News & Politics

Is It Ever Okay to Ghost Someone? DC’s Etiquette Expert Knows

Nancy Mitchell tackles that and other conundrums in her new book.

Skip the bill and pay on your phone with the new Open Table payment app. Photograph via Shutterstock.

Leaving your read receipts on. Venmo-ing your roommate for your bottomless brunch bill. Rejecting that one Tinder date who can’t take a hint.

There’s no shortage of scenarios in which etiquette comes into play today. But our parents didn’t have a template on how to handle contemporary transactions like, say, splitting the cost of an Uber ride or Doordash order. But Nancy Mitchell, a Washingtonian etiquette expert known as the Etiquette Advocate, says classic rules can be adapted to modern life.

“Etiquette rules should not be turned on or off,” she says. “It’s about changing your way of thinking.”

Ahead of her new book, Etiquette Rules!: A Field Guide to Modern Manners, Mitchell gave us her thoughts on our top courtesy concerns for navigating life and love in 2017.

Using Your Phone in a Meeting

It depends, says Mitchell.

“The smart professional will know the environment that they are in,” she says. “Every office, every group of people has protocol of what is acceptable and what isn’t. People just have to have their antennae up and know that sometimes that’s going to be acceptable and sometimes it isn’t. We would not do that until we saw that other people were doing it.”

Ignoring Work Emails & Messages After Hours

Watch your peers.

“That’s part of being aware of the environment that you work in,” says Mitchell. “What is the accepted norm for your organization? What are your coworkers doing and what are your supervisors doing? Adjust accordingly.”


Don’t do this ever, even if you only went on one date.

“It’s easy to ghost and disappear; that’s taking the easy way out,” Mitchell says. “People need to think more about what effect their behavior has on other people. To leave somebody in the lurch, as you do with ghosting, just makes for uncertainty. I just think it’s kinder and braver to have a conversation with someone and just be honest with them.”

Paying on the First Date

“Men should always pay” is a heteronormative standard that’s had its day.

“If you’re inviting a new person out and it’s a date, the person extending the invitation should pay the first time out,” Mitchell says. “But the other person should offer to contribute; let the person who invited the other one decide if they want to accept that help. It’s the same situation in business.”

Mitchell’s book, which includes other etiquette tips for modern scenarios—the gym, Airbnbs, airplane travel, weddings, and more—is due out October 17 from Wellfleet Press.

Editorial Fellow

Abbey joined Washingtonian in September 2017. A Miami University (Ohio, not Florida) alum, she called the Midwest home before moving to Vermont to report for the Burlington Free Press and to be closer to her one true love: Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. Her work has also appeared in Cincinnati Magazine and USA Today. Abbey lives in Falls Church.