Last spring, I sent a book pitch I’d been working on to a literary agent in New York City. He responded promptly and, I thought, enthusiastically, issuing an invitation to talk further. I was over the moon. But my next email to him went unanswered. And the next.
What had happened? Did I say something wrong? Did he research me and not like what he found? Did he simply get busy?
Without knowing, I didn’t have any closure, just a lot of stories and self-doubt. I didn’t know whether I should try contacting him again, or if I had hit a dead end. I had been ghosted.
Ghosting is the modern phenomenon of simply disappearing from someone’s life without acknowledgment or explanation. It may now happen with greater frequency given the ease of digital disappearance — not to mention how often our messages to each other get buried beneath hundreds of others.
You can be ghosted by a friend, family, a romantic partner, or a professional contact. One minute there’s a line of communication and connection, then suddenly the line goes dead. You’re left on your own to figure out what happened and what it means.
“Ghosting happens because, as a culture, we’re not great at conflict,” says holistic psychologist Anna Roth, PhD. “In some ways people feel they’re being kind by not saying, ‘I’m not interested,’ but our brains like completion.”
Denying people closure can make it more difficult for them to move on. There’s peace in truth, even when that truth is difficult; it allows us to complete the circle. Knowing this can encourage us to avoid ghosting others.
But what about when we’re the ones being ghosted?
“It’s a good policy in general to put ourselves out there and then let go and see what comes back,” says Roth, though that’s often easier said than done.
If there’s a ghosting situation you feel particularly anxious about, try to see that as useful information. “That tells you this is something you really want. Use it as feedback about your desires, not about your worth.”
Visualize a line drawn crosswise between you and what you want, whether it’s a job, a relationship, or a literary agent. “Go to the line and say, ‘Do you want to meet me?’, but don’t hold yourself hostage to others’ response or lack thereof,” she advises. “You can complete the circle yourself by saying, ‘I did everything I could, now I’ll release it and we’ll see where it goes.’
This was excerpted from “Embracing Rejection” which was published in the October 2021 issue of Experience Life magazine.