Why You Might Feel Ignored By Others, According To Experts

Feeling connected allows human beings to survive and thrive, and these fundamental feelings of connection, belonging, and relatedness are supported by our communication skills and our mental wellness. But if our communication or mental health is out of balance, we may be left feeling ignored, which, for many, is a terrible experience to endure.

Feeling ignored is a source of social pain and can even have a dehumanizing effect on your psyche. In terms of our survival and protection, we are so intrinsically motivated to ensure our connectedness that we would rather be argued with than be ignored. In other words, for many of us, negative attention is better than no attention at all.

Feeling that you're being ignored can be real or simply a matter of your perception. Dr. Ryan Sultán, a board-certified mental health physician, director of Integrative Psych, and research professor at Columbia University, told The List that people analyze data points — such as eye contact or the length of someone's verbal response — to determine if they are being ignored. "In the case of feeling ignored, individuals may interpret these behaviors as proof of being undervalued, leading to feelings of sadness or frustration, [which can], in turn, potentially result in withdrawal from social interactions," said Dr. Sultán. Let's examine some of the reasons why you might be feeling ignored by others.

Certain social skills are lacking

We typically learn social skills as children. But as adults, some of us still lack skills that could help us socially, like active listening, speaking up for ourselves, confronting others constructively, showing empathy, and making new friends. 

It's important to assess whether you or the person you are trying to relate to might be lacking social skills. If you are, you might avoid engaging with others, which can leave you feeling ignored. Psychotherapist Amira Martin told The List that communication skills are key for those who may feel overlooked or misunderstood. Martin explained that these folks "often feel ignored because they struggle to express themselves effectively or make their presence known in group settings." If you need help to improve your social skills, Martin suggested developing tailored strategies with a therapist with training in socialization or cognitive behavioral therapy.

To take steps on your own, psychotherapist and author Amy Morin suggests starting with simple challenges like thanking a store clerk. Morin also recommended that you ask open-ended questions, be generous with compliments, and focus on others' interests to invite them to talk to you in social environments. The goal of training yourself this way, according to Morin, is to "be able to enter into conversations with confidence."

You have an introverted personality

The introverted personality type makes up at least half of the population, according to multiple studies. Introverts deal with their world internally and tend to keep their ideas, thoughts, and plans to themselves. Because they typically speak up less, they may not be asking for what they need, including attention from others. "Being assertive can be scary or feel like you're being mean or aggressive, but the alternative is not asking for what you need and those needs not being met," Alexa Pena, a licensed clinical social worker, wrote for UpJourney. "This is usually when people feel ignored or unseen." 

If you have an introverted personality, all hope is not lost. Alissa Martinez, psychotherapist and founder of Crystal Mind Counseling, told The List that you can improve your ability to communicate your ideas to others. "Feeling ignored partially stems from the fact that we believe we don't have any control over the situation," Martinez said. "To the contrary, we actually do have control. We have control over how we behave and react in social environments."

If you're dating an introvert, it's important to respect the ways that their mind might work differently than yours. Let them know if you feel ignored, ask questions, and try not to judge them for keeping their thoughts zipped tight. Also, get used to making social plans for both of you, but always run them by your partner to make sure they feel comfortable enough to socialize.

You may have a specific communication style

Different communication styles can contribute to insecurity around communication. If you have a passive communication style, in which you tend to stay quiet and don't often make eye contact, it may be difficult for others to engage with you, leaving you feeling ignored. Psychotherapist Sarah Spiegelhoff explained to The List that people don't realize their passive style is at the root of being ignored. "I've worked with clients who may not recognize their timidness or ambivalence to fully engage in a group as being perceived by others as uninterested in the conversation. It isn't the fault of either party but rather a lack of awareness of how the situation is being perceived," Spiegelhoff said. 

Just because you are quiet does not mean you aren't communicating. Those who experience fear or discomfort around communicating may show it in their body language, according to clinical psychologist John Dolores. "These negative reactions can manifest externally through physical cues like frowning, which could actually just be a neutral face that seems like a frown, looking down, folding the arms, or difficulty in freely and clearly expressing themselves," Dolores told The List. If people think you are disinterested based on your body language, it's likely they could overlook you. Pay attention to your posture and expression, try to make eye contact, and limit fidgeting when you are speaking to maximize your connection and be seen. 

