Let’s be honest — we’ve all been in a position where we have ghosted someone. Either because we wanted to avoid an unpleasant conversation or because we just couldn’t be bothered. For the uninitiated, ghosting is the act of suspending all communication with a person without any explanation.
And while it’s an unsavoury experience, it’s extremely common in the age of dating apps where options are aplenty. Unmatching or blocking someone without explanation is easy and doesn’t involve uncomfortable conversations. But what we forget is the effect it has on the other person. Being ghosted leaves a person hanging, questioning what went wrong and if it was their fault it ended. It can affect their self-esteem, confidence in relationships and dent their ability to trust. It’s a shitty feeling overall.
So, how can one avoid ghosting? For that, we must understand why people ghost in the first place. According to Hiba Siddiqui, a psycho-oncologist from Delhi, people who ghost are usually those who want to avoid confrontation because they have trouble trusting others and lack proper communication skills. “Ghosting says more about the person doing the ghosting, as it points to toxicity and a lack of communication tools. The person is often motivated to leave the relationship before the other person because of a lack of trust,” she told Re:Set.
So, what does one do when they don’t want to ghost but also want to avoid an awkward, drawn-out conversation? Siddiqui has some tips.
There’s no other real alternative to ghosting than to actually tell the person you’re not interested in engaging with them. So to make it less awkward, Siddiqui suggests practicing what you want to say beforehand. “Writing down what you want to say or saying it out loud to yourself a few times before actually saying it to the person will help in cutting down on any discomfort that may come out of it,” she said, adding that timing it right should also be considered, so as to not disrupt the other person more than necessary. “Don’t do it if they’re going into a big meeting or an exam. Time it so that they are also in a state to process the breakup,” she said.
Say exactly what you feel, in a direct manner, without mincing words so that the person is not left with any questions or misunderstandings. If you want something different out of the relationship or if you see no compatibility between you — don’t be afraid to say it. “You should be clear in what they want to say but also be kind while communicating it. The objective here is to make the other person understand your side and not offend or blame them,” said Siddiqui.
When you’re the person wanting to end any kind of relationship, it’s important not to put the onus on the other person or make them feel completely responsible. According to Siddiqui, using more statements that have ‘I’ or ‘me’ indicates that you’re taking responsibility for the feelings and actions in ending the relationship. This will also help in avoiding toxic behaviour such as gaslighting and victimization.
Modern dating trends have a lot of ambiguity, where a lot is left unsaid or is subtext. There are high chances of the other person misunderstanding you if you’re not clear in what you want. In case they persist, even after you tell them you want to end it, don’t be afraid to say a clear ‘no,’ says Siddiqui. “Draw a very clear boundary. Reiterate your point and don’t use language that can give them a loophole,” she said.
While avoiding breakups is ideal for any of us, it’s even more important to make sure you don’t lead the other person on. According to Siddiqui, having one short and simple conversation is better, as it doesn’t give the other person false hope that you are on the same page.
Siddiqui does point out, however, that there is one situation, where ghosting is an acceptable action. “If the relationship is abusive and you see a serious threat to yourself or those around you, by all means, cut off all communications and seek help immediately,” she said.