Later in life, I started studying social interaction. Doing so helped me figure out the reasons why people ignored me. Today, thousands of people take my courses on social skills.
Here’s what my journey taught me about being ignored:
People ignoring you isn’t a reflection of who you are. You are still a worthy person even if people ignore you. However, by figuring out why people ignore you, you can work on developing certain social skills that will reduce the chance people will ignore you in the future.
By making small changes, you can make people notice you, respect you, and want to talk to you. You don’t need to change who you are.
- Reasons people may ignore you
- Why people avoid saying they don’t want to hang out
- Ignored in groups
- Ignored by friends
- Ignored on text/chat/online
- Ignored at a new job/school/place
- Feeling ignored when you have social anxiety
- Feeling ignored when you have depression
- Would you still be ignored if you were better looking?
Feeling ignored can be downright painful. The “still face experiment” shows that babies become overwhelmed when their attempts to connect with their caregivers are ignored, and the same pattern continues when we are adults. There is nothing wrong with you for feeling distressed when ignored by others.
Here are some reasons people may ignore you and what you can do about it.
1. You’re too quiet
People usually don’t understand that you’re quiet because you’re shy or don’t know what to say (or because you’re an overthinker, like me).
Instead, they think that you’re quiet because you don’t want to talk to them. So, they think they’ll do you a favor by leaving you alone.
If people try talking to you, but you only give short replies, you aren’t “rewarding them” for making an effort and talking to you. They might even feel rejected and won’t want to try again.
If you know you’re quiet, overthink situations, or are shy, I recommend you work on your conversation skills or shyness first. If you do, your problems with being ignored will likely solve themselves.
2. You’re trying too hard
I tried too hard to make friends, and people picked up on that. Healthy people may shy away from people that come across as too needy.
I experienced this later in life from the other side. When someone seems too eager to talk to me, I just feel that they are a bit desperate. That makes me less motivated to speak with them.
At the same time, you don’t want to be distant or not take the initiative to talk. So how do you take the initiative without coming off as needy?
The solution is to be proactive by talking to people. Just stop rushing the process. You can see it as doing the same thing but dialing down the intensity a few notches. Stop trying to prove yourself through bragging or humblebragging. It has the opposite effect.
Instead of trying to convey all my personality on the first day, I let it take weeks or months. Instead of forcing conversation, I made it when it felt natural. In other words, I “smeared out” my initiatives and inquiries with people over a longer time. It stopped making me seem needy, and people were more eager to talk to me.
Be proactive and social, but take your time doing it. Never look for approval. It’ll make you more attractive.
3. You’re waiting for people to acknowledge you
Because I was insecure, I used to wait for people to acknowledge me. To avoid the risk of rejection, I wanted to wait for others to be nice to me first. Instead, people took me for being unfriendly and arrogant.
I learned that I needed to greet people first and be warm right off the bat by smiling and asking friendly questions.
If I was uncertain whether someone I met would remember me from the last time, I dared to be warm and confident. “Hi! Good to see you again!”. (This has ALWAYS been appreciated and feels much better than ignoring them out of insecurity.)
Being warm and friendly doesn’t mean being needy.
4. You might struggle to build rapport
One of the pillars of social skills is to build rapport. That is, being able to pick up on the situation and act appropriately. People who don’t build rapport tend to annoy those around them.
You may be thinking that if you change depending on the situation, that makes you fake.
Being able to bring forth different aspects of who we are is a fundamental part of being human. You act in one way with your grandma and in another with your friends, which is how it should be.
I think it’s beautiful that you can connect with people deeply by picking up on the mood and letting out a part of your personality that matches.
Here are some examples of breaking rapport that can make people ignore you:
- Talking much more or much less than others
- Being way too high or low energy
- Talking about stuff others aren’t interested in
- Swearing heavily when no one else is
- Trying to be cool or aloof when others are being nice
The list goes on forever. We simply can’t memorize all these things, and it would be fake to have a list of ways to act.
Instead, think about how someone is. In other words, how would you act if you wanted to imitate that person? Are they soft-spoken? Calm? Intense?
