It’s a tricky balance working on shifting from here to something over ‘there’. Tricky because until you know your starting point it is hard to pick first steps. If you are unaware of your starting point then the first step may be out of reach. The trickiest aspect is that there are often things in the current experience and culture that feel not only confrontational, but also personal and threatening. No-one likes being judged and no-one likes being wrong! Which makes being able to clearly see what is holding us back a hard thing sometimes to do.
Which brings me to ghosting. I have been working for close to a quarter of a century (sounds longer than it feels) and I can not remember this thing called ghosting being a thing until the last 5 years or so. It seems to be the standard way to avoid conflict and incrimination and as such appears to have been normalised into many cultures, corporate included.
It seems so harmless. Rather than having to speak face to face with someone and be a witness to their reaction (and so feel guilty or responsible or threatened), avoid it – least said soonest mended. It’s a gentle and kind way to engage and keep the team running – or is it ?
Simon Sinek hits the nail on the head with this short clip. When you ghost someone you aren’t doing them a kindness, you are in fact doing harm. For the other person their self worth is destroyed, what is happening ? What did I do ?
The fear of confrontation to the point where you would literally destroy someone else’s innards all because you are afraid of confrontation.
One person’s fear creates complete destruction in someone else’s life and that is deemed to be fine.
Communicating is a skill and can be learnt. It doesn’t need to take huge amounts of courage when you have practiced, when you know how to verbalise the message in a way that isn’t defensive or judgmental, when you are curious, when you are aware of how the words you use can be the difference and when you are aware of your own mindsets.
There is a Buddhist saying along the lines of at the very least, say no harm. Only we don’t really believe or understand or even know how damaging words can be.
We also really don’t seem to get how much impact we actually have and how ignoring that mail, avoiding that coffee, postponing that meeting, not showing up because something else came up, how all these choices add to and build on the experience the other is having.
The unintended consequences of ghosting and avoiding (avoiding negativity) is to build a culture of uncertainty and mistrust – I can’t trust what you say and do. That means when leaders try and lead, nothing happens. With no information people will try and find meaning, an explanation and this creates a space rife for blame and playing the player rather than the ball.
If you are experiencing any of these in your culture then take a look and see how much ghosting is happening and how uncomfortable leaders and individuals are with anything deemed negative.
I seldom meet people who deliberately want to create a bad day for someone. For the most part the impact we have is unintentional.
Which brings me to a question, how do you know what impact you are having on the people around you ?
How much has ghosting become a part of your norm ?
What other possibilities could you choose ?
There is one that I think may be worth exploring …. stepping into your own power and being curious about what is going on – rather than being at the affect of what is happening and so powerless.
What would happen if you ‘made the effort’ ? Often when you do step into curiosity you find that the other person is grateful for the chance to share their experience, they just didn’t know how to start.