A gentleman’s guide to ghosting (and why you should never do it)

The word 'ghosting' is everywhere: but what does it actually mean, and why is it so important not to do it? We can help you out there...

Ghosting. It’s everywhere, isn’t it? A stalwart of the digital realm, it pops up in our books, on our screens and on our Instagram feeds. Discussions on the topic are rife on Twitter; and if you meet up with a group of friends at a pub, chances are the word “ghosting” — in its past, present or future iterations — will make an appearance.

The word is everywhere, yes; but what about the definition? The issue with oft-used words is that they can seamlessly merge from oft-used to overused; and the subsequent danger with overused words is that they can become parodies of themselves, with little attention given to their meaning or ramifications. So we felt it was about time for a refresher on ghosting and a deep dive into its spooky, haunted world — because gentlemen don’t take ghosting lightly.

What is ghosting?

Ghosting occurs when one party abruptly ceases all communication, with absolutely no explanation: as though they’ve vaporised into thin air. Typically, it happens in the dating world — but it’s by no means restricted to romance. Friends can ghost and be ghosted, for example. And it’s important to add: we’ve all been there. If you’ve never ghosted anyone, you’re a better human than most. Ghosting happens all the time; it’s not always deliberate, and it’s rarely malicious. It happens to the best of us, and it’s very unlikely you’ll meet someone who’s never ghosted anyone in some form.

It’s especially common on dating apps; and that makes sense, given that most people on dating apps are talking to about ten different people at once. It’s hard to keep track of everyone, after all; and if you’ve never met in person it can be easy to forget to reply to that last message. But the really problematic ghosting is when two people have forged a connection, maybe by going on several dates or even starting a relationship; and one person then abruptly shuts that connection down without explaining why.

Don’t confuse ghosting with fizzling

A commonly heard word in ghosting parlance is ‘fizzle’. “It just fizzled out,” someone might say about their latest romantic dalliance. But we’re going to let you into a secret here, gents; there is no such thing as fizzling. Or, at least, there is; but for a good fizzle to work, both parties have to know that the fling, casual dating or relationship has ‘fizzled’. If you’ve decided to let it fizzle while the other person is wondering why you haven’t replied to their last message, that’s not fizzling; that’s just ghosting.

Fizzling is an easy way out; but it’s not the gentlemanly way out. The gentlemanly thing to do is offer closure, even when you don’t feel it’s needed. If you’ve been dating someone, it’s perfectly fine to wish to end it. But you need to let the other person know. (If you need some advice on how to end a relationship in a gentlemanly manner, we can help you out there…)

Why you should never ghost someone

Ghosting is a nasty experience for both parties.

It’s infinitely worse for the person who’s actually been ghosted, of course. There are few things harder, in the dating world, than a total loss of control; and it’s not nice to be left wondering why someone couldn’t even bring themselves to tell you that they don’t really want to see you any more. Then there are all the unanswered questions — what is it about me? Did I do something wrong? — and the painful realisation that always comes when you gradually realise you’re not going to hear from that person again, for reasons you don’t understand.

And as a gentleman, do you really want to be the person to cause all that hurt and confusion? Take it from us: it’s not worth the guilt. Gentlemen should be striving every day to make the world a better place for everyone around them; and knowing that you’ve left a trail of bruised feelings, damaged self-esteem and unanswered questions in your wake isn’t (or shouldn’t be) a nice feeling to sit with. Ghosting isn’t the gentlemanly way, gents. Strive for better.

What to do if you’ve been ghosted

Ask for closure. It’s as simple as that. Don’t accept the ghosting: you’re worth more than that, and you deserve better. Reach out to the person who ghosted you, and ask them why they stopped messaging.

It doesn’t need to be a long message; keep it short and to the point. And if they (ironically) don’t reply, you’ve done the best you can. From that point, it’s time to move on. You won’t have the answers, but you will know that that person shouldn’t be in your life anyway, if they can’t even be bothered to explain why they don’t want to date you — and that’s always worth knowing.

What to do if you’ve ghosted someone

Ideally, you’d reach out to them to apologise, and to explain why you didn’t feel you wanted to continue seeing them. Pen a thoughtful message, and offer them the answers before they have to ask.

But if you do receive a confused message from someone you’ve ghosted, take the time to extend your apologies — in a gentlemanly manner — and do your best to give them the answers you need. You may not have all the answers; and that’s ok. But offer them something. Don’t leave them hanging — and if they actually used the word ‘ghosted’, then whatever you do: don’t send back a defensive reply. You may not have meant to ghost them (like we said, a lot of us have inadvertently ghosted someone at some point in our lives, and it’s rarely for an actively nasty reason); but the point is, they feel they were ghosted. So the best thing you can do is accept responsibility and explain your actions. That way, you can both move on.

Looking for more ways to perfect your gentlemanly etiquette? These are the new rules of dinner party etiquette

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