by Dr. Sandra Hamilton | Featured Contributor
Having a friend, date, or co-worker be a “no-show” is not a new story, but technology has transformed the “no-show” into a “no muss, no fuss” vanishing act called ghosting. For those of you that have been spared, ghosting is the act of terminating communication with a love interest, and intentionally avoiding contact with no explanation. Though the term specifically refers to dating relationships; we know that our friends, spouses, and relatives are just as capable of vaporizing into the ether.
Dating surveys suggest that these inexplicable disappearing acts have become a disturbing and accepted trend in relationship etiquette. Their findings show that both males and females have engaged in ghosting behavior or have been ghosted as a way to end a dating relationship. These results range from nearly 11% of Huffington Post participants; to approximately 25% of Survey Monkey respondents; and now in 2016, a staggering 80% of online daters, ages 18 to 33 years, acknowledged that they have been ghosted. Though survey methods are known to have multiple flaws, these results suggest that the ghosting phenomenon has become a common practice of the break-up ritual.
Why do people unilaterally cease all contact for no apparent reason? Do they share the lifeless characteristics of a heartless ghost? Probably not — it’s more likely that electronic communication enables cowardice and reinforces passivity. Ghosting is an expression of how we separate from uncomfortable relationships, and may reflect a general pattern of avoidance that we bring to our friendships, jobs, and family connections.
CONSIDER THE FOLLOWING 4 REASONS TO SHOW UP INSTEAD OF DISAPPEAR:
1. Inaction speaks as loudly as action.
Silence carries as much meaning as any other form of communication. The difference is that the message is harder to decipher and more likely to be misinterpreted. In the absence of information, the ghosted party may create an inaccurate story instead of assuming your lack of interest. In fact, caring souls may be concerned that something unfortunate happened to you.
2. Connection provides closure.
Direct communication reduces negativity and provides closure for all parties. Valuable time and energy won’t be spent on wondering about how to handle the lack of contact and will spare both of you of awkward moments in the future. Closing the loop also provides an opportunity to clarify assumptions. You may be surprised to find the lack of interest is mutual!
3. Showing up is an expression of strength.
Showing up will not only allow the other to know where they stand with you — you will know where you stand with yourself. Kindly telling the truth is a display of your power to have hard conversations, commitment to finish what you started, and compassion to see beyond your own needs. It takes less than five minutes to save someone from feeling unworthy of your attention.
4. It’s the human thing to do.
You are a person, not a poltergeist. It’s not easy to tell a friend, romantic partner, or relative that you don’t want to spend time with them; but you are more likely to create what you want to avoid if you don’t communicate directly. You increase the likelihood of future conflict, having your intentions misunderstood, and sustaining unnecessary negative feelings. People deserve the respect of knowing that their relationship has changed with you instead of feeling haunted by confusion and unanswered questions. They may not appreciate your decision, but they will respect your honesty. The choice is yours: respond as human with a heart, or fade away like a soulless ghost.
Dr. Sandra Hamilton
While taking pre-med classes at the University of California, Santa Barbara, I became so distracted by psychology courses that I changed my major to pursue a Ph.D. in clinical psychology. My contributions to She Owns It are drawn from the professional perspective of a clinical psychologist, as well as the personal point of view of a single working mother and entrepreneur. I have maintained an independent psychology practice for over 20 years, taught as an adjunct assistant professor for over a decade, and somehow managed to survive raising two spirited daughters.
My expertise is grounded in years of working with individuals, couples, and families who have worked their way through catastrophic experiences as well as the inevitable demands of adult life. I admire their tenacity each time they schedule another session in the face of painful insights and difficult feelings.
Therapy is not a haircut. It’s not a quick fix, and you don’t always feel better when you leave.