Social anxiety makes it difficult to socialize

People with social anxiety disorder (SAD) tend to have low self-esteem and see themselves in a negative light, which can keep them from reaching out to others. It's not the same thing as social awkwardness, a term that's usually applied to difficulty fitting in, or saying and doing the right thing in social encounters. People with SAD are fearful and respond by narrowing their worlds, which can mean they have few friends and often feel ignored or lonely. Socializing can feel especially confusing when you don't understand the root cause of your desire to stay isolated. So if you think you might have SAD, you can work with a therapist or healthcare professional to get a diagnosis. 

The effects of SAD can turn into a cycle of not reaching out to your people, thereby causing your people to not reach out to you. Paul Greene, a psychologist and the director of the Manhattan Center for Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, summed up this unfortunate cycle to The List. "People with social anxiety who avoid social interactions may feel ignored because they are actually being ignored — people often ignore others who avoid or ignore them," he explained. If you have SAD, cognitive behavioral therapy can be a collaborative, goal-oriented treatment that helps you manage the condition, take steps to improve your socialization, and reduce your feelings of being ignored.

Love languages differ

Although love languages are not backed by research, marriage counselor Gary Chapman's description of the five ways in which we communicate our love has remained popular since he published his book "The 5 Love Languages" in 1992. In his work, Chapman outlined five languages: acts of service, physical touch, quality time, gifts, and words of affirmation.

Loving gestures may go unrecognized or undervalued if you and your partner have different love languages. For example, a lover who values acts of service may take care of things around the house or offer to handle the kids' carpooling as a way to express love. However, their partner might like to express or receive love through words of affirmation or physical touch. "It's normal to have different [love] languages, but the key is to be clear with your partner about what you are needing versus assuming that since they know, they 'should' be delivering on it," clinical sexologist and psychotherapist Dr. Kristie Overstreet told SheKnows.

Get to know your love languages. We're often able to hold space for more than one language in the ways we love. Also, consider that experts are still introducing new love languages, like sharing novel experiences together. Analyzing and communicating how you prefer to give and receive love can clear up any confusion that may lead to feeling ignored.

You are being intentionally ignored

Sometimes being left out or ignored is intentional because you are dealing with a person or group that is choosing not to communicate with you. A person may not be socially skilled or experienced enough to know how to confront you constructively, or it's possible that someone is intentionally ignoring you to cause harm, known as ostracism. Being left out is a painful experience that threatens our basic human need for connection and can bring on a sense of loss. "Communication is a fundamental aspect of any relationship and giving someone the 'silent treatment' is a way to hurt them," certified mental health expert Adina Mahilli wrote for UpJourney.

People can consciously ostracize someone as a form of emotional punishment for making an error, whether real or perceived. Psychotherapist and life coach Jenna Nocera told The List that folks in our fast-paced society are quick to make snap judgments about each other without taking the time to understand all sides of an issue. "Anyone feeling ignored by others may benefit from reminding themselves that there is a loneliness epidemic in our society, fueled by political division and the ability to hide behind computer screens and apps," Nocera said. "You are not alone in feeling ignored," she added. It's important to acknowledge how much it hurts to be ostracized by others and to focus on your self-care and healing if you have endured this behavior. 

You've become socially isolated

When we endured the effects of quarantine during the COVID pandemic, many of us learned what social isolation feels like and how it affects our mental health. Beyond the pandemic, however, there are many life experiences that can bring about similar feelings of isolation. Perhaps you've relocated to a new city for work, or you've gone off to college and are away from your family for the first time. Keeping up relationships takes work, especially when you are no longer geographically near someone. And, if communication falters, it might feel like you're out of sight, out of mind to your loved ones.

Being away from your support system is a major life change that may require coping skills to alleviate feelings of depression. Make an extra effort to reach out to others and let them know you still need emotional support and attention, even from a distance. Especially during a time like the pandemic, psychologist Michael Messina suggests on his website that you create a positive space in which you give thanks daily for what lifts your spirits. It also helps to accept the phase of life you're in and try to let go of your struggle with isolation. "Many meditation practices require silence and isolation," Messina writes. "Embrace how this can be mentally healing versus mentally draining."

