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Why does being ignored hurt so much?
Well, being ignored is a way for one person to actively refuse to meet the emotional and social needs of another person.
For example, if you have a friend or a loved one who ignores you, you may feel that person does not care about your needs. That may be something like keeping your messages on read or actively ignoring you after having a disagreement.
Ignoring isn’t always about the person being ignored, though. Often, people are just wrapped up in their own little world with their own thoughts, feelings, and problems. It isn’t so much that they ignore the other person as they are just not thinking about them.
That can be hurtful, too, especially if you deeply care about this other person who doesn’t seem to care as much about you.
But a lack of attention is not necessarily ignoring. They may just be busy with other responsibilities or just plain ol’ forgetful. People are often just minding their own business, worrying about work, thinking about the family, and figuring out what they need to do to get through their day.
Speak to an accredited and experienced therapist to help you deal with the hurt of being ignored and to figure out how to respond to the person who is ignoring you. You may want to try speaking to one via BetterHelp.com for quality care at its most convenient.
What kind of effects does ignoring a person have?
Psychologically speaking, ignoring another person can create a lot of turmoil.
The person may take a hit to their self-esteem as they wonder why they aren’t good enough to be acknowledged. They may experience anxiety and stress about the situation as they wonder what they did wrong.
These feelings can escalate to severe extremes for some people if they have particular mental illnesses or trauma in their history.
A person who was neglected by their parents as a child will feel ignored much more intensely than a person who wasn’t. They may make it personal when it’s not personal because they feel that it’s a rejection of who they are rather than just a miscommunication.
They may wonder, “Why am I not good enough?” Not realizing that it has nothing to do with being good enough. Sometimes people forget. Sometimes people are bad at communicating. And sometimes, people are just jerks and make bad decisions.
Even something as simple as averting an eye gaze can be enough of a social signal to create negative feelings. (Source.) The person may assume that they are being ostracized or shunned from the social group.
Eye contact is such an important part of human interaction that the lack thereof can spur subconscious processes that create discomfort and rejection. It can spur aggressive behavior, negative thinking, or even physical repercussions. Not just a fight, but other effects like heightened stress or physical pain.
In general, being ignored can trigger old hurts to resurface. It can bring repressed memories and feelings back into sharp focus where they can affect your peace of mind once again. And the more painful the past is, the more intense the pain of being ignored is in the present.
This is why some people may not be as bothered by being ignored as others – it’s like water off a duck’s back to someone who has few hurts related to abandonment, abuse, or other mistreatment in the past.
How do I know if I’m being ignored?
There are different situations where you may feel like you’re being ignored. Sometimes they will be obvious; other times, they will not be so obvious. Let’s address some obvious situations first.
Just ask them, “Hey, are you ignoring me?”
Just asking the person directly is probably the most effective means of finding out whether or not someone is ignoring you.
Of course, if they are your friend or genuinely care about you, they will likely tell you no, and then explain why they dropped off. But, more often than not, you will find that it had nothing to do with you and everything to do with them just being distracted by their own life.
They may say, “Yes.” and then you can ask why. They may be feeling resentful or angry about something you did and not want to talk to you at the moment. They may also feel like you deserve the silent treatment for whatever reason.
You want to listen for reasonable grievances if they choose to express them. What is a reasonable grievance? Both words in “reasonable grievance” are equally important. A grievance is an issue or a problem. Reasonable is about respect. It’s balanced, fair, and equally serves all involved parties.
What does a reasonable grievance look like? “You were a half-hour late to pick me up for work when you said you would give me a ride. That made me a half-hour late for work, and I was written up for it.”
That’s a reasonable grievance. You said you’d do something, you didn’t do it, now the person is angry because they were late to work and suffered a repercussion for it. On the other hand, they might have just been too angry to talk about it at the moment.
An unreasonable grievance is disrespectful to who you are as a person. That falls more into the category of trying to change who you are as a person or to make your behavior more compliant.
For example, let’s say you have a boyfriend who is jealous that you spend time with others. So, every time you talk to other people, he gets all pouty and gives you the silent treatment to punish you for talking to other people. In that scenario, the boyfriend is trying to change who you are as a person, who you talk to, and what kind of relationships you should have.
This is emotionally manipulative and is a huge, glaring red flag for abusive behavior. Abusers will typically try to coerce their partner out of their friendships and relationships to isolate them so they cannot easily seek help when things get worse.
