The Psychology of Ghosting: What is Says About You

“Ghosting,” “Houdini,” “Slow fade out.”  Whatever you choose to call it, singles in the current dating culture know exactly what it means.  This is an increasingly popular method for ending a romantic connection with someone by simply disappearing from his or her life without explanation or warning.  It has become a dating norm.  One day you’re cuddled up with someone, the next day all communication has ceased and the person has virtually vanished. 

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Most people who have experienced this phenomenon report feeling blindsided and disrespected.  They didn’t see it coming, and are often left wondering, “Was I not deserving of an explanation or some type of closure?”  Back in the day we used to get so offended by a break-up over text, and now we don’t even get a text at all. 

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Based on what I know anecdotally, ghosting has become a more and more common method used disinterest in someone.  I hear this from clients and friends alike.  There is little to no substantial research on the topic of ghosting, but in a recent Huffington Post survey, out of 1,000 people questioned, 11% admitted to ghosting.  An Elle survey of a smaller group revealed that 33% of the males questioned had ghosted someone, and 24% of the females had ghosted.  Yikes.  The growing disregard for others is a bit troubling.

So, what does it say about a person when they choose to end a dating situation by ghosting?  There are a lot of messages being communicated by this silence.  First of all, this is a very avoidant and passive-aggressive tactic.  Ghosting communicates to others that you are afraid of criticism, unwilling to admit wrongdoing, or uncomfortable with conflict.  It may also suggest to others that you are unable or unwilling to recognize the feelings of others, have a sense of entitlement, don’t believe that you owe any explanation, feel indifferent towards the other person, or lack empathy.

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To put this in perspective; a narcissistic personality type is characterized by arrogance, entitlement, difficulty handling criticism, exaggerated sense of self-importance, constant need for approval and admiration, and a lack of empathy.  Anti-social personality is characterized by a disregard for right and wrong (lacking moral compass), disregard for the wishes and feelings of others, indifference towards others, and also a lack of empathy.  These are extreme comparisons (and I’m not suggesting all ghosters are narcissistic or anti-social), but I’m sure you can see some overlap with qualities associated with ghosting.  As we become more disconnected from the feelings of others, more self-absorbed and self-interested, and less responsible or accountable for how our behavior affects others; we move closer to these antisocial personality profiles.

What kind of person do you want to be, and what type of message do you want to send others about who you are?  Food for thought when deciding how to end your next romantic encounter.

My advice for those who have been ghosted (it happens to the best of us):

  1. Don’t take it personally. Ghosting speaks volumes about the other person.  The way you choose to react to it speaks volumes about you.
  2. Don’t stay emotionally invested in the other person. Do you really want to date someone who is avoidant, non-responsive, and disregarding of your feelings?
  3. Let it go. Move on.  There are plenty of people on the market, so get excited about the next one.
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