We have a surprisingly good understanding of how someone is when we think about it, right? The next time you meet, bring forward the part of you that’s also soft-spoken, calm, or intense. The wonder of being a human is that we have all these aspects inside of us. Rapport is about using them when it’s appropriate.
When you do, you’ll connect with people on a deeper level, and they’ll want to be around you more.
5. You might be negative or low-energy
Always being negative or low-energy is also a way of breaking rapport, but since it’s such a common reason for being ignored, I want to elaborate on it.
It’s OK to be negative or low energy sometimes. We all are. But if it’s a habit, it’s something worth looking into.
Here are some examples of having a negative attitude:
- Not smiling or showing happiness
- Not being appreciative of your friends
- Being quiet and giving one-word responses to questions
- Being overly cynical
- Arguing with someone who says something positive
It’s devastating to be low energy or negative because people are affected by that energy. Since people want to avoid negative emotions, we avoid people who emit them.
This isn’t about being annoyingly positive or overly high-energy. It’s about being able to pick up on the energy level and positivity level of others and be in the same ballpark.
You don’t have to pretend to be happy when you’re not, but be aware of the energy you bring to social situations.
For example, you can say you’re not in a good mood but still refrain from bringing negative energy into your interactions. You may say something like, “I’m not doing so well today, but I’m sure it will pass. How are you doing?”
You might also like this article on how to be more positive about life.
6. You might look tense
I couldn’t understand why people approached and talked to my friends but not me. It took me years to discover that whenever I got uncomfortable, I had a stern look that signaled, “Don’t talk to me.”
Ask your friends if you look angry or stern in social settings. If you do, remind yourself to relax your face and practice greeting people with a smile instead.
7. You might come off as weird
Another mistake I made was trying to be unique by having odd humor that people didn’t get. It turned out that they didn’t know if I was joking or not, which made them uncomfortable. And people tend to avoid people who make them feel uncomfortable.
Another way you may seem weird is by bringing up niche interests that are unrelated to what people are talking about.
Being weird is a big topic, and I recommend you read my guide: Why am I so weird?
8. You’re talking too much
Talking too much can overwhelm the other person, and they may not know how to handle the situation other than ignoring you and hoping that you stop talking.
Telling someone that they’re talking too much feels impolite, so many people would rather ignore you than tell you that you’re overwhelming them.
This article on how to deal with talking too much can give you helpful tips.
9. You’re asking too many questions
Asking someone too many questions can make them feel like you’re interrogating them.
You want to balance asking sincere questions and sharing bits and pieces about your life.
Ignoring someone is not particularly nice, but remember that most people struggle with social skills and communication to some degree. Telling someone, “I don’t want to spend time with you,” feels hurtful and impolite, so ignoring the situation and hoping that the other person picks up on it feels easier to most people.
It’s a case of inaction being easier than action. Even though ignoring someone can hurt just as much as rejecting them outright, it feels as though it’s less hurtful.
Also, people have their own lives going on. They aren’t obligated to help you out socially, nor do they have the training or resources to do so, even if they are interested. That’s why many therapists, coaches, and courses specialize in healthy communication, social anxiety, improving relationships, and so on. It takes time and energy to learn and teach these important skills.
The good news is that when you do the work to learn these skills, you’ll get rewarded with a rich and rewarding social life.
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Does it seem like the people you talk to ignore you once a third person joins the conversation? Do people look at your friends when they talk, but not you? Do people talk over you in group settings?
All these things are super painful when they happen, but they don’t have to be personal.
Here are some reasons you may be getting ignored in group settings and what you can do about it.
1. You’re too quiet or take up too little space
Whenever I’m in a group with someone quiet, I think, “That person probably doesn’t want to talk.” So I don’t bother them. After a while, I usually forget about the person because the people active in the conversation capture my attention.
It’s nothing personal against the quiet person.
2. You forget to make eye contact when you talk
I was puzzled that when I started talking in groups, someone could speak over me. Then, I realized that when I spoke too quietly (like I talked about in the last step) or when I looked down or away.
