The power of ghosting and how to move through it

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Photo Credit Craig Davis

The Wordless Dismissal

In the last few years, there have been a few people who decided they want nothing to do with me in any way, shape or form. And the wildest thing about these dismissals? Not a word. When you realize the person has ‘quit’ you and you try to reach out, there is no room for conversation. And you’re left wondering, what just happened? This growing phenomenon of passive-aggressive behavior, which requires no explanation, is akin to being ghosted.


The Urban Dictionary defines ghosting as, “When a person cuts off all communication with their friends or the person they’re dating with zero warning or notice before hand. This is done in hopes that the ‘ghostee’ will get the hint as opposed to simply telling the other person that he/she is no longer interested.”

Ghosting stretches beyond romantic relationships. If you want ‘out’ of any sort of connection with another person, friend, lover, family member or co-worker you can unfriend, unfollow, block, mute or put someone in your spam folder. You might ignore calls, delete messages or shred emails without reading them. Silently you can dismiss someone and become a phantom, of sorts. Except you’re still here, maybe even next door.

Trying to Re-Connect

So if you believe the relationship is valuable you might go ‘old school.’

Make a call. No answer.

Invite the person for coffee. Silence.

Send a card. Crickets.

Your friend is making it clear she doesn’t want to re-engage. She’s just not telling you with words. Still, something inside you insists there must be another way. You convince yourself that if you send another text, leave another voicemail or send a card for a momentous event, she’ll realize you don’t want to give up. Until she gets fed up and sends your card back, with “return to sender” written on the envelope. Ouch. Message received. While the blow was wordless, the pain of rejection roars in your head and pounds in your heart. You feel a heavy weight, lodged somewhere in your chest. It hurts.

What’s Your Role?

If you’re in the midst of this kind of sticky, icky, rejection, consider asking yourself whether you said or did something, now or in the past, that triggered your friend. This awareness will be helpful for you, because the likelihood of being able to share what you discover is slim. Since your friend won’t tell you what you’ve done, there may not be an opening to share. That means when you try to ask what you can do to make things right and move forward, he says nothing. His silence is his answer. Tempted as you may be to rinse and repeat and barrage your friend with efforts to reconcile, you’re likely to get the same result: no response.

After exhausting yourself with attempts to get back into the fold of people who’d rather not, what would it look like to leave the situation as is, without resisting or fighting or pursuing? When you choose to pause and consider what you need to move beyond the pain, you have your best chance ever to find resolution, even if it’s only in your mind.

Write About Your Loss

If you’re ready to release someone who chooses to vanish — write or journal or dictate notes to yourself. This is for you. Air out your frustrations with as many details as necessary. Put these notes aside for a few hours and then re-read what you’ve written. As you digest what you’ve written, you may come to realize your dismissal has nothing to do with you. Your friend has her own baggage to unpack

Who Loves You?

This may sound obvious, but when you’re paralyzed by the pain of silent rejection, you forget you have a circle of people you can count on. Even if it’s only one person. Bask in the love you have — and the love that is absent from this person will sting less. Ask yourself who cares about you and go to them.

Your World Is Bigger Than This Moment

Living your life based on what anyone else does will leave you with huge disappointments. This moment, even if it stretches for days or weeks or years, is a moment in time. Use movement — stand up, walk around the block, take a run, get on your bike. Physically shake off this lie that has a hold on you. The way you feel right now won’t last forever.

You Can’t Force This

No amount of agonizing over the silence of someone who’s moved on will force her to respond. Check in with yourself. If your attempts to connect are repeatedly unsuccessful, examine what you’re carrying around. It’s not yours to carry. Set down the weight. Sometimes a friend’s rejection becomes a gift. Not everyone is meant to be in your life forever.


Forgive your friend for his reaction. He’s being exactly who he is. You are whole. While you may not be able to interact one on one, speak truth to yourself: in your head, in the car or while you’re working out. No one can stop you from extending kindness in your thoughts and prayers and meditations, and those selfless actions will lift your spirits.

As painful as it is when you are silently rejected, you have what it takes to move beyond her and reclaim who you are. Allow the one who’s pushing you out to be who she is. Embrace the reality of what she’s done. Cut the cord. Remove the hook. One day things may take a different turn and when that happens you’ll get to decide how to proceed. Or not. And should you someday discover you want to distance yourself from a friend, remember this moment. Instead of silence, use words. Sure beats ghosting.

For a robust discussion this topic, listen to our podcast: The Impact of Rejection and Alienation.

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