Stop Ghosting and Start Saying No

Ghosting is a common phenomenon in both personal and professional relationships. Ghosting originated with online dating, when someone disappears from a relationship without warning. However, ghosting occurs more than just with personal relationships. We are seeing ghosting with employers to job seekers, job seekers are ghosting employers, and ghosting is happening within your organization when you choose to ignore emails or messages from coworkers and colleagues.

We ghost someone professionally when you promise to make a business introduction, offer to review a resume or commit to something, and don’t follow through. Ghosting occurs when people walk off the job, and you do not know what happened to them.

Ghosting has long-term consequences – it shatters confidence and leaves you feeling rejected and confused. Ghosting also includes missing out on great talent or partnership opportunities. In addition, it will erode bridges in your relationships and networks, leaving the impression that you are unreliable, and it can have a devastating impact on the business you work for by building a bad reputation.

Four tips to finding balance in following your commitments.

  • Just say no more often. 

Most people want to be of service to others. We have all been in the situation where someone asks us to take on one more project, promising it will not take that much time. At first, you might be flattered that they thought of you. Then, you might gently tell them no, and they insist it will not take that much time. 

Leaders are confident in what they can deliver and what they do. One of the biggest drivers of ghosting others is when we overcommit ourselves to doing more than we can do. Some choose silence as an acceptable form of communication than answering no.

Often we do not say no because we worry that we will offend someone or disappoint them. However, in the long run saying no in a kind manner, such as “thank you so much for thinking of me, I am flattered you asked. But, unfortunately, I cannot take that project on at this time, and please think of me again in the future” A kind letdown will keep relationships in tack.

  • Do not let guilt hold you back.

Do not let guilt hold you back from communication and providing updates. Instead of ghosting a person, the best approach is to do them the courtesy of offering closure. For example, A friend asked me if I would help with a new startup opportunity. We had several conversations about the purpose and vision of the startup. After much consideration, I sent the individual an email expressing my gratitude that they thought I would be of value to them and the project. However, at this time, I am unable to commit the time needed to the project. This response opens the door for future collaboration when your schedule opens up more.

A short, respectful email or message of communication provides you and the other person closure and relieves you of the guilt associated with ghosting.

  • Pay opportunities forward

Avoid overcommitting and ghosting by being upfront and honest. Lets the other person know if the timing doesn’t work for you, like in my example. Then you could recommend someone who has the time and skills they seek. The main goal is to keep relationships intact.

  • Don’t give away each other’s time.

It is flattering when a colleague or friend recommends you to another person. It gives you the warm fuzzies to know that someone recognizes your talents and offers you help solve a problem. The challenge is that they do not know your schedule, and you should not feel obligated to help them if you are overcommitted. 

Recently, the Chamber started promoting the 9th annual Christmas in Jerome. The goal is to build awareness with the sponsors and participants that the event is going forward as planned. We are seeking event sponsors, renewals on the lighted arches, and running the best-decorated house contest again. 

Save the date social media posts with a brief outline of what to expect. The Chamber received a private message from a citizen asking if we would do a Halloween Best decorated House contest. We kindly outlined that there are numerous community activities thorough out the year and that, at this time, we did not have plans to start a Halloween best-decorated house contest. The message’s author most likely does not know the Chamber has one employee and that we kindly tried to communicate that we are already overcommitted and cannot take on another event. We even encouraged them to step up and volunteer to help out. The reply was judgment and disdain.

We cannot control another’s words or judgments. We can only do our best to communicate, and we need to be careful that we do not overcommit ourselves or give away someone else’s time that is not ours to give.

Relationships are key. Most people do not like difficult situations. Saying no if you are over-committed is not always easy to do. We want to build a personal image of honesty and integrity, and the way to do that is to communicate openly and not ghost people. If you overcommitted yourself, instead of ignoring the email, take a moment to write a kind email outlining that you currently have too much on your plate. We often fear failure and don’t want others to think poorly of us; it is better to admit the mistake of not knowing or taking on too much than ghosting others.    

By Cheryl Viola, Executive Director/CEO, MBA