What did I do wrong?

How do you interpret someone’s lack of response to your overture? I’m not talking about romance here, people. No, I’m referring to occasions when you send a text or leave a voicemail for a friend and fail to receive a response within what you perceive to be a normal amount of time.  

What do you do?

If you’re me, your go to emotional reflex is to assume that you most certainly must have done something wrong, something to have angered or offended the recipient of your own sent message. How else could you possibly interpret not receiving an answer to a direct question or information that you might have requested? It certainly couldn’t be something as innocently benign as your friend being busy or neglecting to press “Send” on their response, right?

It took me many years to completely accept the fact that, more often than not, the person with whom you’re trying to communicate is simply busy and not actively angry with you in the way you’re imagining. As I’ve learned to tell myself : they’re not doing something to you with intention, it’s just who they are.

Let it go.

A friend and I talked recently about how we respond to a lack of response, and we were both very much aligned in the feelings that result from what feels like being ignored or invisible. While our immediate kneejerk reaction might be annoyance or frustration, we each consistently eventually arrive at a place where we internalize the crickets as being more a statement about our own behavior than it is about the person who failed to communicate.

Since we both have childhoods filled with trauma, for lack of a better word, I wondered if our personal histories might have predisposed us to automatically think that we must be the issue. When one grows up feeling neglected or lacking in essential parent attention, it seems only natural that one might absorb a message about their own worth and level of importance.

I asked another friend, (one who actually had an involved and caring mom), and he immediately concurred that he, too, interpreted a lack of response to be more an indicator of a trespass on his part than on the person not participating in the exchange. Hmmm.

So, now I have to ask you – how do you process the absence of a reply?

3 thoughts on “What did I do wrong?

  1. I think it really depends on who I was communicating with. I am a very impatient person, but have learned over the decades…that I cannot expect people to always respond in what I consider a timely manner, and some people…well, they may never. If I really want to hear from them/get a response, it may require me to make the extra effort…..some people are worth that effort…others….not so much. Does it hurt? Absolutely! but most of that hurt is immediate, and fades over time. At least that has been my experience.

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