Stop Chasing Unresponsive Friends: How to Deal with Friends that Don’t Value Communication or Being Present

We all have them.

The unresponsive friend.

The type that proclaims they are “too busy” to reply to texts, emails and phone calls.  They are the type of friend in which, as the kids say these days, they leave you on “read.”  You enjoy talking to them and spending time with them, in those rare moments when they make themselves available. You don’t have much negative to say about them.  They may even consider themselves a decent or good friend to you; but, you’re always chasing them.  They may go days or weeks without returning your text or phone call.  They’re frequently committing to things, then backing out.  You’ve “rescheduled” getting together multiple times.  This is an unresponsive friend, and you’re chasing them.

Side Note Tangent: People who proclaim they are “too busy,” are almost always not busy at all (though they may have irrationally convinced themselves they are), but instead, they are undisciplined, lacking in time management skills, and have priorities that revolve entirely around themselves.. 

I am going to address the issue of unresponsive friends in two different ways. First, I am going to share the advice I would give to most anyone in my counsel.  Next, I am going to explain my unique situation with unresponsive friends and share how I have handled it in the past and how I plan to now and in the future.  My own situation will be one that most of you won’t be able to relate to, though few who can may find it useful.

Unresponsive friends is a growing problem in our society.  We have more ways than ever to communicate.  We have all types of advancements that free up our time, making the tasks of daily living take far less time than at any point in history.  Our jobs offer more flexibility than at any point in history, and in fact we have government mandated breaks during our workdays.  There is simply no excuse for someone to be consistently unresponsive to their friends.  It is a selfish, extremely selfish, way of living.

First, I want to make sure we are on the same page in terms of what is an unresponsive friend.  This does not include the friend that is going through a rough time in life and may be emotionally unable to handle things, or has other temporary circumstances leading them to, well, be a bad communicator and bad friend.  This is solely for the person who is consistently unresponsive.  Know someone who says, “I am bad at responding to texts?” I am talking about those people.  These are people you’ve known for a long period of time that are almost always slow to response and generally lacking in being present in your life (be that physically being there or emotionally being there).

What should you do with unresponsive friends?

You’ll see a lot of advice type blogs that will have quotes about how you should eliminate these people from your life.  I won’t go to that extreme.  There are few circumstances in which I would encourage someone to eliminate someone from their life.  However, it is important that you understand what type of friend these unresponsive friends really are, have proper expectations to fit that, and that you stop chasing them and put that time and energy towards healthier and more enriching friendships.

Unresponsive friends can still have a place in your life.  Some of them may be people that you may rarely hear back from, but when worst came to worst, if you texted and said you needed them, they’d be there.  Those friends have a role in your life, but keep them in that role. Be there for them when they are in need, be vulnerable enough to reach out to them when you are in need (assuming they do consistently respond in those situations), but don’t spend much time initiating conversations, replying to their social media, or worrying about spending time with them and nor trying to involve them in social situations.

Change your expectations of unresponsive friends

Having the proper expectations of unresponsive friends is important.  If you text or call them, don’t expect to hear back.  They are selfish.  There may be moments in which they are capable of being unselfish, but for the most part, their world revolves around them. Expect little of these type of friends.  They aren’t currently capable of being a good friend, you know that, they consistently demonstrate it, so place proper expectations on them and their friendship.  In those moments you do need them, make sure you communicate it clearly. Most people, no matter how unresponsive, will respond when they see you through the bat signal up over Gotham.

Stop initiating communication with unresponsive friends.

If you have something to share or communicate,  don’t go out of your way not, but make a decision that this is a friend you won’t be chasing, a friend you won’t be going out of your way to keep trying to initiate communication with.  Some of these people will eventually re-prioritize their live, they may develop better communication skills and start to value people and relationships more and begin to initiate communication with you. They may start to be present in your life.  Some of them, without you consistently initiating communication, may drift away and out of your life. Let them go.

Unresponsive friends drain you of energy, they cause frustration, and they aren’t capable of offering much of value as a friend.  Don’t toss them to the side, don’t give up all hope that they might one day became a better person, but do yourself a favor and stop chasing them.

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Part 2:  My Situation with Unresponsive Friends

This is the part that many of you won’t be able to relate to.  If you can’t relate to it, revert back to the advice in the above section. 

