General Question

Zaku's avatar

Why do women just stop replying?

Asked by Zaku (24540points) January 8th, 2008

There’s no one answer, of course. It can be a romantic context or a strictly platonic one, but sometimes a woman will just stop answering messages or phone calls, leaving me to guess why on earth, even when I don’t see any reason for it. I’ve been told that this is typical behavior – that women will be uncomfortable explaining why they want to break off contact. But… why? Isn’t it more uncomfortable to have someone wondering and trying to figure it out and asking, etc?

So, please just dump a bunch of random examples on me. Why have you done this to people, why have others done it, why have people finally said they did it, etc.

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24 Answers

brownlemur's avatar

I don’t think this is a woman thing, it is unisex. Trust me, women wonder the same thing about men. As for an answer, make up anything. It is easier in the short run to break off any and all contact with someone rather than explain to that person face to face why you would prefer to spend less time with him/her. Of course, this is entirely disrespectful and very hurtful to the other party. When I was younger I once broke off all communications with a girl because I was selfish and thought it was easier just to let things fizzle and work themselves out on their own, rather than be an adult and tell her that I thought things were not working out. So – 1) not just a woman thing, and 2) it’s easier and less stressful (but very immature) to stop communicating.

Zaku's avatar

Hmm. I know that men do it too, and yes I’m interested in why anyone does it.

Myself, while I might drop some conversations by neglect, I can’t imagine myself not responding to a question or request for some kind of communication from a person. I have a hard time understanding why people wouldn’t at least say something, so I’m interested in what anyone has to say.

@brownlemur – So did the girl ask you what was going on, and you just didn’t reply?

jz1220's avatar

I admit, I have been guilty of doing this to someone. Actually, a few people. Looking back on one occasion, I know that I did the right thing by stopping communication, but I regret not offering an explanation. We were new friends who lived a long distance apart, but he kept wanting to talk a lot, to the point where it was suffocating me. I got so annoyed that I just stopped responding. Very immature, I know.

On a separate occasion, we were close friends who were going separate ways. I ceased communication, but so did she. It was a mutual, unspoken transition. We didn’t exactly discuss it, but we both understood.

I agree with the above answers, it’s definitely not just a female thing.

sndfreQ's avatar

People with the “avoider” personality type are prone to avoiding confrontation. Perhaps you may be giving off a vibe that appears to be confrontational, or you may be attracted to avoider-type personalities; is this happening to a variety of women (varying personalities)?

You sound like a generally pleasant type, but take a closer look at the style and manner in which you communicate with these women; some are just plain ‘turned off’ by guys they think are skeevy or otherwise uncouth…

Zaku's avatar

@jz1220: Thanks – exactly the sort of examples I was looking for.

@sndfreq: Yes I’ve seen it from varying personalities, in varying situations, and I think I have a good guess what my part in it was in each case, which was also different in each case. I suppose this is a common thing people do to avoid what they apprehend may be an uncomfortable interaction.

What I’m curious about is what’s going on in people’s heads when they stop responding to someone, especially in a case where the person asks them why they stopped responding.

One case I can remember doing this myself is when I was 14 years old and a girl who was about three or four years older than me at school kept trying to talk to me and I pretended I didn’t hear her, several times. I think she wanted to ask me to a dance or something, maybe. At the time, I was scared of that kind of interaction and of unknown peer humiliation (it was in a busy place – one on one I think I would’ve talked to her), so I was sort of pretending to myself it wasn’t happening. This ended up making me feel bad for her and about myself, that she was trying to make some kind of positive contact and I was ignoring it. Maybe feeling that back then got me sensitive to that situation.

sndfreQ's avatar

@zaku-interesting story-I’m sure we all had some level of insecurity at that age-tough age to be…

Perhaps it’s just a habit that some folks don’t grow out of and take into adulthood; nevertheless it always makes for an interesting social dynamic come HS reunion time.

syz's avatar

There may also be a component of “you’re not getting the message”. If someone has tried to gently indicate that they are not interested, perhaps being too subtle for someone of the opposite sex to pick up on (after all, men and women are different species), then that person may feel that the next kindest indicator is to not respond to calls.

As a female, I feel that I was indoctrinated with a strict aversion to what I would consider being rude (and confrontation would also be rudeness). This is a basic tenet that phone salespeople use – they refuse to take no for an answer, until the subject is forced to use rude behavior and hang up on the caller. As an adult, I have struggled to overcome that training. I have to force myself to face up to an irate client, speak back to angry employees, not get railroaded by pushy salespeople.

I admit, in the past, I would have ignored someone that I wanted to break off with in order to avoid a confrontation, unpleasantness and embarrassment. Was that the honest, straightforward, ethical way to deal with something? Of course not. But it has taken me nearly 40 years to overcome that training.

cwilbur's avatar

I know as a male I’ve just stopped responding to people after I think I’ve given off enough “I don’t want this to continue” signals.

If I’ve said goodbye three times and you are still responding to me, I figure I’ve done my part and it’s your problem that you’re not picking up on it.

