Here’s Why I Ignored Your Text

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Whether you’re the cul­prit of ignor­ing texts or the vic­tim of being ignored—I get it. Unan­swered text mes­sages don’t make you feel good.

I’m writ­ing this post because I have many, many texts I haven’t replied to. I’m not sure what peo­ple think who I’ve left hang­ing, but I hope this post will reveal what goes on when you haven’t heard from me.

Love/hate relationship with texting

I have a love/hate rela­tion­ship with tex­ting. On the one hand it’s great to instant­ly ping some­one when you think of some­thing. I use it all the time to get in touch with my fam­i­ly. But on the oth­er hand, tex­ting priv­i­leges the per­son send­ing the mes­sage and doesn’t allow the receiv­er to set up expec­ta­tions, “cur­rent sta­tus,” or loca­tion (like AIM used to).

If we could set a “cur­rent sta­tus” or warn­ing mes­sage before some­one sends the text, that would help a lot. For instance, it would say some­thing like...

  • I’m away on vaca­tion till next Tues­day. Won’t be respond­ing to texts!
  • I’ll be in meet­ings all day and not reply­ing to texts — send me an email!
  • I’ll be by my phone all day!

We expect people to reply

When we email some­one, we under­stand that they might not get it right away. That’s why tex­ting is “so much better”—because we know their phone will light up and they’ll see our ques­tion pret­ty quick­ly and hope­ful­ly get back to us.

That’s a pret­ty high expec­ta­tion, how­ev­er, even though the act of typ­ing back doesn’t real­ly require much effort or ener­gy.

The difference between ignoring and not responding

There’s a big dif­fer­ence between ignor­ing a text and not respond­ing. I don’t actu­al­ly ignore text mes­sages. I do the oppo­site: I read all the texts I receive…usually at the moment they were sent. If I tru­ly “ignored” your mes­sage, I’d pur­pose­ful­ly avoid read­ing it. But I do the oppo­site. I read it. Think about it. And then it hits me…I’m not focus­ing on what I was doing before your text came through.

I’m mad at myself for get­ting dis­tract­ed.

So, I’ll think of all the things I need to do or fig­ure out in order to reply. But then I’m even more frus­trat­ed because I’m real­ly not focus­ing on what I was doing before your mes­sage came in. I’m sucked in to the text.

I may reply with­in a few min­utes so I can get back to what I was doing. But most of the time, I might not respond at all. And I think that’s OK. I’ve worked hard to not respond.

It’s OK if I don’t respond. Really!

While some might argue that not respond­ing to texts is rude, incon­sid­er­ate, unpro­fes­sion­al, old-fash­ioned, or lame…it has helped me become more focused and pro­duc­tive in my life and work.

When I devote my full atten­tion to some­thing, it gets all of my ener­gy, which caus­es real progress. When I am reply­ing to texts and shift­ing my focus back and fourth, my ener­gy goes in too many direc­tions. To visu­al­ize this, check out the fol­low­ing graph­ic:

This comes from Greg McK­e­own’s Essen­tial­ism where his research shows that when we devote our ener­gy to “less” we actu­al­ly make the progress we’re hop­ing to make.

The truth is, I have the ten­den­cy to shift my focus when my phone lights up. When a new shiny mes­sage comes through, my brain shifts gears instead of focus­ing deeply on my cur­rent com­mit­ment. That com­mit­ment might be writ­ing some­thing that requires my full atten­tion, or it may be a lunch meet­ing, where I’m try­ing to ful­ly “be” with the per­son I’m with.

Here’s why I “ignored” your text

  1. I didn’t ignore it—I just didn’t respond. Most of the time, I saw your mes­sage and thought about respond­ing, but it wasn’t a good time for me to type. I may have been driving…meeting with someone…or deeply work­ing on some­thing else. And since I don’t have a great sys­tem to remind myself to reply to texts, I’ll com­plete­ly for­get to get back to you. Solu­tion: when in doubt, resend the text at a lat­er time.
  2. I have to fig­ure oth­er things out before I can reply. Some­times your text will require me to reach out to a few peo­ple and get their answers before I can give you yours. In the process of reach­ing out to the others—I for­get to respond to you. Solu­tion: Fol­low up with email, which I always check at least twice a day and will reply.

  3. There’s no easy way to re-trig­ger texts unless you resend. I know I could ask Siri to remind me to text you back, but that’s not always con­ve­nient. Solu­tion: Resend your mes­sage at a dif­fer­ent time of day.

[reminder]Do you ever for­get to reply to texts?[/reminder]

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