By Stella Ladikos. Mental Health Educator and Advocate.
Okay, so you’ve been on a few dates with someone, and you can tell they seem to be feeling it, but you’re not entirely on the same page. When it comes to that awkward conversation, I completely get how tricky it can be. And while, sure, ghosting them can be a tempting way to get out of the awkwardness – it is one of the worst things you could do.
Let’s think about it from the other person’s point of view; the bottom line is that it’s not fun being ghosted. For many, it can lead to anxiety and insecurity and even make it hard for them to get back into the dating pool later. But, on the other hand, for people typically quite secure or even blasé, it may not make a huge dent in their self-esteem or security. But for most, being ghosted presents that looming question of “What did I do wrong?” which can lead some people to spiral into overanalysing the situation.
So, yes, it’s awkward – but you need to have the conversation. Here’s my best advice to navigate it:
Work out which platform feels safe and comfortable for you.
Face-to-face is always ideal (hello, non-verbal body cues!) but totally understand if a phone call or text feels more comfortable. Any conversation is better than none at all.
Make a plan.
When we feel anxious or uncomfortable, we tend not to formulate sentences in the best way, so having some kind of ‘script’ or plan for what you’re going to say can be helpful to avoid getting tongue-tied!
Make a sandwich.
Well, not an actual sandwich, but this can be a really useful tool in communication where you ‘sandwich’ the painful or uncomfortable or awkward bits of the convo with positive or kind words.
So, something like, “Alex, I’ve really enjoyed the last few weeks of us hanging out. We’ve had so much fun, and I’m so grateful for that. But, I have to be honest with you that at the moment, although I’m having fun, I just feel like this isn’t 100% working for me. I don’t want to string you along because you’re such a great person, and I hope you find the kind of relationship you deserve”. Of course, it would still be pretty crappy to hear that you don’t want to date them anymore, but something like that is less likely to make them angry or upset. It can also kind of reduce the amount of “What’s wrong with me?” talk they may have otherwise spiralled into.
I’ve already spoken in previous blogs about the wondrous effects of breathing (check out the first part of this blog for some of my favourite techniques). Before you go to have the talk, take a few deep breaths. During the conversation, tune in to your breathing and interrupt the potentially rapid or anxious breathing with some slow, deep breaths.
As weird as that may sound, this can help calm your nerves and help you work out if what you intend to say will come across as too harsh (practising with a family member or friend can help!). This gives you space to know what you’re going to say, how you’ll say it, and hopefully anticipate how it may make the person on the receiving end feel. Of course, we can’t say that they’ll feel like sunshine and rainbows, but hopefully, you’ll be able to find a way that shouldn’t leave them feeling like they’ve been left outside during a storm.
And for the love of God, please don’t give the “it’s not you, it’s me” spiel.
Even if that’s actually true in your case, just don’t. That cliché phrase has been ruined by every Hollywood movie in existence – don’t even go there.
Yes, this conversation is going to be awkward, but you’ll be so relieved when it’s over. And remember, no matter how awkward and uncomfortable being honest may be, it’s much better than being dishonest or ghosting them. You’ve got this!
Stella is a Mental Health Educator and Advocate, and Founder of Meraki Mental Health Training.