I am a leader.  I am a dominate leader and personality.  There are not a lot of circumstances in which I am in a setting or situation in which I am not the leader or dominate personalty.  The acceptation to that is within my family in which roles are defined by relationship (Parents > Children, Older Sibling > Younger Sibling) and age.

In addition to being a dominate leader, I am a relationship builder. I value relationships. I value communication.  Though I may at times be low on energy or feeling down in life, and though at times life can get busy, I always prioritize people and relationships above all else.  There are times in which my commitment to live life in that way is not to my benefit, but I refuse to live any other way (I should also mention that I am stubborn).

Given the above information about my personality type, it should not surprise you that I am the leader in most of my friendships.  I initiate almost all communication.  I am the first to reach out.  I am the first to give.  I am the one (most) concerned with the status of and development of the friendship.  I am the one (most) concerned with being of value and being present without fail.

I did an experiment a year or two ago. For two weeks, I stopped initiating any communication with any of my friends. (*Note – I don’t recommend this. In hindsight, its not a righteous thing to do to experiment with friendships in such a way). 

When I stopped initiating communication with friends, the results were pretty much what you would expect.  It was a lonely two weeks, and few friends reached out.  There were a few friends that noticed I had not initiated any communication and, realizing a change in the communication within the friendship,  they reached out.  Those 2-3 friends are among my best friends today.  However the bulk of the people that I had been consistently initiating communication with, not only did I not hear from them but almost all did not notice I was not present nor communicating during that time.

We do have to look at my little experiment through a bit of a filter.  I was the initiator, in every relationship, of communication in my friendships.  It is unlikely that you or most people are in such a situation.  Most people have a mixture in that they may be the initiator of communication in some friendships, they may rarely be the initiator in others, and most have a healthy blend of the two.  It is not reasonable for me to dominate the role of initiator of communication in my friendships, and then be upset or surprised when friends disappear when I seize that roll for a few weeks.  Nonetheless, it was eye opening.

I would like to reiterate again that my situation is different than most everyone else.  With that said, here is how have decided to start dealing with unresponsive friends:

Don’t cut out all of your unresponsive friends from your life.

I won’t be chasing as many unresponsive friends, though, I’ll still chase a few.  That would seem to go against my previous advice of encouraging people to stop chasing unresponsive friends and let them drift away, but my calling is a bit different.  My calling is in ministry.  My calling is in building relationships (ultimately to help bring people closer to Jesus).  The majority of my friends that I would place in the category of unresponsive friends are also my “lost” friends.  For most, this is not a “lost” to mean they are living terrible lives, breaking laws and not contributing to society, but lost in that their priorities in life are very obviously off, and they are very much in need of a presence in their life to model a different way of being, a presence in their life that can encourage and help guide them to a more righteous way of living. Most of my friends accept, and in fact expect, my guidance in that way.  Though, for the bulk of you reading this, if you tried to be a friend in that way, you’d get unfriended on Facebook pretty quickly.

While I will still continue to chase some of my unresponsive friends, because I feel it is part of my calling, I will most certainly be spending less time doing so and I will relieve myself from unmet expectations by stopping myself from expecting better of these unresponsive friends.  They’ve proven they don’t value communication, don’t value relationships (most of the time), and the hard truth, they don’t value me all that much. However, I will still be there for them, and I’d gladly open up more of my time to them should they ever change their ways.

Do you have unresponsive friends in your life?  Take a moment to think about that question.  Think about who those friends might be.  Make a decision of whether or not you should continue to chase them, or if you should allow them to drift away and focus more of your time on the friendships that are healthier and more enriching.

Stop chasing unresponsive friends, they are headed down a different track than you.

 

– K.P. Kelly

Follow Me on Instagram: @KP_Kelly

 

 

 

 

 

16 Comments

  1. Stumbled onto this while searching for friendship advice when dealing with a friend whose actions dont match her words, who sends me links and attachments but will kor respond when I try to initiate real conversation…I am guessing she has some kind of an avoidance thing…but good grief I could guess until the cows come home and it we could drive me mad LOL. I am trying bgg yo be graceful, I too am a Christian and in leadership….the one who initiates the contact in most friendships. This one is interesting though as she sends me other people’s writings but avoids using her own communication. Anyway, this was helpful in reminding me I am not the only one with such situations and I was super stoked when you confirmed your calling because I was suspecting it as I was reading.
    Thanks. And Blessings.

