Are your emails haunted?
Have you ever been ‘ghosted’ by a potential client?
You have a powerful conversation. They said they would follow up, maybe to schedule the next conversation, maybe to report on an action they agreed to take, maybe after some enrollment to share if they’re ready to invest in coaching.
And then the dreaded silence. The email response you expected, and perhaps even that they promised, did not arrive. At the extreme, they don’t even show up for a scheduled call.
- Did you do something wrong?
- Are they doing something wrong?
- Should you get angry at them, or critical of yourself?
- Did you offend them?
- Did they get scared off by the price?
- Did you push too much, or are you not challenging them enough?
The ‘ghosts’ in your email are the emails that aren’t there. They’re the scary emails you’ve written in your head. This is where many social coaches’ insecurities and scary movies come out to play, projected vividly onto the blank canvas of the email not received.
I remember catching this phenomenon myself several years ago when I would feel a little jolt of panic and sadness whenever I heard the text message chime on my phone. Part of me was thoroughly convinced it was bad news–some form of rejection–and my body reacted appropriately. I felt rejected each time I got a text, even before looking at the text! And the more clearly and frequently I caught that it was a story, the less is happened.
You can’t be afraid of the unknown. You have to make up a scary assumption about the unknown in order to feel fear, or rejection, or shame, or resentment…
Choose Your Ghosts
How a coach responds to being ‘ghosted’ is an excellent litmus test that separates social coaches from professional coaches:
Social coaches take it personally. They create and act on a dramatic story, that either makes them wrong or the client wrong.
Professional coaches don’t take it personally. They still make up a story about it, but they do so intentionally. They CHOOSE the story (the ghost) they want to make up. They intuitively choose a story that might be of service to this particular client.
Often a great ‘ghost’ to create is the Ghost of Innocence. “Hey, did you get this?” Maybe they didn’t receive the email. Maybe they forgot. Maybe something more important truly did happen.
Another popular ghost is the Ghost of Concern. “Are you ok?” If they’re not responding to something so important, there must really be an emergency happening.
Another ghost is the Ghost of Optimism. Assume the absolute best. “Is everything amazing now and it worked so there’s no need to talk more?”
A fun ghost to create is the Ghost of Options. “Did your pattern kick up again? Are you waiting for this other thing to happen? Or is everything amazing and you wouldn’t want to get distracted by talking more about the issue?”
Another fun ghost to create is the Ghost of Amnesia. When they forget, you forget. “Sorry if I dropped the ball on this…” and re-start.
Once you get over any temptation to take it personally, ghosting is often an opportunity for coaching in disguise. There is something going on for them. But you don’t know what it is. So you can get creative with what you do make up, in a way that invites them to share what’s actually going on. (Some might even call this… coaching!)
And finally, a word of caution: If you are taking it personally underneath the surface, none of these approaches will feel good. The email might be exactly the same, but energy creeps. Often it’s better to ghost your clients than to react to them.
Q What ghosts would you like to create when a potential client ghosts you?
Michael McDonald, Transformational Coach
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