Remember that time when you met someone who really caught your interest? You talked for a bit, said good bye, exchanged a few messages… You felt you were in a flow – a wonderful alignment. So you send the next message, and… nothing happens. Silence. You write again – maybe something happened? Maybe you did something wrong?! But nothing happens. Except for a deafening radio silence.
The behavior above – engaging in a conversation with someone, then dropping off and disappearing without a word like a donkey in the fog, as we would say in Romania – is called ghosting.
There are few things in life that have a bigger toxic impact on our mental health than ghosting.
Why is that?
Ghosting – or talking to someone who doesn’t answer – pushes our brains to look for answers.
Our brains are brilliant like that – the moment you give them an empty space, they will rush to fill it with meaning. But in the absence of response and context, our brains will fill in the empty space with speculation, assumptions, presuppositions, and endless anguish.
Now, we, women, are brilliant at taking things personally 😊. This is because, in the absence of hefty self-reflection and regular training of our emotional intelligence muscles, we may fall on automatic pilot, which for us has been defined for millennia as an excessive focus on others + a deep need to be liked and to have everyone around us be happy (so we can feel safe – but that’s for another blog post).
So, we want to be liked, we want everyone with whom we come in contact to be happy, we are particularly focused on relations AND we are not always wise enough to build the critical distance to understand that other people’s behavior is not ALWAYS about us.
A toxic emotional cocktail of self-doubt impacting our capacity to trust ourselves, others, and to engage in future open communications.
WHO’S GHOSTING WHOM HERE?
Now that we spoke about the consequences of ghosting on us, women, does it mean that only men ghost?
In fact we, women, have become quite brilliant in ghosting others ourselves.
What’s worse – we do this mainly in our professional relationships.
Don’t trust me? Take the pulse of your own communication habits:
- That email you noticed and left unopened even though you knew you should answer it?
- That email you opened, read, thought about answering, then failed because you got too busy?
- Those emails you keep deleting instead of telling the other person that you are not interested in their messages?
- That note in the chat you failed to acknowledge even with a simple thumbs us emoticon despite the fact that you were tagged in the message?
- That SMS / WhatsApp / Viber note that remained unanswered because… well, you didn’t feel like dealing with it?
- That call you sent to the voice mail because it annoyed you?
And so on and so forth.
Recognize yourself in any of the behaviors above?
Yup. Welcome to the ghosting land. You have just become a ghost!
THE IMPACT OF GHOSTING ON OUR REPUTATION
Now, I get it. You are busy. You receive hundreds of messages daily on tens of communication channels.
Who on Earth has the energy to deal with them all, mainly when you are expected to be a masterful Kali, with hands in many pies and productive on several fronts at the same time?!
We are all busy. We are all over-stretched.
Yet this should not be an excuse for ghosting.
Before proposing a few alternatives for this rather cowardly behavior, let’s take a quick look at what ghosting does to our reputation.
When we ghost people around us we actually send a message that:
- We don’t really care. The person who reached out and their communication are utterly irrelevant to us.
- We are, in fact, arrogant. Who do they to think they are to be worthy of your time?! By the way, this insidious belief can catch ground when you work for a large company and you mistakenly confuse the size of the company with your own size.
- We are untrustworthy. Otherwise why would we take so long to respond?!
- We are emotionally immature. That’s why we are unable to handle a mature conversation in which we kindly ask the other person to communicate with us in a way that is manageable for us or to stop communicating completely for that matter.
Uncaring. Arrogant. Untrustworthy. Immature.
All these labels come with ghosting.
Now thing about it: who would welcome a leader who features these characteristics?
HOW TO STOP GHOSTING – FOR YOUR OWN SAKE
If ghosting can be so toxic for your mental health, relations, and reputation, what can you do to eliminate this little bugger from your life?
Here are a couple of ideas:
- Map your communication channels. Eliminate those that bother you and retain only those on which you actually want to communicate with people.
- Train your stakeholders in how YOU want them to communicate with you. I almost never pick up the phone unless we have a previously agreed upon phone call. I simply abhor interruptions, as I am usually either working with clients live, or creating content (deep work), or taking a break and resting. So, all my stakeholders, clients included, needed to be informed and “trained” that if they want something urgent from me, they need to leave me a message via WhatsApp and I will get back to them ASAP. And I do.
- Learn to say no. Often people add me to email chains I never asked for or to newsletters from which one cannot unsubscribe. Simply ask people to remove you if the communication is not purposeful for you.
Regardless of the solution you choose, a mindful and intentional approach towards communications will show that you care.
And trust me – a quick no is the second best option. Rather than letting people linger in an infinite limbo because you couldn’t be bothered to do the work, clarify your priorities in communications, and behave like an adult, finding a solution to end your ghosting will be a great next step. I am somehow certain that both your stakeholders AND your career will thank you later down the road.
YOUR NEXT STEPS:
- NEVER WALK ALONE. Struggling with immature / toxic behaviors in your communications that impact your personal brand, professional reputation, and career growth prospects? Book a call to discuss your needs and priorities, so we can craft a program that will make sense to you and lead to a positive and sustainable behavior change. My 1-1 executive coaching, mentoring, and training program NEVER WALK ALONE has been created for women leaders just like you and it’s offered for most affordable prices reflecting its quality and my 13 years of managerial development experience. Book your call now so your career can thank you down the road.
- THE CEO ELEVATION CIRCLE. Join my community of practice in leadership development and career acceleration for smart, talented, and ambitious women leaders THE CEO ELEVATION CIRCLE. Here we discuss even more topics that are holding us back at work, in career, leadership, and life – and we have a good laugh in the process. No one is perfect – but we can be wiser. And have a good chuckle at our own human condition 😊.