Society can be ageist

It's an unfortunate truth that our society can be ageist, and ageism has negative effects on both ends of our life spectrum. In a survey reported by the Daily Mail, half of respondents age 65 and older reported that they felt invisible. "Being ignored or overlooked due to age highlights society's obsession with youth and novelty," psychologist Easton Gaines said to The List. "However, it is important to remember that age is a tapestry of wisdom and experience, not a cloak rendering individuals invisible," she said. Conversely, it's common for younger adults to feel that they won't be taken seriously or that they will be dismissed in a professional setting because of their lack of experience.

Diversity is considered a cornerstone of a good business, and that includes allowing input from every age group. Psychiatrist Dr. Ketan Parmar believes that everyone deserves respect, regardless of their age. Dr. Parmar told The List that you should take action if you feel you are being ignored in a professional environment due to your age. "Networking is key for making connections and gaining recognition within your field. Having an online presence is also essential, as this allows people to get to know you and your skillset without having to be in the same physical space," Dr. Parmar said. You can also look to role models in your age group who are staying active and fighting the invisibility narrative of aging. 

Ghosting is a real phenomenon

Despite our potential preference for confrontation over silence, a phenomenon called "ghosting" has taken hold of society. Ghosting is the act of abruptly leaving an unresolved relationship and disappearing like a ghost. In many cases, taking no action and silently leaving someone may seem like the least complicated route, regardless of how it makes the other person feel. It's a sadly common technique that leaves people feeling frustrated, unworthy, and ignored.

Clinical psychologist and psychotherapist Miriam Koshy told The List, "It can be distressing for the person being ignored and is often seen as a reflection of poor communication skills or a lack of empathy on the part of the person who is ghosting." It can feel confusing because you might be left with questions about what went wrong. And, without closure, many people are unsure if a relationship is truly over. 

If you were ghosted, keep in mind that only you control your feelings of self-worth. Do not surrender your power to the person who ghosted you. Instead, take good care of yourself with adequate sleep and a nourishing diet, and focus on spending time with people who love and support you. You can also journal about unresolved questions you have for the person who ghosted you to gain a sense of closure in the relationship. 

Take this time for self-reflection

If you are feeling ignored, take some quiet time for self-reflection. There may be other underlying reasons for your feelings, and increasing your self-awareness might bring them to light. Psychotherapist Sarah Greenberg confirmed to The List that feeling ignored will require some deeper digging on your part. "The truth is that feelings aren't facts," she explained. "Feelings are information that we can work with, and learn from, but feeling bad doesn't mean the reality actually is entirely bad."

Also, check in with yourself: How has your attitude been lately? "People avoid negativity like the plague," mental health professional Adina Mahalli wrote for UpJourney. She continued, "If you find yourself being ignored, give yourself a quick reality check to make sure you're not the source of toxicity." 

Licensed counselor Rachel Davidson suggested that you also examine your past behavior for specific instances that might have upset someone. "There are so many ways we could have dropped the ball as a friend, and it is easy to spiral, thinking about what we might have done wrong," Davidson told The List. She said to consider whether or not you have been present in conversations, missed an important event, or said something hurtful. If you're unsure, rather than ruminating, Davidson advised that you ask your loved one for clarification on their silence. In the end, you cannot make others communicate with you. All you can do is honestly communicate your concerns and be open to the ensuing conversation.

Speak up when you need attention

Asking for more attention can be challenging for individuals who have social anxiety, a passive communication style, or low self-esteem. Psychotherapist Julia Baum told The List that many individuals struggle with taking the initiative and often wait for others to show interest first. However, Baum explained, "Once they take the risk of starting the conversation, they realize that most people will reciprocate and a relationship can grow from there. Their sense of being ignored fades once they empower themselves to initiate connections."

If you feel ignored, it's important to let others know you need more attention. Ask for a specific time to talk with your loved ones rather than trying the conversation in the spur of the moment. Then, be prepared to state exactly what you need and how it will impact your relationship. For example, if you need a friend to text you back more often, you can let them know that you'll feel more valued and loved if you receive more communication from them.

Dr. Blen Tesfu told The List, "Building self-confidence, practicing assertiveness, and seeking out supportive relationships can help individuals overcome the feelings of being overlooked and establish meaningful connections." Ultimately, it's important not to define your worth by the behavior of others. People are going through their own experiences, and how they act doesn't necessarily reflect on you.