Ghosting, disappearing on someone without a trace (or goodbye text or email or phone call), is sometimes the default way to end things with someone you’ve been seeing casually or went on a date with. If you’re on the receiving end, you may wonder if you did something wrong. Or maybe the person just lost their phone and the ability to contact you? If you’re on the other end of things, however, you may wonder what to say instead of ghosting someone. Although it’s not easy to tell someone you’re not interested in them — especially if they’re interested in you — there are ways to go about doing so that may not be as abrupt and hurtful as ghosting.
“Ghosting has become not just a phenomenon in the dating world, but it’s become a growing epidemic — and when it happens to you, it stings,” Julie Spira, founder of Cyber-Dating Expert, tells Bustle. “While it’s easier to let the date fade into a one-and-done date with no explanation, ghosting is the coward’s way out, and avoids a confrontation or a texting exchange that can become uncomfortable.” Instead, she says that if you have no intention of seeing someone again — and they were kind enough to take time out of their schedule to drive, Uber, or find their way to meet you — you should always take the high road and let the person know that you’re not a match.
“The best way of doing this without hurting someone’s feelings is to let them know that you didn’t think you were a fit,” she adds. You can either tell them why — perhaps because you’re looking for someone who’s more into outdoor activities, such as skiing or hiking — or simply say that you didn’t feel the connection, but wish them the best, Spira says. This also leaves the door open in case you decide you want to see the person again someday, either platonically or as more, she adds.
Not Ghosting Means That You Respect The Other Person
Thomas Edwards, Jr., transformational coach, tells Bustle that some people think that being honest with someone you don't click with will create conflict or hurt their feelings. “Instead, however, this honesty — while it might sting the other person (you don’t really know) — is a short-term experience that can lead to long-term confidence, knowing they’re respected enough to be told the truth,” he says. “Being honest is simply telling them something like, ‘While I don’t see a romantic relationship between us, I wish you all the best in finding that person.’ You don’t have to be specific as to why — unless they ask, then it’s up to you — but by giving them at least that, you allow them to move on quicker and make space for someone else who may actually be interested in them.”
Edwards adds that in today’s digital world, people tend to use screens as a barrier to avoid conflict. “If it’s just been a few dates, then messaging them is OK, but if it’s anything more than that, I recommend you telling them in person, as enough quality time and connection may have been built where this conversation will sting a little more,” he says. “No matter how you decide to break the news, it’s important to do it so you both can part ways and create the space for your person to come in.” So, as you can see, there are ways to not just disappear on someone. Below, people share their thoughts on what to say instead of ghosting.
1. Brett, 35
"It’s easy. Just say, 'Sorry, but I’m not interested,' that’s it. If the person asks for a reason, you can just say you didn’t feel a connection. They cannot argue with that. (It’s just your opinion, after all.)"
2. Shaun, 54
"Almost anything is better than nothing. I don't understand why someone would rather delete several messages and leave someone uncomfortable rather than simply send a text or email that says something like, 'It was lovely meeting you, but I don't think we're a match. Best of luck.'"
3. Dr. Nikki Martinez, Psychologist, 40
"Believe it or not, this comes up often in therapy. People use dating sites and have date(s) that seemingly go well, and then radio silence. I think part of the issue — although they have opened new doors for dating for many — is the anonymity and distance of virtually meeting, and it allows people to forget about common courtesies. You just block or delete someone, or just ignore them. The kind and courteous thing would simply be to say, 'I think you are a really nice/great person, but I just did not feel that connection between us. I genuinely wish you well in your search.' Short, simple, kind. Otherwise, the person is left wondering what they did wrong, why things changed, and why they are so awful they did not even deserve a courteous goodbye. I think these are important skills to be used and learned that apply to many areas of life."
4. Carmel, The Big Fling, 32
"Ghosting betrays a certain kind of decency we owe one another — it signals to a person that they aren't worthy of acknowledgment. No matter how poorly the date went, you should simply reply that you're not interested in seeing the person again. More often than not, this will be through text. And that's OK. The text needs to be succinct, but not brash. It's good to give a reason. Example: 'I had a really nice time meeting you and getting to know you. Honestly, I'm looking for a serious long-term relationship and I don't feel that is in the cards for us.' Or: 'Thank you for dinner on Tuesday. I'm looking for someone a little older and who shares my hobbies. I don't think a future is in the mix. I wish you the best of luck and happiness.'
If the person sees that as an invitation to continue the conversation, you then have permission to ignore them or shut it down: 'Please stop texting me.' If I had to choose a response I wished I received, it would have the same characteristics as the ones I advised to give above — succinct, honest, and polite. It's not so much that I desire a particular response, it's that I want a response. Any response."
5. Ben, 27
"I think ghosting’s more work than just sending a quick text that you had a good time, but have decided: to go out with someone else again/that you clicked better with someone else/that you’re not ready to date right now (still getting over your ex)/whatever the case may be."
