But we’re so used to settling for the obvious – s/he doesn’t want to (answer) or s/he is too keen (on me) – that we’ve almost lost the ability to think rationally about why we keep failing at communicating more openly.
If you’re one of those people who keeps wondering, where to draw the line between gratitude and politeness – because you like to think of yourself as someone who’s “too nice and wouldn’t hurt a fly” – when s/he is “too keen” for your liking, the question you need to ask yourself is, “Why don’t I simply say, ‘I really don’t want to receive your emails, or calls, or text messages anymore. Please don’t contact me’.”
Well, I guess you’re catching my drift here. You don’t ask that question because you’re selfish. You love getting attention, which you don’t want to reciprocate. Why? Because it’s easier to get than to give, and because you made a conscious decision to show disinterest, hoping your lazy behavior would do the ‘honors’ for you.
Think about it, if you really didn’t want the (arguably “unsolicited”) attention – like you wouldn’t want a cigar burning your skin – you wouldn’t put up with it. Why did you exchange numbers or emails in the first place? So you resolve that it’s far simpler to ‘read and ignore’ (while you gloat with your ego about how s/he wants you) than to say what you don’t (seem to) want. What’s the worst that could happen? That s/he doesn’t give you that attention anymore? Well, make up your mind, isn’t that what you’re implying that you want with your ‘silent treatment’?
Why not save everyone some valuable time by saying it openly then? Never assume the other person can read your complicated mind. In most cases, people get in contact because somehow we’ve given them permission to do so, and common sense aside, not replying doesn’t say “I don’t want you”. If anything, silence says nothing, silence is limbo, silence means failure to state what we want, lack of action to claim it, and underlining insecurity, more than anything else.
And if you’re thinking of giving me the ‘polite’ excuse with the ever-so-fake, “Oh I wouldn’t want to hurt his/her feelings by being too direct”, here is today’s breaking news: you are already hurting his/her feelings by being distantly rude. So why don’t you just do the noble thing? Ok, let me spill it out for you, getting some courage to state what you either want or don’t want with your communication, so that the other person really gets it. Besides, you would be doing yourself a big favor. So I urge you to be brave enough to cut loose on the (emotional or material) pay-offs you might be getting from just pretending you don’t care.
If on the other hand you’re one of those people who are constantly struggling to understand why s/he isn’t returning your messages, for once, go beyond the obvious. You don’t need to be lost in ‘clues’ and ‘signs’ anymore; instead exercise your right to be smarter, and get out of your self-pity and unfounded insecurities. The truth of the matter is, s/he would like to reply to you, but isn’t courageous enough to tell you what s/he wants or (secretly) really wants; or worse, whether that person knows, what that is after all.
Life is simple. If you just met someone, whom you don’t like, and s/he expressed an interest in you, don’t be afraid to say, “Hey, you’re cool, but I won’t be in contact. You’ll respect me more for telling you now. I’m not being arrogant, I’m being honest.” What? Don’t want to lose a potential “friend” by saying that? Newsflash for you, s/he more likely didn’t want you as (just) a friend either.
Sometimes it’s better to spend two minutes being direct, than twice the time going around the bush. So don’t kid yourself with judgmental standards of politeness vs. manners. It’s far worse to act condescendingly, especially with someone who was braver than you by showing or expressing his/her interest. Arrogance is unkind.
It’s OK to not* like someone back, as it’s OK to politely reject them and their communication. So say it like it is, if that’s what you really want. And to you, we’re not always everyone’s ‘cup of tea’, so the next time you write or text and s/he doesn’t answer, feel free to forgive, forget and have fun. Life is for living. [Wink].