Zaku's avatar

Yes, the “you’re not getting the message” followed by just not replying I understand. Syz, the rude/confrontation aversion is I think probably one thing I don’t relate to very well, and maybe partly why I tend to think of it as more a female thing than a male thing.

I had several examples in a row which led to this question, most of which I understand but two had me wondering because they were both cases with new entirely non-romantic email acquaintances where a woman was directly requesting communication, I answered and then nothing, and no response to what I thought was polite neutral inquiry.

Case 1: New pen pal. A few friendly messages back and forth, she asks how I’ve been doing, I say I’ve had an fantastic year, but not sure how to explain to someone I’ve just met. She says please elaborate, so I do, not too specifically but kind of long. No reply. Ask what’s up – no reply.

Case 2: Woman looking to make just friends. We exchange a few messages and seem to have determined there’s no problem – her last reply is along the lines of “that’s great (that there’s no obstacle)”. I agree and ask when she might like to meet, and then nothing. I follow up asking if there was a miscommunication, and later curious what happened, all very polite… no reply except once when she didn’t recognize who I was.

I guess I just don’t relate to this seeming confrontational. I do get though that misunderstanding is really easy in email, and suppose people worried about being polite and non-confrontational get stuck on not knowing what to say or write and so just avoid and/or deny the whole thread because it’s just an email thing so people tend to treat it as a daydream they can just ignore and it’ll go away.

So I’m trying to get a better understanding of the mindset, so I can interpret such things in a way I can relate to.

khebe25's avatar

I admit that I’ve done this to a guy, and recently, too. It definitely had a “you’re not getting the message” component to it. And I really didn’t want to hurt him. We had gone out on one date, and he couldn’t stop talking about how horrible his ex-wife was to him (they’d only been separated for a year). I believed him, and I thought he was a really nice guy otherwise, but I couldn’t take the pressure to be “not like his ex-wife”. Like syz, I’ve been told not to be rude if I don’t have to be. It was easier to avoid him than to tell him that I thought he was still too bitter to date anybody new.

I think that you’re right that it is more uncomfortable to have someone wondering why you stopped responding, but only if it’s really not about them.

Zaku's avatar

Wow, that’s really interesting khebe25 – thanks for sharing that. I can see where you’re coming from, which would be hard to guess. I can also imagine being the fellow and wondering a lot and having it be hard from his perspective to understand that someone wouldn’t just explain, because I don’t think I would find it rude or confrontational if someone told me what I was doing that put them off. In fact I can remember someone saying something like that to me and just being grateful they explained it was making them worried to talk about a problem with an ex.

ambos's avatar

Zaku, I have to tell you honestly that it is easier to just quit responding than to actually deal with the issue. Not just in relationships, but in any situation. It is scary to tell people that you aren’t interested in them for some reason or another. For me, I feel as though the person will take the lack of interest/reason I don’t like them personally. And while I can’t control how someone reacts to what I say, no matter how kind, I still want to avoid confrontation, much like syz and khebe25. But with that said I would like to agree with you that telling the person is better in the long run and something I have had to learn the hard way. Just remember that most people are scared of confrontation, it is scary telling someone how you feel about them, especially if you don’t feel the same way they do. So the reason someone does not respond may have less to do with some strange trait that you have and more to do with someone’s fear of hurting you (even though not responding is far more hurtful, but less painful for the person administering the “rejection”).

Bri_L's avatar

I believe the best thing to do is to say “I am sorry, but I am just not interested in a (whatever).” In the end,I agree with Ambos. If you do nothing I always felt you were doing it to make things easier for yourself, not in order to avoid hurting the other person. No one likes confrontation, but I always try.

I have also learned the many levels of communication and friendship that can be around, especially with the speed of technology now. I have started enjoying more casual friendships with less regular communication or more specific topics that I don’t think I might have before the advent of Blogs, im and such.

Finally, there is a famous saying that helped me get over some medically treatable insecurity (i am the twin of a brother who used me to build himself up, and a rather sturn and demanding father). It was something like “you wouldn’t give so much thought to what others think of you if you knew how seldom they did”.

Not to suggest you or anyone in this discussion is insecure or needy or anything. There are often times where people truly have acted or not acted in a fasion that had nothing to do with hurting or ignoring me, despite the actions effect on me. I have been truly and joyously surprised with an experiment over the last 2 years.

I sent an email to someone I thought was a friend and with whome I have been communicating regularly. Nothing back. Not unlike Zaku. So I asked them, and I was careful how I stated it, “Loretta, I was wondering if you were ok? I had sent an email an not gotten a reply. If I can help please let me know. I would not want to bother you however, and if such is the case, I would want to know that as well. Please take care”

It turns out the person was just having a really busy and rough time. So I kept doing this and one way or the other I learned the truth. In the end, only 1 time out of the 7 I tried this did I not hear back favorably. And I felt fine about that 1, having created a situation were no response actually answered my question.

Sorry for the lengthy response to yours.

Hope this helps.