So, when you talk to the person, listen for a reasonable grievance. If it’s not reasonable, hold your boundaries. They may either not realize that they are being unreasonable or may be someone you should create some distance from.
Why might someone ignore me?
There may be a reason that the person is ignoring you. There may not be. It may be an entirely immature reason. People aren’t always at their best when they are angry or emotional.
1. They are ignoring you as a punishment.
This is called “the silent treatment,” and it falls within the scope of emotional abuse. The silent treatment is when someone purposefully punishes you with their silence for not complying with their demands.
So, let’s say you have an argument with a romantic partner about not doing the dishes, and then they go silent on you. They are trying to use social pressure to get you to change your opinion. They want you to feel uncomfortable and hope that your discomfort will be enough for you to bow to their demands.
As you can see, this is not healthy relationship behavior. One person can’t just hold their breath, pout, and expect to get their way because they want to act like a toddler. No, when disagreements occur in relationships, they need to be talked out, compromises need to be struck, and a solution must be implemented. Without real communication, that relationship will be doomed.
The silent treatment should not be confused with just needing some time to calm down. Sometimes a person just needs some time to cool off after an argument before they can approach the situation rationally. If you are one of those people, you need to communicate to your partner that you just want some time to cool off, that you can talk about it later, and then actually talk about it later.
However, if you’re in a relationship with this kind of person, you need to make clear that they need to let you know that they need space to cool off and that you’ll come back to it later. But do make sure you come back to it later. Don’t let “later” become “never” because they try to avoid working it out.
There’s an old saying, “Never go to bed angry.” This is bad advice. Sometimes you just need to sleep it off to reset, look at the situation with new eyes, and realize that you were wrong. It’s nonsensical to argue until 3 A.M. when both of you are tired, more volatile, and impatient.
Silence can be okay if it’s not used as a weapon.
2. They are ghosting you.
Ghosting is not a new phenomenon.
“Well, dad went out for cigarettes 20 years ago and never came back.”
Honestly, it says more about the person ghosting than you. Sometimes ghosting is reasonable. For example, people may not feel safe trying to get away from a person. Many women have experienced threats or violence from rejecting a romantic advance. For their safety, they may ghost to prevent any severe blowback.
However, some people ghost because they wish to avoid experiencing uncomfortable feelings, don’t want to take responsibility for their choices, or don’t want to feel like the bad guy.
But for the purposes of this article, we’ll assume you’re not an unsafe person. You’re ghosted out of nowhere for a reason that you can’t figure out. It has nothing to do with you. The other person made a choice for their life, and they followed through on it.
“But why!? I need closure!” This isn’t a movie. There isn’t a neat narrative and hero’s journey that will wrap up all of the plot points by the time you get to the end of it. It’s real life. And in real life, a lot of times, you don’t get closure. You have to create closure for yourself. Sometimes you just have to shrug and say, “Okay. I guess I’ll never know.” And then focus your energy on creating new things that are better for you.
If they choose to ghost you, they aren’t meant for you. Be grateful for the time they spent in your life, look for the lessons you can take from the relationship, and move forward. I know that sounds extremely difficult or impossible, but it gets much easier the more you do it. Everything is temporary.
3. They feel ashamed.
People don’t always handle their business well. The person ignoring you may have done you dirty, knows they did you dirty, and feels too ashamed of their actions to talk to you. Sometimes people just do dumb or short-sighted things that they regret later.
That’s a hard thing to face. You need to have some emotional maturity and acceptance for your own shortcomings to own the wrong decisions you make. Unfortunately, not everyone is that emotionally competent.
Consider your recent interactions with the person. Did they do something to you that has caused them to want to create some distance? Did they do something unreasonable or that you could interpret as wrong? If that’s the case, it may be shame causing them to pull away.
You can try to open the communication channel by saying something like, “Hey. Can we talk about X event? I have some questions that need clearing up.” By framing it this way, you avoid offensive language that may cause them to pull away and be defensive. Instead, approaching the situation with calmness, or at least as much as you can muster, makes it much easier to open up that communication channel.
It also benefits letting the person know that there can be an amicable resolution, if possible. Because hey, sometimes resolutions aren’t amicable. If they severely wronged you, you are well within your right to enforce whatever boundary you feel is necessary to protect your own health and well-being. Some bad actions can absolutely torpedo a relationship.