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  2. Never chase a person, because if they want to be in your life, they will. It amazes me how people go out their way for someone who does nothing for them, doesn’t encourage or support their efforts. Stop seeking attention from people who don’t give you the time of day. Value your time, comfort your spirit, have peace of mind. There are people who love you and care about you.Give your smiles to them, Reciprocate!

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  3. Thank you for sharing the very rational advise. It makes me wonder how many of us are dealing with this, maybe for different reasons. But its a comfort knowing I’m not the only one. I found myself always being the initiator too. I started to think maybe its something I’m doing. Or I’m just weird for wanting to connect. But after reading this helps confirm my theory.

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    1. It is truly heartbreaking sometimes to see those who would so quickly disappear from our lives if we stopped non-stop initiating. But, most, most of them are people we should let go. That said, some will be worth never letting go of, and even knowing the frustration and seemingly one-sided friendship at times, there’s a few in our lives, that we love, that love us in their own perhaps limited way, that we should keep initiating.

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  4. I was googling this very thing, specifically. This was refreshing to know Im not alone. I have lived far away from family and near family. I thought when i lived far 10 hrs from the nearest family member, i longed for their closeness. It felt was unnatural. After moving back closer. I feel conflicted. They dont reach out or include me in much but psychologically their close by. Their lack of contact exacerbates my loneliness at times. I want to go back to where i used to live which would be far from anyone i know. However, I have also realized that this is a growing trend. Making friends is not easy as it used to be. People are more self absorbed and narcissistic. The real truth is if we connected more we would be happier. individuals Doing for others and being with others takes our mind off of our problems and ourselves; allows us to give and to get from others. Conversing is an exchange of ideas and information that can be helpful. I think we underestimate the value of human contact and interaction.

    I totally agree with your perspective in the second scenario. I keep in contact with the elders in my family that i have recently met. I don’t expect them to reach out. to me. However they more vital members of my family i don’t reach out to. I feel we have the same 24 hours in a day. We speak to those we choose to give our time to. In most cases its not me. The elders give me wisdom and their response to my calls make me feel good that im doing something for someone else. Instead of just being concerned with myself. Im struggling to accept that i although i enjoy my time with my elders i would love to hang around people closer to my age. but they seem so fickle its exhausting. Ive retreated to the idea of not putting so much emphasis on it; show love to those around me. Learn to enjoy my life as is and what i sow i will reap eventually.

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    1. Thank you for sharing. I think we all, even the most unresponsive people in the world, have people in our life that we wish were more responsive. We all have some people we should probably let go of. And we all have a person or two we should fight more to keep.

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  5. I’m not much of a person who seeks advice on the internet but this article has honestly changed my life! Sick of being the imitator and the chaser of everything!

    In a world where making contact with anyone is easy and can take a second true friends truly have no excuse! It’s amazing how something as simple as stepping back and seeing who are the real people in your life can be so rewarding! I’ve cut contact with so many people and it’s the best thing I ever did!

    I lost my father on Xmas day 2020 and that was a turning point as the people that reached out to me are the people who have been there during a dark period of my life and friends of years barely even acknowledge you being in pain!

    This article is an eye opener and cutting people out of your life is not a bad thing! I don’t waste my time on anyone anymore and I’m happier for it!

    I still read your article from time to time when I wonder why I did it but it reminds me it’s been the best decision!

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    1. Thank you for reading this article and sharing your experience with unresponsive friends. I am actually writing a follow-up to it tonight. I will share the link when I do. Of all my articles, this is the most read. 2+ years later, it still gets 200+ clicks from google searches per day and I get 1-2 emails per week about it. The one thing I will say is, there are a few, a very small few, that are worth chasing. The ones you love. There might be times you need to pause the chase, for your mental health, but there are a few that are worth never giving up on, no matter how one-sided the relationship may seem at times. Though, it is a different type of “chase.” It is more always making sure it is clear that you’re there for them, that you’re thinking of them, etc. My fear in writing this popular blog post is that people use it as an excuse to push away those they love. The ones you love, you never stop fighting for them.

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  6. My friend regularly doesn’t bother to respond to my texts. I see her and she berates herself to me but nothing changes. I want to connect. She obviously doesn’t.

    We, all the time, give out (energetically) who we truly are, whether we realise it or not. And I am an antenna for this stuff!!! Thank you for your words.
    I shall love her from a distance…

    Thank you, too, for sharing your story. It gave me comfort as I, too, discovered where I stood in my life the year after I had a major psychological breakdown. (This, in hindsight, was actually the beginning of my own awakening though I did not know it at the time!)

