When I was younger, I was often ignored.
Later in life, I started studying social interaction. This 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:
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.
1. You might be quiet or not know what to say
Here’s the problem with being 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 service by leaving you alone.
Here’s another issue: 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 don’t want to try again.
If you know that you’re quiet, over-think situations, or are shy, I recommend that you work on your conversation skills or shyness FIRST. If you do, your problems with being ignored will likely self-solve.
I also recommend my guide on how to know what to say. You might also want to read my guide on how to stop being uncomfortable in social settings.
2. You might try too hard and come off as needy
This was one of the reasons people ignored me: I tried too hard to make friends, and people picked up on that. I’ve experienced this later in life from the other side: When someone seems too eager to talk to me, I just get a feeling that they are a bit desperate. That makes me less motivated to talk to them.
At the same time, you don’t want to be distant or not take the initiative to talk. So how do you take initiative without coming off as needy?
Continue to be proactive by taking the initiative and 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. If you try to prove yourself through bragging or humblebragging, stop that. It has the opposite effect.
Instead of trying to convey all my personality 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 might be waiting for people to acknowledge you first
This is another mistake I was guilty of:
Just because I often got ignored, I started waiting for people to acknowledge me first. This came out of insecurity: 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.
This is what I learned:
- Dare to greet people first
- Dare to be warm right off the bat (smile and ask friendly questions)
- If I was uncertain whether someone I met would remember me from 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 be bothersome or an oddball
One of the pillars of social skills is to build rapport. That is, being able to pick up on the situation and act in a way that’s appropriate. People who don’t build rapport tend to annoy those around them.
“But David, isn’t it fake to change depending on the situation?”
Being able to bring forth different aspects of who we are is a fundamental part of what it means to be human. You act in one way with your grandma and in another way with your friends, and that’s how it should be.
Personally, I think it’s beautiful and amazing that you can connect with people on a deep level by picking up on the mood and let 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
- And so on…
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, here’s how I think about rapport: 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, or 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 bring it up specifically.
It’s OK to be negative or low energy at times, but don’t make it a habit.
Here are some examples of having a negative attitude:
- Not smiling or showing happiness
- Not being appreciative of your friends
- Being quiet and give one-word responses to questions
- Being overly cynical
- Arguing with someone who says something positive
Why is it so devastating to be low energy or negative? Because people will be affected by that energy. Since we humans want to avoid negative emotions, we avoid persons 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.
6. You might look tense
This as well is a mistake I did. I couldn’t understand why people approached and talked to my friends but not me. It took me years to find out that whenever I got uncomfortable, I got a stern look on my face that signaled “Don’t talk to me”.
You can make a reality check: Ask your friends if you look angry or stern when you’re in a social setting. If you do, remind yourself to relax your face and practice daring to greet people with a smile instead.
7. You might come off as weird
Another mistake I did was trying to be unique by having odd humor that people didn’t get. (They didn’t know if I was joking or not, which made them uncomfortable).
Being weird is a big topic, and I recommend you to read my guide here: “Why am I so weird?”
8. You might talk too much or only ask questions
Both talking too much and asking too many questions about the other person gets old quickly. We want to find a balance between asking sincere questions and also sharing bits and pieces about our own lives.
I’ve written about how to balance your conversations here: The IFR method
“David, why don’t people just tell me that they don’t want to hang out rather than ignoring me?”
This is the harsh reality of life:
People aren’t obligated to help you out socially. You need to figure out the social code yourself. The good news is that when you do, you’ll get rewarded with a rich social life.
“I talk to someone and then a third person comes and only they start talking”
“People look at my friends when they talk but not me”
“I start talking but then someone starts talking over me”
All these things are super painful when they happen, but they don’t have to be personal. The same things happened to me, but when I made some adjustments to how I acted in groups, I stopped being ignored.
1. You might be too quiet and take up too little space
Whenever I’m in a group with someone quiet, I’m thinking “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 who are active in the conversation take my attention.
As you see, it’s nothing personal against the quiet person – it’s just that if you want to be noticed in a group, you need to take up more space:
2. You might forget to make eye contact when you’re about to start talking
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 looking 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 start. When you have eye contact with someone, it’s almost impossible for them to start talking about something else.
3. You might not show enough interest
Another common mistake: Feeling left out of the group conversation, zoning out, and looking unengaged. 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: Humm, say “wow/interesting/ah” whenever it fits.
- Ask follow-up questions.
Here’s my guide for how to SHOW that you listen. When you show that you’re engaged and attentive, you’ll notice how the speaker starts directing their story toward YOU.
4. You might have a closed-off body language
This is especially common if you a) get shy or anxious in groups or b) worry that people won’t like you, so you play it safe and are more distant. Unfortunately, this backfires. No one wants 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 might be 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 of time without being spoken to. (It’s just that he wasn’t bothered by it.) When I paid attention to it, people regularly got left out conversations for a long time. It’s just that I hadn’t noticed because I was busy worrying about me.
Make a reality-check and pay attention to how others are treated in groups. Sometimes, it could be in your head that you’re more ignored than others.
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 like I’ve talked about so far.
Often, it’s because we do something that takes rather than gives the friend energy.
Here are some reasons you might be ignored by friends:
- 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
This is a broad subject. I’d recommend you to read my article here on why people stop keeping in touch after a while.
“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 first of all want to look at the general reasons that I started off this article with.
Here are some reasons specifically for being ignored online:
1. You try to make small talk when people tend to communicate in a different way online
In real life, we can make small talk just to kill awkward silence. Online, people often expect more of a reason to talk: To plan something, to share something, and so on.
On text, don’t just write “What’s up?”. I personally don’t even respond to that because I wait for the person who texted to tell me what they want. To not be ignored online, have a reason for contacting people, like…
“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.
If someone tried to make small talk with me online, I would be puzzled.
2. People might be busy and down-prioritize answering online messages
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 2 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, at the beginning of this article.
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
When people have around 3 or more close friends, they 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’re going to be as content as they are.
This means that we can’t keep score of who takes initiative first. You have to take initiative again and again if you’re around people who already have their social needs met. It’s important to do this in a non-needy way as I talked about by the beginning of the article.
2. You haven’t built up your friendships yet through mutual interests
Most friendships are based on mutual interests. It almost never 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.” 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. You haven’t had the time to develop close friendships yet
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 a bad thing. They’ll just think you’re an introvert who prefers some time by yourself.
So instead of trying to push yourself onto others, learn to enjoy being by yourself occasionally. If you have an 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 awkward, and we humans want to avoid negative feelings.
If you have social anxiety or shyness, put all your effort into working on that, first! When you’re able to be a bit more relaxed meeting with people, the problem of being ignored will probably self-solve!
Here’s my guide on how to not get nervous around people.
It’s especially common to feel ignored when you’re having depression. Now, it could obviously be for any of the reasons I’ve covered so far. But when we feel depressed, some additional things happen in our brain that can distort reality.
1. A depressed mind has a harder time seeing 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 on a text, we probably just assume the person is busy. In a depressed state, it might be 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 this that mindset will help your depression, but it will help you get a more realistic view of the situation.
2. If you’re depressed, people will probably mistake you for not liking them
Several times in my life I’ve come across people who seemed really unfriendly and cold. Later, I learned that 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.
I often thought that I was ignored because I had a big nose. It couldn’t be further from the truth: Sometimes our looks become an excuse instead of dealing with the actual causes. (Causes I’ve described in this article).
Read my article here on looks and social life for a look into how looks affect our social life.
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