But you’ll have to decide for yourself what those are. You don’t owe anyone forgiveness. And even if you do forgive, you don’t owe them a friendship or relationship. Trust is much like a mirror. If you break it, you can glue it back together, but it’ll never be the same.
4. They may not respect you.
Sometimes you may find yourself ignored and talked over in different settings. For example, you may be in the workplace and find that a coworker constantly interrupts you or dismisses what you have to say.
In situations like that, a lack of respect often drives that behavior. They may not respect or care what you have to say. That is unprofessional behavior. A professional will still strive to be civil with their coworkers, even if they don’t like or agree with them.
It may be best to create and enforce a boundary in that case. You may need to speak up and say, “Hey. I was talking. Please don’t interrupt me when I’m speaking.” Normally, people who try to talk over others will feel some shame and back down. But, if they don’t, it may be a matter to escalate to HR or your boss.
But what if it’s your boss? Well, that’s a whole other can of worms. Nothing will ruin a job faster than a bad boss. A bad boss will hemorrhage employees because there’s only so much money you can give a person for them to deal with that kind of garbage. Everyone has a limit.
It’s usually not worth trying to change the status quo. Suppose your boss has been there for a long time. In that case, that tells you that upper management is either ignorant of their behavior or they’re overlooking it. Plenty of bad managers stay in their positions because they produce results, even if they are chewing up their employees.
You can try complaining to HR or their superior, but that could backfire. You may find yourself experiencing unexpected pressures as your boss tries to force you out. If you should do that and that situation occurs, gather evidence, consult with an employment attorney, and file a grievance with your labor board.
Do it even if you feel like you don’t have much of a case. The legal entities that deal with this stuff know the kind of garbage that bad employers do to skirt the law and unlawfully get rid of employees. And even if you live in an at-will state, there are still federal regulations that need to be observed.
Outside of the workplace, you have a more direct and immediate say over who you do and do not interact with. And if you find that a friend or acquaintance repeatedly ignores you, speaks over you, or simply ignores your advice, then it might be worth reconsidering their place in your life.
Now that’s not to say that you can’t improve the friendship and make it healthier and more respectful, but assuming you have given that a go and the person still disrespects you, it’s probably time you let this person go.
5. They may be ignoring you without realizing it.
Not everyone who ignores you is acting maliciously. Sometimes people just get busy with their life. That may create distance between you that didn’t exist before.
Things will change, whether we want them to or not. New life circumstances may mean that you just need to accept that things have changed. They might have started a new job, gone back to school, taken up a new hobby, or found a romantic interest that is taking up more of their time.
And yes, maybe they found other friends they are currently spending time with. That happens too.
If that does happen, you can always talk to the person and request some more focused time with them. Maybe instead of casually hanging out or talking often, you can spend some higher quality time together. Maybe meeting for a regular lunch once a week, taking up a hobby, or having a focused phone call can help alleviate that feeling of being ignored.
Assuming the person does care about you, they aren’t going to want you to feel ignored. But you’ll also have to accept that things do change. And if something changed in their life that’s limiting their time, then that’s just something you’ll have to accept and deal with.
Being ignored hurts when it comes from someone you care about. It can cause a lot of physical and emotional distress that we shouldn’t really need to be subjected to. Unfortunately, people aren’t always the best at handling conflicts or making the right choices. They may choose to ignore you for weak reasons.
Understand that usually it will have nothing to do with you. Instead, it may just be the other person handling their own emotions or choices poorly.
Keep an eye out for maliciousness when someone chooses to ignore you. If they are malicious about it, then it’s not something you should tolerate or try to work out. You can’t fix other people. However, if the person just seems like they made a mistake or they’re doing it because they’re having a hard time, you can be a little more forgiving if you feel warranted.
It’s good to contemplate why it may have happened, but try to avoid jumping to solid conclusions. For example, you don’t want to convince yourself that it happened because of X reason when it was actually Z reason. That will just make the whole communication process harder than it needs to be.
Still, open communication is the easiest way to resolve this conflict. So try to get those lines of communication open to get it worked out.
Still not sure what to do when someone ignores you, or how to handle the pain it causes? Speak to a therapist today who can walk you through the process. Simply connect with one of the experienced therapists on BetterHelp.com.
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