What Is Soft Ghosting and Why Do People Do It?

“Soft ghosting” refers to a behavior where one person gradually reduces their level of communication or interaction with another person without fully cutting off contact. Unlike traditional ghosting where all contact abruptly stops, soft ghosting involves a more gradual and subtle reduction in communication.

In soft ghosting, the person may still respond to messages, but their responses are often brief, delayed, and lacking in enthusiasm.

For example, someone might respond with a one word answer, send an emoji, or simply “like” the text without further engagement.

illustration of chatting and messaging concept. Characters chatting on smartphone with chat bubbles and emoji icons.
Soft ghosting is often characterized by giving brief or delayed responses, avoiding making plans, and generally showing less enthusiasm or investment in the conversation or relationship.

While the approaches and intentions behind traditional ghosting and soft ghosting differ, the goal is often the same: to create distance and/or end a relationship without having to engage in direct confrontation.

Soft ghosting can be seen as a less harsh way of disengaging compared to full ghosting, as it involves intermittent responses and reduced enthusiasm rather than a complete silence.

However, in both cases, the result is a form of communication breakdown and emotional distance between the individuals involved.

Both forms of ghosting have become increasingly common in the modern dating world. It’s important to note, though, that neither approach is considered a healthy or respectful way of handling a relationship.

How to Know I️f You Are Being Soft Ghosted

Recognizing if you’re being soft ghosted can be challenging, as the signs are often subtle and can vary based on the individual and the nature of your relationship.

First, be sure to keep in mind that people’s lives and circumstances can change, and there might be legitimate reasons for altered communication patterns. For example, they might be having a busy week or are taking a break from their phone.

Soft ghosting is not always clear-cut, so it is important to consider their usual behavior and whether it has changed. 

However, if you consistently notice several of the signs detailed below, it might be worth addressing the situation with the person.

  • They are taking longer to respond to your messages compared to how they used to.
  • When they do respond, their messages are brief, unenthusiastic, and lacking in detail.
  • They rarely or never take the initiative to start a conversation or suggest spending time together, even though they used to before.
  • If you suggest making plans or meeting up, they might consistently come up with excuses or avoid committing to specific dates or times.
  • If you do manage to make plans, they might cancel or reschedule more frequently than usual.
  • They seem less interested in your life, interests, or experiences, and the conversations feel one-sided.
  • When you inquire about their behavior, they might provide vague excuses about being busy or stressed without offering much detail.

Trust your intuition and gut feeling – If you’re getting the sense that someone has lost interest, it’s important to acknowledge these feelings.

To summarize:

  • Misinterpretations can happen, especially in the early stages of a relationship. It’s important to consider various factors (e.g., they might be busy due to work, personal commitments, or other responsibilities) before jumping to conclusions.
  • If you find yourself feeling uneasy, anxious, or confused due to a change in someone’s behavior, consider having an open and honest conversation with the person.
  • If you’re getting strong signals that someone has lost interest, it’s worth paying attention to those signals and addressing the situation.

Why Do People Soft Ghost?

People might engage in soft ghosting for a variety of reasons. The ultimate goal of soft ghosting is often to create distance or end a relationship, but in a more subtle and gradual manner than traditional ghosting.

Soft ghosting can be seen as a less harsh way of disengaging as it is often driven by a desire to avoid hurting another person. However, it can still lead to confusion and frustration due to the lack of clarity in intentions.

People might engage in soft ghosting for a variety of reasons, including:

Avoiding Confrontation

Soft ghosting can be a way to avoid having a direct and potentially uncomfortable conversation about not being interested or wanting to end the relationship.

Some individuals find it easier to gradually disengage rather than directly address their lack of interest or intentions.

People who are uncomfortable with conflict might use soft ghosting as a way to fade out of a relationship without having to explicitly state their reasons.

Additionally, soft ghosting might be seen as a gentler way of distancing oneself compared to outright ghosting.

Lack of Interest

If someone becomes less interested in the person they’re communicating with, they might naturally start investing less time and effort into the relationship without outright ending it.

Their initial interest might have faded or they might realize that they’re not as compatible as they initially thought, which can lead to a natural decrease in communication.

Or, a person may soft ghost to avoid commitment. If they sense that the relationship is getting more serious but they are not interested in pursuing a long-term commitment, they might start pulling back gradually.


If someone is unsure about their own feelings or interest in the other person, they might use soft ghosting as a way to buy time and avoid making a definitive decision.