If you start talking and look away, it’s like you say something in passing. If you want to create the feeling that you’re about to tell a story, you have to keep eye contact from the start. When you make eye contact with someone, it’s almost impossible for them to start talking about something else.
3. You’re not showing interest
Feeling left out of the group conversation, zoning out, and looking unengaged are common reasons people get ignored. People will subconsciously feel like you’re not part of the conversation anymore (even if you’re physically still there), and they’ll ignore you.
The trick is to look engaged even when you’re just listening:
- Make constant eye contact with the speaker.
- React to things people say by saying “hmm,” “wow/interesting/ah,” nodding, and showing other forms of engagement whenever it fits.
- Ask follow-up questions.
When you show that you’re engaged and attentive, you’ll notice how the speaker starts directing their story toward YOU.
You might like this article on what to do when people leave you out of a group conversation.
4. You have a closed-off body language
If you get shy or anxious in groups or worry that people won’t like you, you may play it safe by acting more distant. Unfortunately, this backfires. People don’t want to interact with someone who looks unapproachable.
You need to keep an open body language and look friendly. This can be hard, especially if you’re nervous. But the good news is that you can fake it until you make it. Practice looking approachable in the mirror. Use that look consciously when you know that you might look closed off.
5. You’re misjudging the situation
I often obsessed over not being included in the group and being left out. There was this super social popular guy I knew, and one day I decided to analyze him in social settings.
To my surprise, he sat silent for long periods without anyone speaking to him. It’s just that he wasn’t bothered by it. When I paid attention to it, people regularly got left out of conversations for a long time. It’s just that I hadn’t noticed because I was busy worrying about myself.
Pay attention to how others are treated in groups. Sometimes, it could be in your head that you’re ignored more than others. People may talk over you because they’re over-excited rather than not caring about what you say.
Do you meet people who are friendly at first but then seem to lose interest after a while? Perhaps you hang out for weeks or months, and then they stop returning your calls or are always “busy.” If you can relate to this, the issues are quite different from being ignored in early interaction. There are many reasons why friends stop keeping in touch after a while.
Often, it’s because we do something that takes rather than gives the friend energy.
Here are some reasons friends might ignore you:
- You might be too negative
- You might be too high or low energy compared to your friend
- You might talk too much about yourself
- You might talk about things your friend isn’t interested in
“Why do people ignore me when I text them?”
“I see that people read my message, but then they don’t reply.”
This really sucks, and there can be several explanations.
For example, if people ignore you online AND in other situations, you want to start by looking at the general reasons I started off this article with.
Here are three reasons for being ignored online and over text.
1. You make small talk
We can make small talk in real life to kill awkward silence. Online, people often expect more of a reason to talk, like planning something or sharing specific information.
On text, don’t just write “What’s up?”. People often don’t respond to those types of messages because they expect the person who texted first to share their reason for texting.
To prevent being ignored online, include a reason for contacting people. For example, “Hey, do you happen to have a copy of the exam questions?”
With almost all of my friends, I only communicate to 1) discuss something specific, 2) send easy-to-consume memes, 3) link to something we know that the other person really likes, or 4) plan for meeting up.
2. People might be busy
I used to feel terrible when people didn’t respond. Then, as my life got busier, I started doing the same thing without having any bad feelings about the person. If you send a normal, legitimate question like something I mentioned above, wait for two days, then send a reminder.
If people, as a pattern, don’t reply after that, you want to look at the general reasons why people might ignore you.
3. Your messages aren’t clear
Sometimes someone may ignore your message if it isn’t clear what you’re trying to say.
If you’re unsure if you’re getting your message across properly, consider asking someone to read your messages and offer you some feedback.
It can be very stressful to start at a new place and feel left out. You want to blend in and feel comfortable, but it doesn’t seem to be happening.
Here are some reasons for being ignored at a new job, school, or place:
1. People mainly hang out with those they are most comfortable around
People with around three or more close friends are often less motivated to socialize (because they have their social needs covered). These people aren’t going to actively try to socialize with you. It’s nothing personal. When you have your social needs fulfilled, you will be as content as they are.
