More On Ghosting: Rejection Dos and Don’ts
As a popular topic in dating, we’ve decided to write a follow up to our previous post on ghosting!
In his book, Getting Naked: 5 steps to finding the love of your life, author Harlan Cohen talks about the URT or Universal Truth of Rejection. The Universal Rejection Truth (URT) refers to the reality that rejection is a natural part of dating and life. As Cohen says in the book, “NOT everyone will want you. Thousands will, but millions will not.”
We can’t control that people will reject us, and alternatively, we will need to reject people. We can ease the pain of rejection by practicing rejection and endings kindly and intentionally - with as little harmful or hurtful behavior as possible. Hint: this means attempting other ways of saying goodbye besides ghosting.
Intentional dating decisions including endings and rejection, not just fading off into the ether like a lost specter.
So first, let’s define ghosting before we say not to do it.
What Is Ghosting?
Ghosting includes communication in which one party has an expectation of response and doesn’t get it. Ghosting is technically when one person doesn’t respond when the other person has a reasonable expectation of response that was set by the ghoster.
Why Do People Ghost?
- Because the ghoster wants to spare the other person’s feelings
- The ghoster doesn’t have the language to express their feelings or desire not to continue
- The ghoster feels ambivalent
- The ghoster wants to avoid anxiety or discomfort
- The ghoster feels afraid of the reaction of the other person (if the other person has been violent or verbally or emotionally abusive, this is a valid concern and could be a reason to ghost)
Why Is It Important Not To Ghost?
It’s important not to ghost because ghosting ultimately makes the ghoster and the ghostee feel worse than would direct communication. Research shows that we are bad at predicting how we will feel. Ghosters usually think ghosting will make them feel better than a direct rejection text, but in reality, the research has shown that they feel worse and will continue to feel a sense of dread and anxiety whenever confronted with their behavior or by the ghostee. Ghosting is generally not in alignment with the values of kindness or respect, which most people, consciously or unconsciously, hold. When we act in ways that are out of alignment with our values, we tend to feel guilty and heavy. So, ghosters will tend to feel guilty and seemingly inexplicably down about their behavior.
Needless to say, the ghostee, or person who has been ghosted, is left feeling confused, devalued, and without closure. Additionally, due to the innate human tendency to remember negative events (negativity bias), those who have been ghosted are more likely to remember that and see dating in a less positive light than those who have not been ghosted.
What Can One Do Instead Of Ghosting?
The short answer is to communicate simply, without story, judgment, or embellishment. As mentioned before, dating brings up ambivalence - strong feelings often in opposite directions, which can be complicated. Dating also sometimes brings up feelings of just not wanting to move forward with or date another person - for whatever reason. Whatever is coming up for you, it’s important to communicate your stance if you have started a relationship with another person, rather than avoiding communication altogether. Avoiding it may provide short term relief for you but will lead to longterm suffering or confusion for the other person and possibly yourself - it will also not support your growth process. So, what does it look like to communicate simply? Here’s an example:
“Hey I really enjoyed our date(s) and conversations about x. I don’t think we’re a romantic match but I enjoyed meeting you.
“I enjoyed our time together, but for some reason I’m not feeling called to move forward with another date. You seem great and I wish you the best!”
Further reinforcing this point is the mantra coined by Logan Ury in How Not to Die Alone, which is “Decide, don’t slide.” This idea refers to being an active partcipant in your dating life by creating decision points rather than just going with the flow of what you are feeling in a given moment. Those who intentionally decide which direction to take at different points in their relationship enjoy higher quality relationships and eventually marriages, while those who slide feel less committed and are even more likely to engage in extra marital affairs
So, as we can see, the consequences of fading away like a ghost can be more drastic for one’s love life than they likely imagine.
What Are Some Rejection Dos And Dont’s When It Comes To Not Ghosting A Person?
Decide your stance rather than just being noncommunicative and ignoring texts (decide, don’t slide!)
Say you want to be friends unless you actually do
Get into a long back and forth if they want details (unless you know them or have dated them awhile)
Criticize person or give unsolicited feedback
Hopefully this post has given you some ideas and structure for what to do instead of ghosting. Please feel free to add any ideas below of how to let someone know you aren’t interested in a kind and thoughtful way.
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