Dear Satya: How do you ghost someone nicely?

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From Goop's Snapchat magazine

Larissa,

I’m sorry to say it, but…you can’t. As you well know, to “ghost” someone is to disappear on them without explanation, to leave someone wondering what happened to your correspondence or friendship. To do so is to leave them with a void that they are left to fill. There is no nice way to leave someone with question marks, forced to explain your absence with their own self-hatred (was it because I said that thing, or because I didn’t pay?), or with concern for your well-being (did she get in an accident? Should I keep trying to see if she’s okay?). The anxiety you cause by ghosting is avoidable and, if you’re concerned about such things, worth avoiding.

Just because there is not a nice way to ghost, does not mean there are no easy ways to end a relationship, or to set boundaries. Often times, doing so will cause the other person to feel hurt, but at least they will have clarity. This takes courage, which the act of ghosting is actively seeking to avoid. Setting a simple boundary and offering some clarity on why you won’t be in touch any longer is, while maybe a little more scary at first, ultimately much more likely to cease communication without the long-term drama that ghosting typically evokes. Sometimes, the best way to end communication, if you need to do so without a dialogue with the other person, is to send a bit of “meta communication”: communicate that you’re no longer going to communicate. This can be brief, but doing so removes all question marks and allows both of you to close the loop. It’s direct, and it can be compassionate, even in its finality. You can write something as simple as: “Hey, I’m not going to text anymore. At least for a while. I have too much going on, but I didn’t want to just ghost.”

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If you’re inclined to ghost, assess for yourself if you’re trying to disappear because you don’t have the courage to deal with the vulnerability of confrontation, or to set healthy boundaries. Learning to set healthy boundaries, without guilt, creates the space in your life that you will need to live fully, and without hiding. You have every right to define the space you need to live your life, but doing it with clarity versus a variety of excuses and disappearing-acts will make the space you need to actually thrive, rather than compartmentalize your world into safe zones and drama-prone land-mines.

Finally, if you’re ghosting because you’re scared of someone or because they hurt you, talk with people you trust about how to handle this to make sure you stay safe. No, you don’t always have to communicate before disappearing. Sometimes, the safest thing to do may be to quickly, and simply, disengage. But as a general rule, some communication is the more compassionate approach. Develop the courage to face ending the relationships you start. Whether you like them or not, most people on earth are doing their best. They deserve the information they need to move on.

Satya