Applied Psychology

What is the Difference between Ghosting, Stringing Along, Breadcrumbing and Being Honest?

Aug 19, 2021 | By Saranne Durham
What is the Difference between Ghosting, Stringing Along, Breadcrumbing and Being Honest?
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Dating is like a rollercoaster ride. Exciting yet terrifying with unexpected highs of happy introductions against the risk of how-bad-can-a-date-really-be-lows all mixed up with the hope of enjoyment. We persevere because most of us long to find “our person” to share the adventures of life with. Everyone has a different approach to dating. Especially when it comes to telling people it’s just not working. So, what’s the difference between ghosting, stringing along, breadcrumbing and being honest? Which is your approach? Is one better than the other? Or is it a case of choosing the right approach for each situation?

What is Ghosting?

Usually, the term is used within dating or romantic situations. When it happens after numerous conversations, meeting up or dating, ghosting is essentially abrupt rejection without closure. It’s when someone cuts someone else off without warning. There’s no explanation and any attempts at understanding what’s going on or reinitiating contact are met with continued silence.

“Ghosting is also known as radio silence.”

Is Ghosting Rude?

While ghosting is annoying, frustrating and usually disrespectful, as well as unhealthy, occasionally it’s not unwarranted or rude. In fact, in some circumstances it could be an appropriate response. However, because it leaves things ambiguous, ghosting can also create a back-door to rekindle things later on.

Ghosting often stems from avoidance. Thus, when it’s about not being honest, avoiding a difficult conversation or taking the easier option, then think twice. If this is the case, then choosing to ghost is actively disregarding the potential impact of your actions on someone else and a form of immature communication. This is why ghosting is usually deemed disrespectful and unhealthy, even to the person doing it.

“Some forms of ghosting are harmful to the receiver and the ghoster.”

Ghosting may be a fairly new term.  But it’s not a new way of breaking up with someone. As such, there’s research that shows it’s one of the worst ways of breaking up with someone.

When is Ghosting Appropriate?

With the increasing popularity of dating apps, ghosting does seem to be more common. But it doesn’t mean that it’s okay. A helpful rule of thumb, when it comes to ghosting, is to view things in terms of boundaries. There two helpful questions to ask here:

  1. Does this person present a threat to you?
  2. Have you already said that you’re not interested and they’re trying to change your mind?

If the answer is yes, then blocking, ignoring and stopping all forms of contact is possibly the best course of action. Doing so is about keeping your boundaries and protecting your mental, emotional and physical self. Whether or not you send a final message ahead of taking a hardline of no contact, it’s up to you. Just remember, it shouldn’t be one that opens you up to a back-and-forth conversation or you being unkind.

Stringing Along

Stringing someone along is when you allow someone to believe something that’s not true for a long time. Typically, it’s in relation to your beliefs or/and intentions. The end result of stringing someone along is almost always hurt accompanied by anger. This is because it’s rooted in deceit. In relationships it occurs when the reason two people are dating each other differs. Most often it’s when one person has serious intentions, like marriage, and the other doesn’t actually want to marry them.

What is the Slow Fade?

The slow fade is a gradual decrease in communication until there is none. It happens for an assortment of reasons. In a dating setting this is usually because someone isn’t interested in you. Therefore, they tend to take longer and longer to answer messages or call back, until there’s nothing. In friendship, happens because life gets busy or common interests change, so you no longer cross paths. Eventually, you just drift apart and you continue on your separate paths.

What is Breadcrumbing?

Another situation that’s helpful to have a term for. While similar to stringing along, breadcrumbing usually occurs earlier on when things are starting out.  This is when someone leads you on by dropping crumbs of interest in their communication to you. The purpose of breadcrumbing is to keep you interested.  They call occasionally, send a WhatsApp every now and then or send a message via social media. It’s essentially a type of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) and about boosting their own ego. Luckily, it’s easily nixed.

3 Ways to Reveal Breadcrumbing

  1. Don’t respond immediately when they send that random late-night message. Rather wait until the next day. If they are not breadcrumbing then they will be happy to respond during the day and not just at night when by themselves.
  2. Keep casual and invite them to do something with a specific time and date. If they are keen and can’t, they’ll respond with an alternative suggestion that’s not vague.
  3. Alternatively, a direct question will clear the waters. Simply say: I’m keen to see where this could go, but I’m getting mixed messages from you. Are you looking for something casual or a relationship?

Perhaps, they are just bad at communication.? Perhaps they take more time than others to craft a response? Perhaps…Perhaps…? However, getting a true breadcrumber to take you seriously is often not worth the effort, anxiety or heartache.

Being Honest

When it comes to dating and letting go, honesty is usually the best policy. Not only for the person you are not interested in but also for yourself. For the other person it brings closure and a reason to move on. Hopefully, with as little hurt and anger as possible. It’s good to remember that straightforward honesty with respect is good. Being brutal or cruel is not.

“Honesty tempered with kindness is good for both people.”

5 Reasons Why Honesty is the Best Policy

  1. Results in decreased anxiety
  2. Reduces your subjective experience of stress
  3. It’s more likely to prevent ongoing back-and-forth
  4. Fosters personal growth and maturity
  5. It positively asserts your boundaries

Helping Others to Move On

If you are interested in helping people through life’s hurdles, then consider a degree in Applied Psychology. There are numerous psychology fields to choose from. The South African College of Applied Psychology (SACAP) offers degree programmes as well as online courses. Enquire now.

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