The Silent Treatment: Being Ignored
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The Silent Treatment: Being Ignored

We've done it to others. Mainly out of spite, or just so we can get a handle on our emotions. But whenever it's directed at us, being ignored can get annoying. How you resolve the situation determines the outcome of your relationship with the person ignoring you. If you are stuck, confused, or even feeling hurt, take a moment to reflect on why it happens and what you can do.

The cold shoulder.  The silent treatment.  Being ignored. No one likes to be, but it happens to everyone at one time or another.  Even if you are the best of partners or friends, you may find yourself left alone while the other person retreats.

Top Reasons Why it Happens

  1. Difference of opinion.  In an argument, discussion, or revelation between two or more people, they may need a moment to calm down, think through what's important, or take action alone.  While it might on the surface sound like the death knoll for an acquaintanceship or friendship of any kind, keeping one's distance may actually save the relationship, and not necessarily end it. 
  2. Embarrassment.  More often that not, people may tend to ignore strangers on the basis of unfamiliarity.  Especially when a person is what they deem "unacceptable" in behavior or appearance, ignoring can be a type of defense mechanism.  Somewhat tied to the egotistical self, this is not to be confused with social awkwardness.  There are people who just don't want to be friendly to others they pass by in public.  It can be attributed to a social snobbiness, where only certainly people are "worth" talking with.  Or, an overloaded schedule just might keep a well-meaninged person distracted much of the time.  It's not uncommon for people to just not notice others around them unless they are forced to interact in some way. 
  3. Shyness/awkwardness.  If a person thinks someone is attractive, impressive in some way, or has been affected in some way by what another person has said, shyness can manifest itself through silence.  Why?  Because with a person who doesn't know what to say, the fear of saying something nonsensical is great, and it is better to let the moment pass without acknowledging it.  Or, sometimes hand-in-hand with having an argument, shyness can sometimes and awkwardness can get in the way of reaching out to apologize.
  4. Boredom and busy lives.  This goes for being among close friends, family, and strangers alike.  We all have our thresholds of how much information we can absorb at one time - after that, distraction sets in.  It's not so much that we want to tune out others, but more that we are still processing information already gathered!  Or, when stress sets in, it can be soothing to redirect the mind to something that makes us happy.  Whatever the case, it's not hard to get bored and have it come across as ignoring someone.  It may also be that you don't know what to say (not in an awkward way) simply because all words have been said, or nothing relevant is occuring.  You may go for days, weeks, or even months not hearing from people you know well, and it might seem like they are ignoring you.  But really, they just don't have anything to say.  So they seemingly ignore you.  Just as in the saying "familiarity breeds contempt", so to does rehashing topics or being forced to think/do/talk about the same things over and over.  That way, sometimes: "absence makes the heart grow fonder."

 Above everything else, keep in mind that you can't push a person to stop ignoring you, whether it was intentionally directed at you or not.  So before you make it an issue to harp on and panic about, realize that the more you know a person, and understand the context of the situation, the less words may be needed to be said.  You may have to just back off and wait if it means the other person is making a decision.  Sometimes we all don't feel like talking.  That's why we may not be prompt in returning calls and emails, and why we don't attend every social gathering we're invited to - it may have nothing to do with our opinions of others, but rather our overall mood.  You don't have to fill every moment with words, or expect people to constantly amuse you.  At the same time, you don't have to go out of your way to stay silent just because you don't feel like being friendly - that's just plain rude!  Being around people is a necessary skill for life, and everyone should have the social graces to wave, smile, or nod when meeting others in public, as well as to know when to be tactful and not blabber on incessantly.

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Comments (2)

there was a #1 at the start of my list...not sure why it's not showing when published?  Now i'll have to wait until it is viewable in my dashboard so i can edit it!

Impressive article.