They may want to keep the door slightly open without having to fully commit or end the relationship.

Additionally, some individuals might use soft ghosting as a strategy to gauge the other person’s level of interest.

If the other person continues to reach out despite the reduced communication, it could indicate a stronger interest.


Soft ghosting might be perceived as less hurtful than outright ghosting. Some individuals might feel guilty for letting another person down, so they resort to soft ghosting instead of cutting off all communication.

They also might believe they’re letting the other person down more gently, even though soft ghosting can still lead to confusion and hurt feelings.

Lack of Communication Skills

Some people may struggle with expressing their feelings and intentions clearly, so they opt for soft ghosting as a way to navigate these situations.

What to Do if You Think You Are Being Soft Ghosted

If you think you are being soft ghosted, there are a few steps you can consider taking.

Before jumping to conclusions, remember that people can have legitimate reasons for reduced communication. Give them some time, especially if you know they’re going through a busy or stressful period.

However, if you have noticed a significant change in their behavior, you should address it. You can initiate a conversation in a non-confrontational manner and express your feelings openly.

Let them know that you have noticed a shift in their behavior and ask if everything is okay on their end.

If they explain that they’ve been busy or dealing with personal issues, offer your understanding and support. But if their responses continue to be vague and unenthusiastic, it might be best to accept that the other person might not be as interested as you are.

You don’t need to keep investing emotional energy into a situation that’s causing you distress.


Are They Soft Ghosting or Just Busy?

Consider the person’s past communication patterns. Have they consistently been responsive and engaged in the past? A sudden change in behavior is more likely to be an indicator of something beyond just being busy.

If they have shared that they’re going through a busy period due to work, personal matters, or other commitments, and they provide reasonable explanations, it’s more likely that they are genuinely busy.

However, if they claim to be busy but their behavior continues to contradict this, there might be more to the situation. If someone is truly interested in you, they will put in the effort.

Is It Better to Be Soft Ghosted Than Ghosted?

While neither being soft ghosted nor ghosted is an ideal situation, some individuals might find soft ghosting to be less hurtful and more respectful compared to traditional ghosting

However, it’s important to note that soft ghosting can still lead to confusion, frustration, and hurt feelings.

Additionally, whether it’s soft ghosting or ghosting, both behaviors can be indicative of a lack of interest in pursuing a relationship.

Should I Ask Them Why They Soft Ghosted Me?

If you’re in a situation where you suspect you’re being soft ghosted, it’s generally a good idea to ask for clarification.

Asking why someone has reduced their communication can provide you with insights into their intentions and help you better understand the situation.

Regardless of their answer, thank them for being honest and open. If they share their reasons, respect their choice even if you disagree.

Is Soft Ghosting Similar to Breadcrumbing?

While both soft ghosting and breadcrumbing are behaviors that involve reduced or inconsistent communication, they have slightly different dynamics and intentions.

Breadcrumbing is a behavior where someone gives intermittent and sporadic attention to keep the other person interested without any intention of forming a meaningful relationship.

It’s like leaving a trail of “breadcrumbs” to keep someone following, even though the person doing the breadcrumbing doesn’t have genuine intentions of commitment.

While both soft ghosting and breadcrumbing involve inconsistent communication, soft ghosting is a gradual reduction in interaction that might still involve some genuine interest or uncertainty, whereas breadcrumbing is more about stringing someone along with intermittent attention without any sincere commitment or intention to form a meaningful connection.

This article was edited by Julia Simkus.

Saul Mcleod, PhD

BSc (Hons) Psychology, MRes, PhD, University of Manchester

Educator, Researcher

Saul Mcleod, Ph.D., is a qualified psychology teacher with over 18 years experience of working in further and higher education. He has been published in peer-reviewed journals, including the Journal of Clinical Psychology.

Olivia Guy-Evans, MSc

BSc (Hons) Psychology, MSc Psychology of Education

Associate Editor for Simply Psychology

Olivia Guy-Evans is a writer and associate editor for Simply Psychology. She has previously worked in healthcare and educational sectors.

Anna Drescher

Mental Health Writer

BSc (Hons), Psychology, Goldsmiths University, MSc in Psychotherapy, University of Queensland

Anna Drescher is a freelance writer and solution-focused hypnotherapist, specializing in CBT and meditation. Using insights from her experience working as an NHS Assistant Clinical Psychologist and Recovery Officer, along with her Master's degree in Psychotherapy, she lends deep empathy and profound understanding to her mental health and relationships writing.