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The Psychology of Ignoring Someone: Why We Do It & Ways to Fix It

What is the psychology of ignoring someone? When someone ignores you, you wonder why, but do you ever wonder why you ignore people?

psychology of ignoring someone

We have all been ignored by someone at some point. Whether it was a friend, a boyfriend or girlfriend, or someone you barely know, it still stings. What is exactly is the psychology of ignoring someone based on?

Being ignored can be worse than getting into a fight because you are left with no explanation. Being ignored can feel like baseless punishment, so why do we do it to others?

What is the intent of ignoring someone?

When you ignore someone, you are essentially giving them the silent treatment. And what does that really do? It is a passive-aggressive way to deal with something rather than facing it head-on.

But what do you really get out of it? When you get deep down into the psychology of ignoring someone, it can say a lot about you. [Read: How to grow into a kinder human being]

The psychology of ignoring someone

When you’re ignoring someone, you may think you are saying something by saying nothing, but really you are causing more problems by facing a problem in an unhealthy way.

Freezing someone out isn’t just harming them, but you as well. If you use silence as a punishment, it cuts you off as well.

So, what does ignoring someone say about you? And how can you get better at healthily facing your problems? By diving into the psychology of ignoring someone, you can start to unravel the reasons why you do it. [Read: How to stop feeling ignored by someone you love]

Why you think you ignore someone vs. why you really ignore them

Ignoring someone takes a lot of energy, sometimes more so than actually talking about whatever is bothering you. You have to actively remind yourself not to respond to text messages, reach out, or tag them in a funny meme.

Why go through all that when you can just talk about it? Well, there are quite a few reasons, or rather, excuses. But, once you can unearth the real reasons you ignore someone and not the ones you convince yourself of, you can stop doing it.

1. You think they should know why you’re mad

When in a relationship, many people expect their partner to know how they feel without ever saying it. And if you ignore them, hoping it will just come to them, you are in for a long wait.

You might think you are ignoring them to fix the problem. But in fact, you have trouble expressing how you feel. This is all based on the psychology of ignoring someone. People who struggle to be vulnerable can use unhealthy methods to fix problems that push them further away.

Expecting your partner or anyone to know why you’re upset without telling them isn’t their fault. It is an unrealistic and even unhealthy expectation to have of someone. [Read: Learn how to be vulnerable and open up more in your relationships]

How to fix it

Talk about it. It can be scary to admit that you’re mad and have an adult conversation about it. But not talking doesn’t solve anything. Your partner not knowing exactly what is upsetting you doesn’t mean they don’t care. It just means they are human. So fill them in. You’ll both feel a lot better a lot quicker.

Recently, my boyfriend said something that rubbed me the wrong way. It was something I was sure he would know would affect me, so I just moped until he brought it up. Once I was able to talk to him about it, I realized he had no clue what he said had offended me or why. Talking about it didn’t just make us both feel better. It will help us going into the future as well. [Read: 25 relationship topics to talk about if you want to be happy]

2. They ignored you

Getting someone back or giving them a taste of their own medicine might seem like a good way to show them how you feel at first, but when you really think about it, what will it do? If you hate being ignored, why create a pattern of it? This will just go back and forth forever.

Although you may think you are showing them what they have done to you, this is wildly unhealthy behavior. It is like cheating on someone because they cheated on you. It does not make things even, nor does it show them. What it does do is create a void where you do not talk. [Read: Positive ways to forgive and unburden your mind]

How to fix it

Someone who ignores you may not even notice that you are ignoring them, and if they do, they won’t know why. Instead of giving your partner a taste of their own medicine, talk to them. Ask them why they ignore you and tell them how it makes you feel rather than expecting them to feel the same as you.

They may not have even realized that they were ignoring you. Some people just don’t feel the need to talk all the time. This means you have an opportunity to talk about your love language and what you need to feel appreciated in your relationship.

Or maybe you didn’t realize they can’t use their phone at work. It could be something that simple. Talking about a problem is the only way to get anywhere. [Read: How to respond like a grownup when someone ignores you on purpose]

3. You need to cool off

Many people, especially those who are hot-headed, ignore someone to cool off and calm down. Or at least that is what you may think you’re doing. I am all about cooling off before talking about something that upsets you, but going straight into ignore mode is not useful.

Without letting someone know that you need some space, they are left fretting about. This only makes things worse. [Read: How to perfect the silent treatment and use it the right way]

How to fix it

If you really need time to calm down before talking, clue your partner in. Let them know you’re upset but don’t want to start a fight, so you want to cool down before bringing it up. This way, they will know why you went silent.

