What Does It Mean to Ignore Someone?

1 Comment

The world doesn’t change when your feelings do; and how slowly we come to terms with that! As children we learnt that there were other thinking beings like ourselves, and a world to share with them; although a person decades older may be found dropping the most carefully disguised of hints, then growing frustrated with those who fail to pick them up, as though the intention behind them ought to have been as plain to the target as to the hinter. Harder than disguised messages are disguised attitudes: when an acquaintance never deliberately tries to tell me that I’ve overstayed my welcome, yet resents me for not reading his ‘body language’, as though a glaring public fact about our meeting had developed as his boredom did. Harder yet are inactions, omissions, silences.

You can be ignored distractedly or deliberately; though neither is pleasant. You can pretend not to notice things, pointedly refuse to respond when someone speaks to you, pay no attention to all manner of things. You can recognise hints but refuse to pick up on them; decline to listen to advice or decline without reason to act on it. You can ignore facts, things, events, people. Ignore the evidence of what you’d prefer not to see. Ignore the evidence that doesn’t fit your preconceptions. Quite a taxonomic cluster; if Robert Solomon was insightful in his neo-Sartrean view that emotions are judgments, perhaps ignoring is the corresponding prejudice.

Some forms of ignoring may be accidental, but ignoring is intentional in the technical sense: there is somebody or something which one ignores. If you tune the world out, it is the world which you tune out; one cannot shrug oneself into an indefinite attitude of ignoring nothing in particular. Ignoring is an action, distinguished by its intentional structure from mere silence, mere unresponsiveness. Its manifest features, of course, frequently do consist of just these things, and it is this that makes the possibility of being ignored such a source of frustration, particularly but not always in written communication: is she ignoring my invitation, or might there be other things weighing on her mind? Is he unwilling to acknowledge me, or is he simply taciturn?

Silence is an aspect of every formalised vocal language, but a poor vehicle for most meanings; to make properly pregnant and meaningful silences takes skill and stage direction. When we try to transform an inaction into an action, to imbue silence with intention, we may act as though the social world was so constructed through our purposes, attitudes, feelings, that those we ignore ought to realise we’re ignoring them and leave us alone! Which is a little too much to demand of a silence that can serve so many purposes.

R.F.J. Seddon’s Log :: The Sulk Road

…detail why they were wrong to take umbrage in the first place. Funny business, sulking. It involves ignoring people, and not just certain people in particular but pretty much everyone, yet it strikes me as something…

Wednesday 27th April, 2011 7:35 pm

Comments usually take time to appear, because they are manually scrutinised for signs of spam. Please wait for your host to come along and set matters to rights.