How Not to Get "Ghosted”
… in business and in the workplace, at least.
Posted May 06, 2020
I was catching up with one of my younger cousins the other day, and she was telling me about how she had just been “ghosted." Ghosting is a colloquial (read: fashionable) term that describes someone who suddenly stops answering your texts or calls, hence rejecting you by simply ceasing all communication without any warning, explanation, or justification.
“Ghosting is the worst part of dating…” she said. “It’s actually worse than getting rejected right off the bat, because when you get ghosted after a first date, they actually had something to go on, and then decided that something about you was wrong." She continued, “At least when you get rejected right off the bat, you can tell yourself that they just didn’t really know you.”
As someone who has been married for almost 15 years, I thought to myself, “I’m so glad that I’m beyond the days of ghosting.”
Until I was ghosted—professionally speaking—in the workplace.
A producer reached out to me, asking if I would be on his podcast to talk about my research on perceptions and stereotypes. Despite my hectic and packed schedule, I agreed, and he quickly set up a date and time for the 15-minute “pre-interview” as well as the one-hour podcast taping that would be recorded a few days later.
I’ve been interviewed for dozens of podcasts, and out of those, only around 10% request a pre-interview discussion—with the pre-interviews normally just a formality, a chance to chat for a few minutes, get name pronunciations right, and communicate some of the questions that I could be expected to get.
This time, however, I quickly felt like I was getting drilled and rather than being told the questions I would be asked, it involved demands for me to explain “So how would you answer that question?” and “What else would you say?” and “Give me another example that is more relevant."
It got to the point where I wondered, “Is this the podcast itself or just the pre-interview?” Because rather than a high-level overview, I was being pushed for more and more details, and I was confused why the line of questioning became near-aggressive. I found myself getting frustrated, but nevertheless, provided the answers to what I was being asked.
Two hours after the call, I received a meeting cancellation message—an automatic one sent through Outlook, with no explanation—simply removing the time block that we had set aside for the actual podcast taping. I sent an email to the producer, to check that he had indeed intended to cancel the recording date. And I received no response. A few days later, still nothing back. And then the podcast date came and went.
I had been ghosted.
For some reason, this subtle rejection really nagged at me. In the grand scheme of rejections and failures that I’ve encountered in my life, this was a minor one. And yet I was moody for the entire day.
The next day, from a completely different and unrelated producer, I got another podcast and pre-interview request.
This time, I was ready, and I wasn’t going to be ghosted again. I knew I needed to figure out what their angle is, first and foremost. Before they even had the opportunity to ask me any questions, I cheerily and subtly steered the conversation. I wanted to understand, before I even said anything, what they were trying to get at in their podcast, and what is it that they wanted to communicate.
- “Thanks for the opportunity.” Start by expressing gratitude. Gratitude unlocks all other virtues.
- “Tell me a bit about your podcast.” Gather information so that you can hone in on mutual overlap and which parts of your message will resonate and be the most relevant to their audience.
- “Sounds like this will be a powerful conversation.” Complimenting them, while reinforcing the value that you provide.
- “After we record, when can we expect to see the podcast on your schedule?” A confirmation, and a way to solidify why we’re talking in the first place and what we’ll be achieving together.
This advice applies to more than just prepping for podcasts. It extends to any type of interaction where you’re not exactly sure what angle your counterpart is coming from. You’re getting to mutual understanding. Well, any type of workplace interaction, that is. As dating interactions go, I’m not sure I’d give the same advice (and frankly, I’m not qualified to be giving that type of advice).