Also, sometimes, cooling off is just an excuse to put off an inevitable argument. During the time you claim to be calming down, you may be getting more worked up. You have the time to overthink, overanalyze, and get more upset. You may make up your mind about a fight without even consulting your partner.

Think about if you really need time before talking to cool down or if you are just procrastinating. And if you do need that time, let them know before shutting down. [Read: The awkward conversations you need to have with your partner]

4. You want to break up

If you ignore someone because you want to break up and don’t want to deal with the potential fallout, you ghost them. This to you may seem harmless. You might think they will get the picture, and you may be afraid you’ll say the wrong thing. Not wanting to hurt the other person is always the excuse.

In reality, ignoring someone is much more hurtful than actually ending things upfront. You might think this is for the best, but flip the situation around. How would you feel if you were ignored rather than given the respect of a conversation? [Read: Like ghosting? Prepare yourself for these 10 consequences]

How to fix it

Slowly backing out or flat out ignoring someone will not make them less hurt about you ending things. In fact, it is a type of abuse and can be a lot more harmful to their psyche than you can even imagine. If you are scared about what to say, just rip the Bandaid off. Tell them you are sorry, but it won’t work out. Give them the best reason you can.

This way, at least they know a little of your reasoning and can have a bit of closure or understanding. Without that, they can wander nonstop and get down on themselves because they don’t know what they did wrong.

The psychology of ignoring someone, especially when you want to end things, can go incredibly deep. It can affect someone far into the future and really mess with their emotions and mental wellbeing. Don’t do that to someone. Offer them at least some level of respect. [Read: The breakup conversation you can use to break up with someone in the best way possible]

5. They don’t deserve a response

When you are angry, you might think your partner doesn’t deserve a response. You might think they don’t deserve your attention at all. I’ve been there. Someone did something wrong, and you don’t want to give them the time of day. They messed up, and you want to punish them by being too good or too busy to talk to them.

But again, ignoring someone says a lot more about you than it will say to them. They won’t see this the same way you do.

How to fix it

If you want them to know how you feel, ignoring them will not accomplish that. You need to spit it out and tell them you are pissed. Holding it inside is not good for you or the relationship.

Punishing someone through silence can end horribly. You can be too late to say something you wanted to say but were too petty to. Punishing someone by ignoring them is never the right answer to a problem. And honestly, you should never want to punish someone you’re in a relationship with in any way. [Read: 25 must-follow relationship rules for a successful relationship]

6. You think they will change

This is a biggie. People do not want to ask for what they want. Instead, you ignore them, hoping they will change or apologize or say they miss you. That is putting a lot of weight on the silent treatment.

If you think ignoring someone will push them closer to you, I am sorry to say you are way off base. Ignoring someone by definition only pushes them away in every way.

How to fix it

If you want someone to apologize or change, you have to talk about it. Even if ignoring them works, it is only a temporary fix to whatever the problem is. Sure, you may not text your partner all day hoping they’ll say they miss you, but what happens the next day?

Without talking about it, you can keep going through this process over and over until it drives you apart permanently. But, a simple conversation could have brought you closer from the start. [Read: A guide on effective communication in a relationship]

7. You want control

The age-old saying that whoever cares less has the power is not only a load of crap but is also wildly unhealthy. If you ignore someone, you may think you look like you have control. If you put less effort in, they will care more and chase you.

Just like playing hard to get, this is a bad idea. The psychology of ignoring someone is seeded in control. It makes your relationship remain on the surface level and focuses on control and power rather than love and partnership. [Read: The 80/20 rule in relationship and why it’s so important to be happy in love]

How to fix it

Compromise: A relationship should be a team, not a boss and a subordinate. I mean, do what you like in the bedroom, but in terms of your relationship, it should be equal. You should both give and take. It does not have to be 50:50 necessarily, but you cannot have all the power.

Healthy relationships vary from day today. Sometimes one person is giving 90% while the other is give 10%. Some days it is 50:50, while others, it is 70:30. This is how relationships work. But, ignoring someone so that they crave your approval and attention is nasty. It eats away at their self-esteem and is highly toxic.

If what you want is a relationship full of love and teamwork, ignoring someone is not the way to get it.

[Read: Compromise in relationships – 12 tips to give without losing]

Hopefully, you now understand a bit more of the psychology of ignoring someone. But most importantly, there is never an upside to it. 

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Samantha Ann
It was always my dream to become an advice columnist, so after years of off and online dating and eventually finding a wonderful relationship, I have decided to...