Zaku's avatar

@ambos – Thanks very much. I can relate to all of that, and it helps to read others express it and relate what it’s been like on the other end. Also reminds me when I might’ve done similar-ish things.

@Bri L – That was a great reply, thanks! I’ve mainly just been stumped and curious and realizing I could use some other perspectives. And hehe, ya that’s a great saying, too. Similar to the bumper sticker I saw a few months ago – something like: “Don’t worry about what other people think. They almost never do.”

Very cool. You guys have been great. Just the ticket. :-)

artemisdivine's avatar

i am a girl. and a huge number of girls (not me as i am a assertive lol) they tend to avoid hurting peoples feelings and getting into arguments. Women are raised to be passive and “nice” (ick). They mostly hope guys just “get it” and move on. They would rather flee than fight he he. Women are VERY complicated indeed. And yes I agree it ISNT fair and it ISNT mature. But sadly human beings can be very cruel.

Zaku's avatar

Thanks artemisdivine! :-)

Bri_L's avatar

@ artemisdivine The pain for girls is if they try to be up front they get labled as “bitches” and “libbers” and if they hope men just “get it” the get labeled as “bitches”. It is really unfair. I liken it to the whole stigma of the guy having to ask the girl out or approach the girl. That is just TERRIFYING. I am all for equality and prepared to face the music either way.

Zaku's avatar

So, what’s coming to mind from Bri L and artemisdivine and others, is that one thing I can do is project comfort, casualness, acceptance, calm and/or safety, or whatever works to soothe anxieties in advance. I may know I’m not about to label someone for communicating me, but I need to communicate THAT, hopefully in a natural way…

artemisdivine's avatar

@ Bri L yes sadly assertiveness in girls is NOT rewarded. however once one gets past what others think, then it all falls into place. but girls tend to be pleasers. if BOYS were pleasers, we would not have such craziness like war. how many women go to war? not many. (i did not design the system, its part of the socialization that has been part of our culture for decades).

guys having to ask girls out IS tough. i agree! equality is definitely a utopia i would be happy reaching. not sure it is possible until women are NOT so concerned about feelings and just are more revealing of how they feel (although there ARE wussy guys who just drift off and dont bother being decent with girls too)

i am not ANTI anybody. everyone should treat others as they want to be treated.

Bri_L's avatar

I think that is the gist yeah. If you are honest with yourself and what you want and are looking for, and you are honest with the person you are with, then in the end, worst case scenario, you wak away knowing you did the right, best thing you could.

@ Artemisdivine – I hope I didn’t imply you were anti anybody. I didn’t mean to. Actually I found what you wrote to be engaging and refreshing. I agre that “everyone should treat others as they want to be treated.” That is exactly why I always treat others to Nachos. I love being treated to Nachos! lol.

nerfmissile's avatar

Yes, this is a “unisex thing”. The Chinese might consider this a case of yin versus yang approaches. Yin is soft, flexible, dark, mysterious, low-energy, inscrutable and sustainable. Yang is hard, inflexible, bright, obvious, high-energy, direct and unsustainable. Yang energy is activated in the psyche by passion, extreme interest, attraction… in relationships it’s the reaching out to connect to something because of desire or compulsion.

If you’re facing someone who is evincing yin energy, it could be one of two things. Either they don’t believe you’re worth the energy for dialog and sustained response ( you’re just not interesting to them ) or they’re naturally unmotivated and low-energy.

Don’t bother throwing energy at yin; it won’t notice. Spend your precious short time in this life seeking out the more exciting yang connections… they, too, must settle into yin from time to time.

punkrockworld's avatar

I stop replying when I realize I’m really not interested or when I don’t wanna give the guy false hope.

Zaku's avatar

Thanks punkrockworld!

What I’m thinking I’ve seen happen sometimes is one person (for me, this has always been a female) thinks no reply is clear nicer way to disengage, but the other person (in my case, me) thinks a negative answer would be clearer and nicer, and gets confused and bothered by the silence. I.e., for me I have no problem with a clear goodbye but I have become confused and bothered by disappearance. Also I would almost never take lack of response as a goodbye, as I see many cases where people (me included) really want to communicate but just keep not getting to it for no good reason.

Since I posted this thread, I had a case where I followed up (in email) with someone asking why they stopped replying, and she replied immediately saying she’d have an easier time replying if she remembered who I was, so I reminded her (There was nothing at all in the previous conversation that I see as anything problematic, and it was not a romantic or emotional context except she said she had been upset lately but she’d been the one who first said she wanted to talk.), and then she didn’t reply again. To me, this just says to me that she has a serious communication problem, not me.

Hmm, in fact, it’s now entirely clear to me! She’s stuck in her own little world of meaning and guesswork, and I was stuck in mine. In that recent case (and often), mine just happened to be about making clear communication important. Got it. Thanks everyone!

tiggersmom's avatar

I think that in some cases, it is just easier to break things off that way with other people, not just with someone you are dating, and this is really something that men and women do to one another. It saves one from having to say that “I don’t want to talk to you anymore”. Hope this helps, good luck to you.

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