Why do people answer

Just because someone doesn't answer doesn't mean that person automatically ignores you

There! It glows! Each push notification is a small pocket firework of possibilities. Unfortunately, it is not infrequently directly wiped out by a wave of disappointment: Again just another breaking news about the deadline for filing your tax return. Then the spiral of thought starts. "Maybe he * she hates me ..."; "Was I perhaps too offensive ...?"

Anyone who waits for a message from someone who does not answer not only gets mixed up in many different emotions, but often spins their own narrative in their head - just to explain and understand why a certain person has not yet answered. But there's the catch! He * she clearly read it! Days ago!

Yes, every conversation takes two. But just because someone doesn't answer doesn't mean they ignore you.

Self-determination ftw

Smartphones and the Internet make it possible to communicate with the whole world in real time. So if that's theoretically possible, but someone doesn't answer for hours or even days, then something must be wrong.

Not necessarily. Because the possibility in itself does not oblige you to anything. You could answer immediately, but you don't have to - unlike a phone call or a one-to-one conversation. It's about time autonomy. This is one reason why people are less and less fond of making phone calls and texting via WhatsApp, Facebook or SMS has become so popular in recent years. One can answer on his * her own terms. Or not at all.

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Sometimes someone might want to take the time to answer, concentrate on it and think about it beforehand, take a quiet look at the calendar or into their own heart. You wouldn't want to talk about the coordination of appointments or complex emotions when you are fishing for canned tomatoes off the supermarket shelf. Better to sit on the couch with one to twelve bottles of wine.

Messenger services are basically as asynchronous like letters, but are as synchronous as phone calls. They are somewhere in between and are therefore often confusing.

If you don't answer, you have priority

In addition, people today often have several digital conversations in parallel and are overwhelmed. In real life it would look like this: four people at the kitchen table, one of whom is sobbing and wants support and advice in case of heartbreaking lovesickness, the next one wants to know why you never come to his * her parties and if that was it now Your friendship, the supervisor asks about a project and your mother enthusiastically talks about Cousin Ephigenie's wedding plans while the noodles boil over. Phew

Multi-communication is a tough nut to crack. Two researchers also examined this in a paper. It says: "Multi-communication is particularly complex because we often not only juggle several tasks, but several people."

Allowing yourself a moment of boredom every now and then is critical to human interaction and also to the brain.

Prof. Sherry Turkle

The US sociologist and author Prof. Sherry Turkle of the Massachusetts Institute for Technology, who deals with communication, technology and the self, says: “Allowing yourself a moment of boredom every now and then is crucial for interpersonal interaction and also for the brain. ”During this time, it processes stimuli and input.

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In other words: the brain only has limited working memory capacity, so it has to prioritize - and forgets. “Oh, I'll answer that later” becomes “Oops! I wanted to ... ", while the person at the other end is angry, sad, offended for no reason.

Active instead of permanent pling

It is possible that the person who is not responding has also turned off their push notifications. Because the permanent distraction through notifications can become relatively annoying, interrupt concentration and demonstrably reduce productivity.

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Anyone who cancels push notifications and consciously decides for or against looking into the inbox still benefits from the advantages of digital communication, but increases their time autonomy even further. Fewer stimuli can sometimes be quite appealing.

Head cinema off, life on

So what can you do to avoid becoming a nervous waiting wreck if someone doesn't answer? The answer is expectation management and focus shifting. It can help to think of digital messages as asynchronous communication - such as letters -, i.e. not expecting immediate feedback. Someday something will come. And if not, you just ask again in a friendly manner.

Of course, it could be that someone is deliberately ignoring you. And, as harsh as that sounds, that's his * her right. You probably haven't answered messages yourself. Intentionally or accidentally and probably with the idea in mind that someone is sitting somewhere waiting for the display to light up. The only thing that helps is acceptance: it is what it is.

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"The seductive thing about writing [...] is that you want to know who wants you," says Sherry Turkle. Just like I said: if you don't answer directly, you are not automatically disinterested. Separating the two should take you a big step further.

In addition, if you just stare at your mobile phone, you can easily forget the world around you. And time also goes by much more slowly - just like the longest hours before a child's birthday or Christmas presents used to be. Instead, you can turn the tables, turn off push notifications yourself and do something really nice.

And if you really want to avoid misunderstandings and create clarity through the short official channels, do it like we did in the 90s - if someone doesn't answer, pick up the phone.