Healthy kids and adults are social animals. We
strive to be accepted and liked by selected
other people, and feel hurt if they disapprove
of or reject us. It can hurt even more if others
don't care about us at all - i.e. if they're
indifferent to us. Is there such a person in
your life now? If so, how does their attitude
and behavior affect you?
How about the other side of the coin. Are there
people you know who offer friendship, but you
feel no interest in them at all? If so, how do
you behave? Pretend interest? Ignore them?
Confront them? Endure? Avoid them? Be curt?
Something else? Do you feel good about your
behavior? Guilty? Irritated? Frustrated?
You or they may have a version of
Asperger's Syndrome, or were hindered
developing a normal sense of social
If someone you like or care about seems
indifferent to you, how do you react? Hide your
feelings? Become aggressive? Plead? Try to
please them? Criticize them? Guilt-trip them?
Demand? Persuade? Whine? Something else?
The painful message that indifference suggests
is "S/He thinks I am a boring / uninteresting /
worthless / unattractive / unpleasant person."
People who are comfortable with themselves can
shrug that off without pretense or repression.
people may be significantly "bothered' by
someone's indifference. Children can be
specially sensitive to other kids' indifference.
They also may be bothered if they expect the
other person to like or care about them - e.g.
"family and church members must support (like,
care about) each other." Unfortunately, human
reality doesn't follows that ideal, as
eloquently expressed in Dr. Fritz Perls'
the important difference between
indifference (I don't care about you),
aggravate / disgust / annoy / scare / me),
(Your dignity, worth, and needs are inferior to
(I don't want you in my life. Go away!). Each of
these deserves different responses - do you
agree? It's often hard to differentiate these,
so consider these...
calls or emails promptly, or at all;
to avoid talking or getting together;
contact when you are together (this can mean
answering briefly, without extending
never asking how
you are, and/or not seeming genuinely
interested in your response;
contact, and making excuses about that;
interest in past or current shared events or
distracted or bored in conversations;
or no interest in improving your
If someone presents you with behaviors like
these, let's look at your...
skill to notice the indifference.
Alternatives: deny, minimize, ignore,
repress, justify, and/or endure it.
Identify how you
feel about the person's lack of
interest (vs. about the person) -
Hurt? Irritated? angry? Frustrated?
Resentful? Sad? Guilty? Puzzled? Curious?
"Nothing"? Fatalistic? Analytic?
else? Your feelings point to your needs.
Decide what you need to do about this
relationship now or later: Vent? Learn?
Cause action? Set or enforce a limit? If you
decide to respond, do so to honor your own
integrity, rather than for the other person.
meditate on the
If you feel the
other person "must" or "is supposed to" care
about you, identify where you got that
expectation. By definition,
genuine caring must be spontaneous, not
Assess whether the other person may be
and ruled by a
false self. If that seems likely,
article to guesstimate whether s/he is
with some or all people - like you.
(i.e. whether the indifference is really
an inability to care). Then use
ideas to help you decide how to relate
If you feel
"S/He ought to care after all I've
done with/for her or him!" suspect that's a
assumption, and consult your true Self.
Caring can't be requested or demanded - it
can only be spontaneous!
If you need to
something to the person after these
preparations, select from the following
options based on what you need:
are you open to some personal feedback?"
This is a courtesy. If you
get a shrug or "No," go ahead anyway to
honor your integrity, not to impose.
- these are meant as observations, not
criticisms or complaints:
feel unimportant to / ignored by / you."
don't return my calls and emails (or avoid
my eyes) I feel disrespected, hurt, and
unimportant to you."
you're not interested in friendship with
you're concerned about / interested in / me,
but your actions say you aren't."
rarely ask how I am or what I'm doing."
send me a holiday card, I doubt that you
feel used and disrespected by you."
who's needs are more important to you now -
yours or mine?" The best answer is
"both of ours."
be interested in learning of some
psychological wounds you may be suffering
from without knowing it?"
Confront or Set a Limit
I'm going to stop initiating contacts with
you. I feel you're not really interested in
longer believe you when you say 'We have to
get together soon.'"
you well (Name). Goodbye."
you're being polite out of duty, not genuine
concern for me."
you to stop pretending I'm important to
the other person to "resist" responses like
these - i.e. to deny, protest, excuse,
explain, justify, blame you, go silent,
leave, change the subject, or similar. When
s/he does, use
to acknowledge that, and then calmly
re-state your response with good eye
goal is to stand up for yourself and be heard, not to change or punish the other
Responses to Avoid
All the examples above assume your Self guides
you and you have a genuine mutual-respect
attitude. If these aren't true, you may respond
with combative "You" messages like these:
really self-centered / a hypocrite /
egotistical / inconsiderate / insensitive!"
real phony. You say things but you don't
your goldfish better than me!"
"I try to
be friendly and you walk all over me."
Responses like these
risk lowering your self-respect and causing
ongoing or escalating lose-lose conflicts.
If there is an indifferent person in your life,
can you imagine using responses like these with
her or him? If not - why? Be aware - not wanting
to hurt someone's feelings is a relationship
based on fear, distrust, and guilt.
- once you're aware of someone's indifference
toward you, you have many proactive options
- you don't have to endure or be a victim!