What To Say To Someone Who’s Leaving You On Read

“Do you want to share what you’re thinking?”

by JR Thorpe
Originally Published: 
Here's what to do when someone ignores your text
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You’ve checked your phone multiple times in the past day, but it’s dead, silent, a big ole zero. Perhaps you’ve even sent a text or two over the past few days, but so far, you’ve heard nothing back — which is very unlike the person you’re close to. Your friend is ignoring you, and you have no idea why. This can be a confusing, hurtful, and frustrating situation. How are you supposed to know what to say when someone ignores you over text?

“Many conflicting emotions might arise if a friend gives you the silent treatment,” Rachel Hoffman, Ph.D., LCSW, head of therapy at Real, tells Bustle. “You might feel angry, sad, confused, and betrayed.” And while you might want to pour all these emotions out to them — or call them until they pick up — when someone ignores your texts, thoughtfully reaching out to the person ignoring you may help the situation.

The silent treatment can come out of nowhere, or it can be triggered by a specific incident. “It is important to understand what caused your friend to start withdrawing from the relationship,” psychologist Charmaine Jackman, Ph.D., tells Bustle. “For example, was there a conflict (perceived or real), or did they simply stop responding to you for an unexplained reason? Is this a pattern that they have engaged in before, or is it connected to a mental health condition?” Depression, for example, can often make people withdraw or neglect relationships. These factors will color how you respond to the sudden wave of silence coming out of your phone.

Of course, if your friend is leaving you on read, you might not have any idea why they’re ignoring you, and it could have nothing to do with you at all. Maybe they’re busy with a work project, or their new apartment has shoddy service. If you need them to see your text ASAP, you might try asking if they can respond by a certain time, or a friendly nudge such as, “Are you busy?” If that doesn’t work, you’ll want to try getting to the bottom of the silent treatment. When you’re staring at your phone wondering what to say to the blank screen, here are some tips for how to get someone to stop ignoring you.

“Are you OK?”

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If the reasoning behind their silence is unclear, it’s valid to ask if they’re all right, especially if not hearing from them for a while is incredibly unusual. “You can reach out to them in any capacity, be it email, text, or phone call, with the understanding that they might not respond,” Hoffman says. “Remember to have empathy and share your concern that you have not heard from them.” If things get really concerning as you just get radio silence back, try reaching out to someone else close to them, such as a family member.

“I’m here for you.”

“If there was a conflict, your friend’s silent treatment may be their way of processing and taking space to figure out how to respond,” Jackman says. Some people struggle with healthy communication and need time to deal with fights or disagreements. If that’s the case, she says, give them space, but be willing to listen to their concerns when they resurface, and to communicate how you feel in a thoughtful way.

“I’m sad that we feel distant right now.”

Feeling down that they’ve disappeared and not sure why? “Express sadness in the newfound distance of the friendship,” Hoffman says. This isn’t meant to sound manipulative; it’s to tell them you value the relationship and their disappearance has impacted you.

“Do you want to share what you’re thinking?”

“No matter how close you are to someone, you will never know their every thought, every fear, every experience,” Hoffman says. Something may be going on, related to you or not, and you have no idea about it. If you choose this path, prepare to listen to their response, even if it might be confrontational or upsetting (or have nothing to do with you at all).

“Sometimes the answer might not be what we want to hear,” Jackman says. They might be angry or need space without wanting to give you an explanation, and that can feel really hurtful. At that point, she says, process your emotions independently without taking them out on your friend.

“This funny thing happened...”

Sending this text is only a good idea if you really don’t know why your friend might be leaving you on read. If you had an argument, this could come across as you ignoring the problem altogether. On one hand, this tactic can be reassuring to a friend who maybe thinks things are awkward between you or that you might be upset at their lack of communication, Jackman says, but try not to send too many messages or force a conversation before they want to talk to you.

“I’m sorry.”

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Silence post-fight is pretty common, and even if you’re sure you’re right, take the cooling-off time to look at how the issue played out. “Acknowledging your role in the situation can reassure them that you can communicate honestly,” Jackman says. “For example, you can apologize and ask when they might be ready to talk.” If you’ve hurt them and they don’t want to talk to you, honor the space and time they need.

“I’ll respect your space.”

Intentional silence, Jackman says, is a boundary designed to help your friend process their feelings. It may be difficult to swallow, but it might be helping them. And it can be good for them to know you’ll let them have space. “Expressing any sort of anger or disappointment might only hurt the relationship further,” Hoffman says. Don’t engage in an arms race of silence or aggression if you can help it; just keep things civil.

“How are things? Did your test go well?”

If it’s been longer than usual since you’ve spoken to your friend, they could also be looking for a way to reconnect with you, but might feel bad about leaving you on read for so long. Asking a low stakes question like this that relates to something you already know they have going on in their life might give them the opening they were looking for. And when you get talking together, “if it’s a bit awkward, ask them open-ended questions,” life coach Desiree Wiercyski previously told Bustle. “It’ll keep the pressure off of you and make them feel good because they get to talk about themselves and the awesome stuff they’ve been doing.”

“Hope all is good with you.”

Friends go silent for a multitude of reasons, and it could be unrelated to you completely. “Sometimes when people withdraw in relationships, they are dealing with their guilt or sense of inadequacy,” Jackman says. “Sending a text letting them know that you care for them and are available to talk when they are ready can be a source of comfort.” Just be prepared for the scenario in which they don’t get back to you right away, as some people need time to process how they are feeling and decide when they want to get back to chatting — and that’s OK.

“It’s been a minute! Want to grab lunch this week?”

Misunderstandings are often the root of the silent treatment, in a variety of different ways. Sometimes things get misconstrued over text messages — from both sides — which is why meeting in person is a good idea. “Acknowledge that you haven’t connected in a while and simply ask if they’re interested in getting together,” Wiercyski said. This is also better than a vague “let’s grab coffee” kind of text, as you are putting a sense of timing into it. It shows that you want to reconnect with them soon. If they don’t reply to this within the timeframe you suggested, then you might just need to give them time, whatever their reason may be.

Once you and your friend move through the silent treatment, you can talk about how to communicate better in future. But being left on read all the time might speak to bigger issues. “If your friend engages in a pattern of withdrawing when there is a conflict and is not able to work through the situation together, then you may need to evaluate whether you can tolerate this communication style over the long-term,” Jackman says. However, if they are a true friend, most things can be worked through if you just talk about it together.


Rachel Hoffman, Ph.D., LCSW, head of therapy at Real

Charmain Jackman, Ph.D., psychologist

Desiree Wiercyski, life coach

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