It happens to the best of us: voice mails pile up, inboxes overflow, and text messages disappear. There’s always more work than there are hours in the day.

I know it’s stressful because these things happen to me, too.

But there is a new communication trend that I find unacceptable—as should anyone else whose livelihood is dependent on other people. (For that matter, aren’t we ALL dependent on other people?)

It’s called “ghosting” and it throws professional courtesy out the window.

Professional Courtesy Takes a Backseat

“Ghosting” is a term that originated in the online dating world. It’s when a person stops returning calls, emails or text messages to avoid the awkwardness of saying “no,” or “I’m not interested.”

Unfortunately, ghosting has moved from the dating world to the business world. One day you’re discussing a project or proposal with someone, and the next day: Silence. Phone calls go unanswered. Text messages and emails go unreturned.

What happened? When people get busy or stressed, they’re more apt to choose convenience over professional courtesy. Saying nothing at all can be so much easier than engaging in a back and forth dialogue, especially if the subject matter is complicated or sensitive.

Technology is also partly to blame. Digital communications don’t carry the same accountability as face-to-face conversations. Tools that make it fast and easy to communicate also turn genuine dialogue into short word bursts.

Be Human

We’re all busy. We all juggle. But EVERYTHING we want is connected to other people, whether it’s power, influence, money or something else. If we get so busy that we forget to be human, then we’ve failed.

If delivering unwelcome news makes you uncomfortable, put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Most people would much rather receive a response like “I don’t have an answer for you right now,” or “I’m sorry, but it won’t work out,” instead of hearing nothing at all.

If you’re in a position of feeling disrespected, take a step back. Disengage for a moment and ask yourself if there’s a better way to communicate with the person you’re trying to connect with. Maybe that individual prefers phone calls over texts, or is the type of person that doesn’t want to read more than a 2-sentence email.

Empathy, respect and honesty establish a human connection that is strong—even when things don’t go according to plan. Bring a human touch to your business relationships by following these tips:

  • If you dropped the ball, acknowledge the error and fix it.
  • Put yourself in other people’s shoes. Most would rather hear “I’m sorry, but it won’t work out” than to hear nothing at all.
  • Don’t rely on technology to relay complicated or sensitive information. Tools that make it fast and easy to communicate turn genuine dialogue into short, impersonal word bursts.
  • If you’re feeling disrespected, take a step back. Ask yourself if there’s a better way to communicate and connect with the person you’re trying to reach.

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