It hurts when all of a sudden a friend cuts off contact. Mostly because you’re left in the dark about what’s gone wrong when they’ve chosen to withdraw, rather than communicate their feelings.
“Generally speaking, people ghost others because they aren’t comfortable with having that always confronting conversation of ending a friendship,” says relationship coach Debbie Rivers. “They will avoid having to explain what the problem was and having the person argue and try to talk them out of it.”
Why being ghosted sucks
Being ghosted can be a distressing and confusing experience, especially when it’s done by someone close to you. “Ghosting is heartless and even cruel,” Rivers explains. “It leaves the other person wondering what happened and thinking that they did something wrong. It leaves them hanging with so many unanswered questions.”
Technology makes us more reachable than ever, but it also makes it easier to avoid face-to-face conversations. “It becomes easier to just stop messaging, as you don’t have to deal with facing the consequences of your actions in the real world,” Rivers says. “Doing something on a phone removes the reality of it to some degree.”
What to do when you’ve been ghosted
Try not to jump to conclusions about being ghosted. If communication has dropped off between you and your friend, it could be that they’ve been busy or unwell, and they haven’t intentionally been trying to distance themselves from you. But if you suspect you’re being ghosted, the best and first thing to do is simply pick up the phone.
“Misunderstandings can be easy to solve if you are able to listen to each other,” says Rivers. “A phone call can save you pain and heartache, and you can find out if your suspicions are true.”
When you call, make sure you’re calm and open to working out the issue without finger-pointing. “Talk about how you feel without blaming the other person,” Rivers recommends. “Use a ‘soft startup’ when bringing up an issue and remember that your tone of voice matters. Use ‘I’ statements rather than ‘you’ and don’t use generalisations like ‘always’ and ‘never’ — no one always and never does something.” If your phone calls are going to voicemail, leave a message checking if everything is OK and ask that they call you back. If you don’t hear back, it can be tempting to keep calling and messaging, but it’s unlikely that will change their mind if they’re ghosting you; in fact, it may make you question the way you feel about the friendship, too.
The hardest thing about being ghosted is not knowing what went wrong. While it’s worth trying to think objectively about what the issue was, you can drive yourself crazy trying to figure it out, especially if the issue has nothing to do with you.
Moving on from a lost friendship can be difficult. Unfollowing them on social media (or deleting – but beware, this can make any future reconciliation awkward) is a good idea. “Otherwise it can be hard to move on if you are continually seeing their ‘happy’ life minus you,” says Rivers.
And avoid becoming a ‘ghoster’ yourself, especially now that you know how painful it can be. “You never know when it might come back to bite you,” Rivers adds. “One of my favourite stories is of a woman who went for an interview and her interviewer was someone she had ghosted!”
This story originally appeared in Fernwood magazine.