- Ghosting is a common rejection strategy in professional and personal situations, because most people fear saying no.
- Ghosting doesn’t hurt feelings more than outright rejection, but it causes different and meaningful kinds of suffering.
- We owe each other clarity when we say no, but we don’t have to explain why.
Why Ghosting May Be Even More Harmful Than We Thought
When you’ve ghosted someone—given them hope of a job, date, friendship, or relationship of any kind, and then just stopped responding—you probably weren’t trying to be mean. You just wanted to avoid an awkward conversation. Or thought it would be kinder not to say why you rejected them. Maybe you were embarrassed. Maybe you were a little lazy, or just simply moved on and forgot. I’ve ghosted people. And been ghosted. You probably have too.
Ghosting is common, professionally and personally. In a 2021 employment survey, 77% of job seekers reported having been ghosted by a prospective employer in the past year, 10% even after a verbal job offer was made. It goes both ways; 28% of job seekers report having ghosted a prospective employer and 76% of employers report having been ghosted by a prospective employee, with some even no-showing on their first day. A quarter of the participants in a 2018 dating survey reported having been ghosted by someone they were dating. (Not just someone who had expressed interest but who had actually gone out with them.)
The opportunity costs to the rejects are clear: they could have been pursuing other leads. In employment situations, the delay might cost money as well. It’s probably not a surprise that ghosts are often perceived as immature, untrustworthy, or cowards by the people they passively rejected. But those people might have had other bad feelings if the breakup had been more direct, right?
There isn’t a lot of empirical research on ghosting, but at least two studies find that people who are ghosted don’t feel worse overall (or better) than people who are outright rejected, and people who are ghosted don’t suffer the negative consequences that people who are “breadcrumbed” do. (Breadcrumbing is minimal engagement to keep someone’s interest without any actual investment or commitment. It’s associated with more loneliness and helplessness, and lower satisfaction with life for the person on the other side.)
But even if people rejected by ghosts don’t report suffering……………………………………..
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