We can’t keep score of who takes initiative first. You must take the initiative repeatedly if you’re around people who already have their social needs met. It’s essential to do this in a non-needy way, as I talked about at the beginning of the article.
2. You haven’t built up your friendships yet
Most friendships are based on mutual interests. It seldom works to make close friends with people you have nothing in common with. If you’re new somewhere, seek out groups of people who share your interests. You can then use that interest as a reason for keeping in touch with them.
“Hi Amanda, how’s your photography project going? I just took some long-exposure photos in the park yesterday. Do you want to meet up to take photos together?” works infinitely better than out of nowhere saying, “Hi, want to meet up after work?”
If you try to make friends with people you have nothing in common with, you have a higher risk of being ignored.
3. It hasn’t been enough time
It takes time to make friends, and that can be stressful. I remember panicking when I was new in class. I thought that if people saw me by myself, they would think I was a loser. That made me try to push my way into the social circle, which came off as needy.
Later, I learned this from a socially savvy friend: It’s OK to be by yourself, and if you look like you enjoy it, people won’t see it as bad. They’ll just think you’re an introvert who prefers time alone.
Instead of pushing yourself onto others, learn to enjoy being by yourself occasionally. If you have open body language and a warm, relaxed face, you don’t come off as the loser but as the chill person who’s decided to have some alone time.
If you come off as very nervous or insecure, that can make people less motivated to interact with you. Why? Because when you feel awkward, they feel uncomfortable, and we humans want to avoid negative feelings.
Social anxiety can also make you prone to overanalyzing social situations so that you feel ignored even when people don’t mean to ignore you. For example, you may become hyper-aware of how long it takes someone to text you back, and you stress out when it takes them longer than before.
If you have social anxiety or shyness, put all your effort into working on that first! When you can be a bit more relaxed meeting with people, the problem of being ignored will probably self-solve!
It’s especially common to feel ignored when you’re having depression. It could be for any of the reasons I’ve covered so far. But when we feel depressed, some additional things in our brain can distort reality.
1. It’s harder to see things from others’ perspective
When we have depression, studies show that our brain is worse at seeing things from others’ perspectives.
If we’re in a good mood and don’t get a response to a text, we probably just assume the person is busy. In a depressed state, it feels like proof that we’re worthless to others.
Consciously remind yourself that when you’re depressed, your brain is tricking you. Ask yourself: How would a happy person think about this situation? I’m not saying that mindset will help your depression, but it will help you get a more realistic view of the situation.
2. People may think you don’t like them
I’ve encountered people who seemed unfriendly and cold, only to discover later they were depressed and felt lonely.
If you behave coldly toward others, they will often assume that you are unfriendly and don’t like them.
Don’t wait for people to come to you when you’re depressed. Let your friends know that you appreciate them and like them. Tell them that you are going through tough times and any bad mood is because of that, NOT because of them.
What can you do about it?
Seek professional support from a therapist
Depression is not easy to deal with by yourself. For some people, it may be impossible. Consult your doctor and consider looking for a therapist.
Today, there are many types of interventions for depression, including talk therapies, group therapy, medication, somatic-based therapies (therapies that focus on noticing body sensations rather than talking), and so on. So even if you’ve tried therapy or medication in the past and it wasn’t helpful, it’s worth inquiring about different treatments.
It’s true that looks can affect your social life.
But while people are more likely to notice conventionally attractive people, being beautiful is not enough to build fulfilling relationships. Nor is being unattractive a reason not to have friendships.
Investing in good hygiene, clothes, and posture can make a world of difference. Even if you’re not naturally attractive, there is a lot you can do to draw positive attention to yourself physically. If you’re insecure about your physical appearance, consider investing in a good haircut with a professional hair stylist, consulting with a clothes stylist to find the colors and styles that compliment you most, or improving your posture by working with a physical therapist. Remember that this is what most celebrities and influencers do. Sure, they start with good genes, but they have whole teams working behind the scenes to ensure they look good every day.