One day you’re in; the next day – you’re out. Or so it seems. Whenever there’s a change in a business relationship, the amount of energy we spend trying to identify what might have gone wrong is rarely worth it.

Yes, it’s important to review past interactions to pinpoint any specific issues that may have triggered the disconnection. Obvious ones such as your failure to deliver on time, poor quality of goods, billing errors, or inconsistent customer service are solid reasons someone might cut you off – and those are for you to own. 

More difficult to accept is not knowing the reason why your texts, calls, or emails seem suddenly ignored by a contact, an industry acquaintance, or a networking connection. Our immediate instinct is to confront and ask. A more effective interim approach is to do nothing. Here’s why:

Time is on your side.

If sudden silence from a long-time connection is unusual, give them space. They may be involved in a serious situation that’s taking all their time and energy.  Jumping up and down for attention only adds to whatever stress they are going through, so step away from the keyboard and let them breathe. You’ve sent numerous communications, so they know you are there and will respond when ready. This approach befits circumstances where you suspect a life crisis such as a death or other family matter is the source of the communication lapse. 

Other breaks in communication can have a direct hit on the well-being of your own business. In any adverse environment, including Covid-19, pressure to go even leaner and save money at all costs can be intense. How the crisis is handled is important here and is a good reflection on how someone will operate in the future. Ignoring final contract payments or not giving notice is not okay in the best of times. A running for the hills approach does nothing except make it clear to those on the receiving end that respect for others is at the bottom end of priorities.

Remember, all crises eventually pass, and when the dust settles, it’s how we conducted ourselves that will be what people remember in the future. Honesty and the courage to admit we’ve run out of options is the high road, and although admitting defeat is never easy, it’s key to growth and maintaining relationships. Slinking off without a backward glance and leaving another business holding the bag is never cool.

Relationships are organic.

Just as with personal friendships, business relationships don’t always last forever. People grow and change and sometimes decide to strike out in a new direction. It’s their decision if they choose not to take you along on the next step of their journey. Mentally wish them well and move on too. 

And if they decide to reconnect later, think before you immediately react. What’s changed? If the only reason they suddenly reappear is that you now have something valuable to them, keep walking.

The easy way out

Not everyone is a good communicator. The current trend to ghost people is an easy way out. It signals the person doing the ghosting struggles with communication skills and likely operates from a position of fear or inexperience. They may lack the ability to have an honest discussion. 

First-time business owners and new Not for Profit directors can freeze and not realize in times of trouble, reaching out and admitting vulnerability attract more understanding and possible collaborative solutions than blaming other parties. Owning the situation is the first step forward. This includes not projecting blame to a supplier or service provider if you did not provide the information needed to meet a deadline or do their job.

Look at it this way: how you handle things today sets the pattern for the future and whether you will be perceived as a valuable connection or someone to avoid. 

Keep your opinion to yourself and move on

When we feel rejected, it’s tempting to lash out and soothe our egos by spreading the word. Think twice. Badmouthing someone else reflects poorly on you, especially in business. You’ll come across as immature, insecure, and unprofessional. Instead, say nothing negative. This doesn’t mean you need to become their cheerleader. A neutral “I haven’t spoken to him recently, so I don’t know” answer is both accurate and nonconfrontational. Your silence and refusal to go into details other than a short “We’ve chosen to no longer do business with them” can also speak volumes. No one can take away your integrity, so value it. 

If you’re ghosted, the bottom line is that it’s a great time to reassess the type of relationships you want in business. Concentrate on strengthening connections with those who also want to keep you as one of theirs. Don’t waste time and energy trying to convince someone you’re worth it when others already know your value. And remember, it is behaviour and not words that speak volumes.