Why Do I Ignore Your Call, But Then Text Right Back? Experts Weigh In On This Habit
For some of us, talking on the phone can feel like a nightmare. You may assume that in a modern world where video chatting, dial-in meetings, and connecting with your followers "live" on social media is the norm, having a conversation on the phone would be pretty simple. As it turns out, that's not always the case. Instead of answering the notification, you may find yourself receiving a phone call and immediately tapping the "ignore" button. Seconds later, you open up your messages and send a text like, "Hey, what's up?" In that moment, the same question runs through your mind: Why do I ignore your call, but then text right back?
That's a valid question. I find myself asking it, too — especially when I'm not busy or don't have any real reason to ignore a phone call. Sometimes, I chalk it up to laziness or the fact that my brain is on what I like to call "do not disturb" mode. In a world where we're always connected and can be reached, I suppose that holding conversations via text instead of in my ear gives me much-needed space and privacy.
Explaining this to my friends doesn't always go over so well. It seems like some people don't understand and are offended when I text them back right away after sending them to voicemail. I promise my intentions are well and good, but maybe it's time that I looked further into my communication habits.
I spoke with Dr. LeslieBeth Wish, licensed clinical psychotherapist, relationship expert, and author of the new book Training Your Love Intuition to get a better understanding of what's going on when we don't pick up the phone and opt for emojis, read receipts, and written-out messages instead.
Wish first notes that some of our habits may simply be quirks, and a result of being in "auto-pilot" mode. Hitting the "ignore" button when you receive a phone call may not be a telltale sign as to who you are as a person and the depths in which you operate.
She says, "Personality takes many forms," and we tend to understand our personalities in "terms of opposites." You may label yourself as a pessimist or an optimist, or an introvert or an extrovert. But those labels aren't everything. They don't tell the whole story of you. According to Wish, they aren't "comprehensive enough to describe all our personality characteristics," and you should use caution when it comes to reading yourself, other people, or too far into communication habits.
Be careful about making sweeping assumptions about a person. Sometimes the sweetest people do not have time to chat!
"Be careful about making sweeping assumptions about a person," she says. "Sometimes the sweetest people do not have time to chat!" Think about it: Have you ever declined a call from someone, simply because you're on a tight schedule and you know they're going to talk forever? Wish says in that scenario, it's really no surprise that you may choose to text instead of talk on the phone. Texting gives you control of your time, as well as the ability to decide if and when you want to respond.
In a situation where you're in a disagreement with your best friend or tangled up in roommate issues, that extra response time can also allow you to cool down. Having five minutes as opposed to five seconds is crucial, and lets you come up with the right words and phrasing. Wish puts it this way: "You are literally off the hook."
I also spoke with Clarissa Silva, behavioral scientist, relationship coach and creator of Your Happiness Hypothesis Method, who agrees. She says technology has created a digital dependence in us, in addition to a perception that an unscheduled phone call can be "distracting, disruptive, and inefficient."
Silva says for some people, phone calls are "anxiety-provoking." For instance, you may be at work and managing your assignments, or you're actively creating distance between you and a negative situation, like an argument with your BFF. Your mind may automatically think, "Don’t want disruption? Text. Want to avoid confrontation? Text," as Silva puts it.
For others, talking on the phone is their go-to source of communication. If you're this kind of person, Silva says your behavior is likely driven by your dependence on the digital world and the emotions that come with it. She notes that everyone's behaviors are "less driven by personality," but rather our attachment or detachment to emotional outcomes. The detachment you may or may not experience can be explained with, what Silva calls, the Detachment Styles theory. Let's get into that, shall we?
Within this theory, there are four detachment styles. The first is "ambivalent." According to Silva, a person of this style often texts to dodge any confrontation they may face on the phone. They assume the outcome of their efforts will be negative.
The second style is "dismissive," which occurs in people who "don't trust themselves emotionally." They rely on texting instead of talking on the phone, because it gives them control and much-needed space. (I feel so exposed.) The third style, which is defined as "secure-stable," defines the kind of person who wants stability in their environment, friendships, and relationships, so they "proceed with caution."
The fourth and final style is labeled as "displaced," and describes someone who finds a lot of support in their digital world — their ability to connect with others online and on their phone. Silva says they text often, because they may feel they need constant reassurance.
Silva notes that if you choose to text very frequently, though, the communication style of your relationships is not necessarily reliable in the long-term: "That momentum is not sustainable." A "false sense of security" is created that's based on digital interactions instead of real-life ones. She encourages everyone to find a healthy balance in their communication habits.
"Texting is a very efficient form of communication and should supplement other forms of communication," Silva says. It can be great for checking in with your significant other on a long day, or sending emojis and memes to remind someone you care and are thinking about them. Those kind of affirmations can be essential in strengthening relationships and partnerships.
The goal with most things is balance. There can absolutely be too much of a good thing.
Long story short, balance is essential. Nicole Richardson, licensed marriage and family therapist, spoke to me about the importance of staying connected and creating a healthy relationship with communication.
She notes that there is some irony in hitting the "ignore" button, because it tends to leave us feeling lonely: "We have evolved as pack animals that need connection and community." So instead of shutting people out to find that much-needed "peace, calm, and stillness," you have to embrace balance.
"The goal with most things is balance," Richardson says. "There can absolutely be too much of a good thing." Even though you may love chatting with your besties 24/7, it comes to no surprise that you may need a little break. Responding to your ringtone can actually be, well, overwhelming — especially when you have a million things going on.
Technology can be your best friend or your busiest pest.
"Technology can be your best friend or your busiest pest," Wish says — and it's true. Dare yourself to hit pause. Turn off the TV, mute your favorite podcast, close your laptop screen, and regroup. Use that new time and space to journal, meditate, or read.
You'll thank yourself later when your "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" ringtone goes off in the other room of your apartment. You'll take a deep breath, and might pick up the phone. Even if you don't — because you're busy catching up on work, self-care, or your other notifications — you'll at least know a few things: why on Earth you're like this and how your communication habits came to be.