You meet someone face to face, have an engaging interaction, exchange a few emails and then …
The sentence above is deliberately left incomplete because that’s exactly our experience of being ghosted. “Ghosting” is a term used when all communication with a person suddenly ends, without explanation. It is an increasingly frequent phenomenon in our professional lives.
Having spoken with numerous people on both the receiving and giving side, I will share a few reasons as to why this happens and how to avoid it.
Let’s explore why people ghost.
Acts of disappearance are usually directly related to our level of comfort, and the desire to avoid an exchange which may feel unpleasant.
A close second reason is our level of familiarity. If we don’t know the other person well enough, they may not be a priority for us, resulting in an end to further communication.
Lastly, the act of ghosting often occurs in digital interactions by people who rely on text and email and avoid face-to-face contact. It is easier to disappear digitally.
Now, how does one avoid ghosting?
First we must understand that the behaviors of others are seldom in our control. Its more helpful to analyze our own behaviors and see what we can do differently next time, to encourage others in shedding their cloak of invisibility.
Here are a few suggestions that may help:
1) It’s not you. It’s me: As in, when you reach out to someone, your message is all about your needs. That is a major mistake.
It is even more pronounced when people are looking for career opportunities, listing what they are looking for and how they can be helped. Communicated digitally, careless phrasing and positioning can result in an instant disconnect.
An alternate approach would be to first establish a connection based on trust and likeability. Learn about the person and take an interest in them, be respectful of their time and dial down your request to something reasonable that can be accommodated without being burdensome.
2) Review your mode of communication: If you are not getting a response check your channel of communication.
Did you initially reach out via email, LinkedIn or phone messaging? Were your subsequent messages through the same channel? If you have been messaging someone say via LinkedIn, try different means of communications, such as email, etc.
Everyone has a preferred communication medium from WhatsApp to email to LinkedIn. Figuring this out can lead to improved responses.
3) Communicate Carefully, Clearly and Considerately: This is key.
What is your purpose for reaching out and what is your message about? Is it all about you? Are you asking for something which is too big or inconvenient?
I once emailed an old colleague of mine and informed her that I was setting up my business and asked if she was free to meet? I didn’t hear back. After a few weeks, I sent her a follow up WhatsApp message saying: “I have just set up my new business and wanted to know if I could refer some of my clients to you, as I am unable to manage a bigger caseload at this time”.
I got a response from her the same day, saying she’d be delighted to meet up!
4) Exit gracefully: Provide the option for the other to opt out in subsequent follow ups, instead of simply dropping off yourself.
Remind the person about your first meeting and why you enjoyed the exchange, express your understanding that they may be busy at this time and that you can always reconnect later. You will appear as being reasonable and courteous, which may just earn you a response.
5) Be patient and avoid self-sabotage: Among the most common conclusions drawn by us is: “It’s me!”, “I must have said something” or “What did I do wrong?”.
In fact, most times, the other person may just have forgotten, become too busy or had a change in situation, as was the case for one of my clients, who got retrenched from their job and was too embarrassed to respond.
6) Do unto others: We are all guilty of ghosting others and being ghosted by someone else.
If each of us made a commitment to respond, acknowledge and be courteous, it may end this vicious cycle and usher in more positive interactions.
In the end, it’s important to remember that if we engaged with sincerity and have good relationships within our networks, then without doubt, people will come through for us, sooner or later. But, if we only emerge for our needs and then disappear once they are met, then we most certainly remain haunted by our ghosts.