.) The act of suddenly ceasing all communication with someone the subject is dating, but no longer wishes to date. This is done in hopes that the ghostee will just “get the hint” and leave the subject alone, as opposed to the subject simply telling them he/she is no longer interested.
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Urban Dictionary has nailed the definition of the hurtful phenomenon that’s become so prevalent it needed its own verb. Like Google eventually needed “google it,” “googling” and “googled,” ghosting is now a staple in our vocabulary. I mean, The New York Times even did a piece on it and the grief it causes. And while googling will never become something I cut from my life (I literally google every word I can’t spell, so it’s gotta stay), I am here to make the case that we all should cut ghosting out of our lives forever.
I’ve recently become quite the Sugar Radio addict. For those of you who don’t know, it’s Cheryl Strayed’s podcast, a spin-off of her wildly beloved advice column, “Dear Sugar.” It was their recent podcast episode “Haunted By Ghosting,” that made me firmly become anti-ghosting, confirming my belief that it truly is a casual phenomenon turned epidemic, leaving a path of unresolved broken hearts splayed behind us all. As I sat there listening to three stories of ghosting, my heart physically ached for all those involved: the ghosted, left out in the cold questioning themselves, and even the ghoster, haunted by their own actions years later.
It’s true, I’m sure some time in all our lives, we will all be both the ghoster and the ghosted, both an uncomfortable place, but it’s time to do our part to clean up the broken hearts on aisle “I’m too afraid of conflict to take responsibility for my actions.” Because the truth is that by ghosting someone, you are deeply hurting them, leaving them questioning their own self-worth in order to avoid five minutes of discomfort for yourself. This is a lopsided and even cruel exchange. Life’s hard enough without being ghosted, so here are tips to help you avoid the easy but eventually more damaging road.
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1. Be direct. Always.
In the episode on ghosting I mentioned above, the guest mentioned a friend who no matter how small the relationship, even just a coffee meet up, would write the person a note if she knew she no longer wanted to proceed. It might sound excessive, but if you think about it, this is the kindest human being on the planet. She’s taking the risk that the person might say, “Whoa! This wasn’t even serious,” in order to be kind to a fellow human being. I was amazed. So, when it comes to the person you’re sure you no longer want in your life or text messages, be direct with them. In my experience, guys normally get defensive and say “I wasn’t even into you like that!” but take one for the team and be direct anyway.
2. Write a direct but kind message.
Here’s a draft you can use if you find yourself in a sticky situation that you’re wanting to end. “Hey __. While I’ve enjoyed our conversations, I’m feeling myself pulled in a different direction and wanted to be honest with you that I’m no longer feeling this. I wish you the best though.”
3. But what if they won’t take no for an answer?!
That’s fine! You’ve done your part to communicate with them honestly. You’ve truthfully stated where you stand. Now, you can responsibly not reply to any messages going forward.
4. Ask yourself why it’s so hard for you to be direct.
If you’re finding that being direct is too difficult for you, dig deeper. Really ask yourself, “Why am I willing to hurt someone by stringing them along in order to avoid something difficult?” Maybe this is a great opportunity for you to face some fears and learn how to step up in times of conflict. From experience, conflict doesn’t just pop up in romantic relationships, you’ll eventually have to step up at work, with professors, with parents, and even friendships. Take this as practice. You got this!
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