The Psychology of Ghosting
What is Ghosting?
Did your client tell you they’ve been ghosted? Here’s what it means and what you can do to help them.
Ghosting has been defined as “the practice of ending a personal relationship with someone by suddenly and without explanation withdrawing from all communication”. Once a rare phenomenon, ghosting has permeated the dating and social world. About 50% of men and women report being either the ghost or the “ghostee”, according to an article from Psychology Today.
Why is Ghosting a “Thing”?
Ending relationships of any sort is both painful and awkward. People who have ghosted revealed their reasons why. Some people ghost because the person they were interacting with did not have mutual connections, some people experience a moment that is triggering of a past relationship, others do it because it is “easy” in the world of online dating and social connection.
The common theme around these reasons for ghosting is to avoid the feeling of shame. When someone has to cancel plans or have the awkward discussion of “this isn’t working out”, it makes that person appear flaky or anti-social. Avoidance of feeling guilty or ashamed of rejecting another person is said to be “easier” than having a difficult discussion, says people who have done the ghosting in their relationships.
In a way, ghosting is a form of social preservation. Because of the low-risk when two people do not share mutual connections, the risk of losing friends over a break-up is not present. This creates an easy way out of an undesirable social connection. But at what cost?
The $$$ of Ghosting
While perception may be that ghosting is a socially low-risk behavior, the emotional toll on the person being ghosted can be great. Ghosting creates a sense of ambiguity. Did something happen to the person that caused them to not call or show up? Was that person angry? This ambiguity causes the brain to experience anxiety as questions remain unanswered and the brain makes predictions. In fact, this emotional torment can cause people to take pain relievers, which have been effective in ameliorating the unpleasant experience of ghosting.
What Can Your Client Do About Ghosting?
Avoid being the ghost-er. As technology changes, social connections and interactions evolve. While social media and apps bring people together, they can foster new behaviors than can be socially beneficial or detrimental. It is important to show people courtesy, even if it is uncomfortable to be in that negative light. You’ll resolve a situation, and be able to move onward as a social butterfly.
If your client is the “ghostee”, you can help them do the following:
- Recognize that people ghost for a variety of silly reasons.
- Remember that they aren’t the only ones.
- Breathe. This too shall pass. Remind them that they’ll meet many people who will come in and out of their life.
While ghosting is becoming a common phenomenon and many people have their stories, it is important to treat people with respect. Encouraging your client to be open about their thoughts and feelings fosters social connection and can help them navigate and avoid difficult situations.