    I left what I now call my ‘old life’ (family, friends, working colleagues, etc.) behind and went traveling the country.

    Over the next 12 months my phone stayed absolutely silent. Not a single call or text! NOT ONE! The message was clear. Not a single person cared if I was even alive or dead. This turned out to be a strangely free-ing experience!

    And so.. as a result, I lost my own inherited narcissistic sense of self-importance. This was a good thing.

    Yes, I ‘d like to say I’m done chasing these unresponsive, narcissistic people. I know I deserve better than that dark, heavy, draining energy in my life. But, I do expect to continue to encounter them, as they are out there in increasing number.
    I realise I can’t avoid them.. but I can recognise them and learn to protect myself from the harm they do. That will require more self-love on my part.
    And I’m working on that.

    Thank you!
    Namaste. 🙏

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  7. Wow, just found this article and really needed to hear this. I’ve been struggling this past year with a lot of change such as a new job and church but in the last 6 months have really made an effort to keep in touch with people with very little responsiveness from almost everyone. Not just texting but calling and really attempting to communicate verbally and meet with people in person. What has been truly heartbreaking is that I had cancer several years ago and people who were very supportive during that time such as praying and visiting with me in the hospital during surgery are not even returning my calls now. I have tried to give people the benefit of the doubt since it’s been a difficult year from everyone but now I’m just hurt and angry as to why I’m not hearing back from them. At this point I think all I can do is move forward and let go of people who have made no effort and keep fighting for the ones I can.

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  8. Whilst I agreed with most of this, Because I am the unresponsive friend in the situation I’ve found myself in, I’m the unresponsive friend being chased because the person just doesn’t understand HER role in the friendship, I am not selfish, in the slightest and that was what annoyed me about this post, it is not selfish if the unresponsive friend says no to meeting up every single bloody week to natter about anything and everything because I want to spend my time doing better things, it isn’t selfish to not respond sometimes because we don’t owe anybody anything, and if anything the unresponsive friend is acting the way she/he does because she/he doesn’t really value the friendship at all, and has other friendships that holds value. You agree in one paragraph about people accepting their rule, I agree with this. Some people are too clingy, too chasey, too unemployed to understand that maybe you literally just want to be on your own or spend time with someone you value a lot on your one day off. It all comes down to not really being interested in the friendship, I would quite happily text my friend and be there in my times if need, but she isn’t a best friend or someone I could devote my time too, maybe that’s a conversation that needs to be had? Which is had done already before and she couldn’t accept it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Part of the key to this is sharing your communication boundaries, and letting others know when they cross them. Sometimes the clingy people who nag you non-stop are people who aren’t good people for you to be close to. Other times, they are just unaware of your boundaries, and once communicated, though that process might be awkward, they may adjust. In terms of people, you don’t devote your time to, it is fine to have people in your life that you rarely ever communicate with but that you’ll be there for if needed. I find that group of people in my life expanding. Also, as interacting on social media becomes a way of life, they’ll be people we might communicate with via social media very frequently, but in no way consider ourselves actually close to them. But for the most part, the unresponsive people will fall into a category of people in which we should let go.

      Like

  9. Going through that now. Called her up, wanted to let her know that I wont be messaging her for a while because I am working on myself. In those 5 months no calls/texts/visits. Text her because heard she broke up with the douche she was dating, we talked for a month and hung out a few times. After that told her i’ll contact her in a few months, she said “no stay in touch. Call and text me and I will call and text you” in an annoyed voice because she hates when I dissapear for long stretched, I said “Ok, in a few months, geez”, it’s been 8 months now and no word from her lol. It’s always me and it’s annoying, i’ve told her a few times why she totally drops me from her life all the time like this and she just says “It’s who I am, not wanting to offend anyone but I don’t communicate even if I don’t hear from anyone again, I still love them anyway”, but she was only this way until she met that douche boyfriend almost 3 years ago. Before that she was fine, and she still sticks around her other friends. So…it’s just me personally. I am not toxic at all either, I am always supportive and try push her to improve, well I did when we talked all the time.

    Thinking about messaging her soon and atleast asking why she no longer wants me around anymore.

    Like

  10. This was so well put! I actually relate to your personality so I understand completely!!! Dominant personality and leader. This is great advice and I needed the reassurance.

    Like

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