For those of you with social anxiety, what’s more anxiety inducing: leaving a party after saying goodbye to all the guests, or just sort of skipping out unnoticed?
I suspect that many of you will choose the latter. After all, saying goodbye to people could be kind of awkward. How should you bid farewell? Should you shake hands?
Are your fellow partygoers huggable? What if you break some sort of social protocol and hug someone who just recently met — someone who finds your way of saying adieu uncomfortable? What will they think of you?
And what if you say goodbye to some people, but forget others? Will anyone be offended?
SNEAKING OUT THE BACK DOOR
I’ve been known to leave gatherings without saying goodbye — certainly during panic attacks, of course, but even at other times when I’m feeling perfectly fine. To me, it’s an anticipatory social anxiety thing.
I’m great with greetings and terrible with farewells. (Does this sound like you, too?)
Perhaps that’s why this Slate piece by Seth Stevenson caught my eye. It’s called “Don’t Say Goodbye — Just Ghost”, and in it, he advocates what he calls “ghosting”. Doing the “Irish Goodbye”. The “French exit”.
Translation: leaving social gatherings without saying goodbye.
Here’s his logic:
Goodbyes are, by their very nature, at least a mild bummer. They represent the waning of an evening or event. By the time we get to them, we’re often tired, drunk, or both. The short-timer just wants to go home to bed, while the night owl would prefer not to acknowledge the growing lateness of the hour.
These sorts of goodbyes inevitably devolve into awkward small talk that lasts too long and then peters out. We vow vaguely to meet again, then linger for a moment, thinking of something else we might say before the whole exchange fizzles and we shuffle apart.
Repeat this several times, at a social outing delightfully filled with your acquaintances, and it starts to sap a not inconsiderable portion of that delight.
Granted, social anxiety isn’t a part of his reasoning — but it might as well be. It’s certainly part of my own. Is it a part of yours?
MISSING THE LAST GOODBYE
Mental health professionals of all types will tell you to avoid avoidance. To stop caving to your anxiety’s desires and instead try to push through. To teach yourself that the situations that scare you are truly not threatening.
And I really do buy into that logic. Avoidance fertilizes the seeds of fear. It transforms tiny threats into larger ones.
I’m totally guilty of this “ghosting” business, however. But in recent years, I’ve been trying to avoid it. And not just to overcome social anxiety, but to properly punctuate my time spent with my fellow human beings.
Ever since my friend Ryan died a few years ago, I’ve tried to stop ghosting. The last time I saw him was at an awesome New Year’s party. I remember talking to him briefly about his work as an EMT, but then I started to butterfly around the tables. He made it into a few midnight-countdown candid photos.
And then, I ghosted.
And two weeks later, he died in a car fire.
I will always regret not stopping to give him a proper goodbye. Ryan was an extraordinarily huggable character, and I’ll never get that final hug. All because I ghosted.
Nevermind the lateness of the hour; nevermind the fizzle or the delight-sapping. Our time with people is precious, and if I can stomp on my anxiety for just a few minutes to deliver a proper round of goodbyes, I can properly close the parenthesis I’ve opened with friends and acquaintances.
You just never know.
(Because, as in grammar, a parenthesis in life without closure is disconcerting.
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Last reviewed: 8 Jul 2013