We’ve all had this experience; we’re left on read for a text message and those 3 annoying bubbles show up – disappear and then show up again only to finally leave us with a blank screen and that awful feeling of having been ghosted.
It’s a real thing – even in the workplace. As recruiters, we see it often, and may even unintentionally be guilty of it on occasion (wince).
So, why would someone ghost?
- They got busy and replying slipped their mind.
- They lost the message.
- The message went to spam (really).
- A new urgent personal or professional obligation came up, and priorities were shifted.
- They dropped their phone down a ravine and have to get a new one.
- You pissed them off. While we would like to believe that ALL ghosting is unintentional, the truth is that ghosts sometimes discontinue communication and don’t feel that they owe an explanation when they feel insulted even when you don’t know why you offended them.
- and most often – they’re uncomfortable and don’t want to or don’t know how to tell you no.
What can you do to avoid being ghosted or being perceived as a ghost? It’s all about communication.
- Remain transparent in your own communication. This opens the door for others to feel more comfortable doing the same.
- Discuss realistic response time expectations upfront. It’s human nature to not disappoint.
- Try to make a personal connection. You’re more likely to receive a reply from someone who feels like they know and genuinely likes and respect you.
- Expect the other person to be a grown-up about the NO (and be that too).
- Live by the golden rule – you hate it – so don’t do it to someone else.
- DON’T just send a text and then not answer your phone, (remember the three bubbles, this is even worse).
- If you’re too busy or something has come up, and you don’t have a moment to talk, remember that it takes less than one minute to send a quick note to let someone know that you haven’t forgotten them and that you intend to reply as soon as possible.
Ghosting is more than an annoyance! There can be unexpected professional consequences.
- You won’t be taken seriously by the ghostee when you need them (and you might).
- Ghosting reflects poorly on your personal brand.
- You’ll miss out on opportunities – because now you’re off the love list. Maybe it’s a “no” now, but it could be a “yes” in the future.
- You’ll miss out on building a meaningful professional network.
- Being ghosted isn’t usually something that someone easily forgets, and having this negative label may create long-term damage to your reputation. Especially true when it becomes a habit.
So you think you’ve been ghosted. What should you do now?
- Go for the Hail Mary! Try wit. Try flattery. Try letting them know you’re not willing to give up on them just yet. However you go about it, you increase your odds of a reply if you are providing another opportunity.
- If the Hail Mary doesn’t work, and it’s a definite ghost situation, be respectful. There is no way to know why you were ghosted, and you can’t control the circumstances of someone else’s actions, but you can control your own integrity. Don’t play a role in damaging their reputation, you don’t have all the facts.
- If and when ghost circles back, don’t respond by being a ghost in return. It’s okay to be direct about your concerns about continuing a professional relationship that requires timely responsiveness. Did we mention that maintaining transparency encourages the same in return?
Ghosting is an unfortunate 21st century phenomenon – we can all agree. And the professional impact of this style of communication is even worse. We’ve become so accustomed to using tech to communicate and to avoid communication that it can be easy to forget that you are corresponding with another human being. However, we remain hopeful that as professionals learn how to deal with being ghosted and the urge to ghost, ghosting will become a thing of the past.