6. Dr. Fran Walfish, Couples Relationship Psychologist, 50-65
"A blank screen, or non-response, leaves us nothing but the worst to project onto the blank screen. In other words, it's human nature to think there is something wrong with 'me,' and that is why he [or she] didn't call again. The best things to say to someone if you know you're not going to call again is something along these lines: 'You are a lovely person, but I feel we are not the right match (or fit).' If the person persists by asking why or pressing to try again, you can say, 'I'm not comfortable going forward.' No decent, caring person can dispute your comfort level. If they do, you can point to that as the reason why you wouldn't be prepared to proceed in a relationship."
7. Stef, Owner Of Stef And The City, 40
"As a dating expert, I commonly hear people ages 26-35 complain about being ghosted after a few great, exciting dates with someone. Things people can say that would hurt less than 'ghosting' are: 'It was great to meet you, but I'm seeing someone else that I'm going to focus on,' 'I enjoyed meeting you, but I don't feel it should go any further,' or 'You seem like a great guy/girl, but not for me. Perhaps you wouldn't mind if I fixed you up with a friend of mine?'"
8. Treva, Author Of The Late Blooming Bride, 52
"I was single for 50 years before finally getting married for the first time in May 2014 at the age of 51. Ghosting is the easy way out for people. I've had guys just disappear on me, without a reason, and it sucks. It's never easy saying goodbye or 'no thanks,' but there are ways of doing it that can spare someone their feelings and engender good will at the same time. The best way to opt out is to be honest and say, 'I think you're great, but I'm not sure we're a match. I wish you nothing but the best.' I've had to say that a million times and, I will tell you, it's very much appreciated. Maybe there's some disappointment, but no hard feelings. I may have broken their heart, but at least I didn't disappear into thin air!"
9. Xander, 31
"I didn’t stop ghosting until women started to do it to me — and it blew. Now if I don’t want to see someone again, I’ll text them something like, 'Thanks for going out last night. I had a good time, but felt we were missing a spark I need to pursue something further.' (It’s almost like a rejection letter, but way shorter.) Usually, the women respond well and thank me for letting them know. (I feel a lot better, too.) Also, the sooner you do it, the better (or else you start to obsess over doing it, which is no fun)."
10. Erica, 39
"I really wish people would just be honest and say what's going on. That includes if they're not interested, or if they met someone else and want to pursue that, or they've realized they're not in a good space to date. I've told people when I've met someone else, or if I don't feel a strong connection. Occasionally, I get an obnoxious response to the second one, but mostly people seem to appreciate some type of closure."
11. Joan Barnard, Former Relationship Expert For Zoosk, Late 20s
"Ghosting after a few dates is a juvenile maneuver. Ghosting on your relationship is completely unacceptable. What to say when you're not feeling it: 'I think you're awesome, but I'm just not feeling the feelings.' It's a great way to make a potentially very painful conversation a lot less hurtful. The way you end your relationship can have a huge impact on potential romantic options — so always end it appropriately. We live in a small world that’s growing increasingly more connected. You never know when that disappearing act can come back to haunt you."
12. Marcy, 28
"I’m so bad at rejecting people! I usually tell guys I either met someone else or had a stronger connection with someone else. Usually, that works best for me because no one wants to be in second place! (If they did, I would question their self-worth!)"
13. Katie, 33
"It’s tough to tell someone you’re not into them. I use the 'I’m still in love with my ex!' excuse. It works for me, though I should probably start being more honest instead of falling back on that all the time."
14. Martyne, 64
"When I was dating in my twenties and early thirties, if I knew that I didn't want to see the guy after the first date and I had a strong feeling the guy planned to call me for a second date, I usually would say the following: 'Listen, you seem like a very nice guy. I don't feel chemistry with you. But, even if I did have some feeling, an old boyfriend of mine called me just before our date, wanting to try again. I must give him a chance. Our past relationship deserves this second chance.'"
15. Brian, 36
"Ghosting isn't the result of a lack of interest in another person so much as it is a lack of respect for another person — to not let them know what is on your mind is a rude thing to do. The right thing to do is to tell the truth … Certainly, there's a reason why you don't want to see this person romantically again. Tell the person why. If you don't know why, perhaps it’s time to do some self-examination."
16. Sarah, 33
"I've gone on a LOT of dates, mostly from online and have never heard back from the guy again. But I've also done the same. I usually like to wait to hear from the guy again. If I hear from him and I'm interested in having another date, I will continue the conversation. If I hear from him and I'm not interested, I usually say, 'I had a great time with you. Thank for the lovely evening, but I just didn't feel the spark that I'm looking for. I wish you all the best and hope you find the perfect lady for you!'"
You may wonder: Is it ever OK to ghost? “The only time you should ghost someone is if they’ve been rude to you on the date,” Spira says. “But then again, if they were badly behaved, they’re already sending the message that they’re not interested in you, so delete their digits and unmatch them on the app so you won’t have to see them again online or in real life.”
She says that hopefully, however, this won’t be the case. “I believe in never burning a bridge, because while you’re playing the digital field, you might want to rethink seeing that person again,” Spira says. This way, you leave the door open to meeting up with them in the future, or to possibly getting invited to a party where you can meet other interesting people, she adds. In any case, honesty is the best policy, and you have plenty of options as far as how to let someone know you’re not interested in them without pulling a disappearing act.
This article was originally published on November 6, 2015 and was updated on September 6, 2019.