Ghosting People is Not Etiquette-ful

Ghosting Someone

Ghosting people, abruptly ending communication with someone without explanation, often refers to romantic relationships, but equally applies to friendships and even family and workplace relationships.

If there has been steady communication and suddenly you stop responding, the other person feels rejected, dropped, and even betrayed.  There is no “break up” and no closure. It’s a terrible feeling!

The Etiquette-ful Way

It’s only polite, considerate, and respectful to let someone know that you aren’t interested in continuing your relationship as it is currently.  Regardless, you don’t want to make an enemy for life, so the way in which you shift your relationship is vital.

Etiquette is always relational, situational, and contextual, so thinking ahead of time about how you want to come out on this can help.

  • Relationally, fostering connection is a goal, and that means acknowledging the things you like and have appreciated about the other person.
  • Situationally, things have changed, and it is time to cut back on the time you spend with the person in question.
  • Contextually, your new rules and how you regulate yourself will be interpreted in context of your new situation.

In other words, choosing to separate from this person is about you and your needs.  It is not about them or their needs.  When you use “I” statements and avoid “You” statements, blame is shifted and your “responding-ability” is increased.

What to Do Instead of Ghosting People

When a reader wrote to ask if there were a polite way for ghosting people, I had to confess that I have committed that rudeness in the past.  Sometimes, we look for the easiest, smoothest way to exit a situation.  And while it may work in the immediate present, not handling things in a way that honors the needs of both parties involved can come back on us in the future.

There isn’t just one way to separate yourself or end a relationship with someone, and a permanent ending may not be necessary.  But taking the time to decide what the best method is for your situation will be worth it for your peace of mind.

  1. Ask to speak with your friend in person, or by phone if you live a distance away.  Be honest, brief, and express appreciation for the relationship you’ve had.
    “Michelle, I appreciate the fun we’ve had in the past, but I’ve realized the best thing for me at this time would be to go our separate ways.  Please know that I wish you the very best.”
    “Don, I appreciate that you are a fun-loving guy, but my lifestyle is asking me to cut back and focus more on the things that I need in my world.  I think a little space to do that is what I need most right now.”
    ”I love the time we spend together, Marie, but I’m at a place where I need more time for me.  I’d rather just get together once a week or so to catch up and have a meal.  May I call you in a few days to set something up?” 
  2. Never blame or shame.
  3. Always be silent after you speak and let the other person talk.  Listen, and express that you understand what they are saying.
  4. Remember that “less is more” when responding, and “I am sorry this has hurt you,” is appropriate.
  5. Stay positive and let the other person know that you have learned from your relationship.

Whether you or someone else has been ghosted, there will always be confusion.  Empathy should be a number one priority, regardless of which side of the fence you are on.

There are very few circumstances in which ghosting people is the answer to ending a relationship or taking time to evaluate one.  Being up front and honest in the kindest possible way, will always be appreciated and creates the opportunity for friendly terms in the future.

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