The non-response

Reading this post on a friend's blog the other day got me thinking about the phenomenon of people not replying to messages (email/snail mail/voicemail/text/whatever medium).  He had an old friend write to ask how he was doing and he replied, including all the stuff about him being gay, etc., and never heard back from his friend.  I have had similar things happen to me, especially since coming out.  So, I've been thinking about it--what would cause someone to do something like that, how I should interpret it, and such things.

I have to admit, the whole thing with writing someone and never hearing back from them is not new.  It happened to me regularly long before I ever came out of the closet, so in those cases it had nothing to do with the homosexuality issue.  Sometimes it was just something as harmless as I asked someone how they were doing and they just never responded.  Some messages do not require a response, and I suppose sometimes different people have different interpretations of what kinds of messages need replies and what kind don't.  So, I've figured that some of the time when I'm waiting for a reply the reason it's not coming is just that the other person doesn't think it needs a reply.

I've also thought that sometimes the other person wants to reply but just doesn't know what to say--asking themselves things such as "Should I let them know how I really feel and risk hurting their feelings?", "Should I be diplomatic and try to maintain a friendly and respectful tone and not say what I really want to say?", etc.  I really do like to give people the benefit of the doubt.  And I'm not trying to brag by saying that I do that, it's just in my nature to trust other people and to assume that they have my best interest in mind when they're doing/saying something.  Perhaps I've become a bit more skeptical over the years, but I still like to try to give people the benefit of the doubt.

The thing that I can't get over, though, is the anguish or frustration that it causes me when I'm waiting to hear back from someone and never do.  I wonder what they're thinking and how they're reacting.  I wonder if I've offended them and they'll never be my friend again.  I wonder all sorts of things about why they're not writing back.  In fact, I wonder if they're like the guy in that blog post I just linked to--they're secretly warning people to stay away from me because I've got some kind of disease.

I've had several friends and family email me their feelings, which I am truly grateful for.  Even when it hurts me to hear the things they're saying, I am glad that they feel comfortable telling me how they feel.  It signifies to me that they trust me.  However, sadly, there have been several friends/family that I have responded to and haven't heard back from since.  Again, it could be that they don't have anything to say in return and therefore don't feel a need to respond.  However, sometimes I feel like it would be nice if they sent a short reply, just so that I would know that they read my message.

I do try to reply to everyone that emails me.  I've done much better in the past than I have recently.  I fear that I have let a few emails go by unanswered in the past few months.  At any rate, I'd like to just put it out there that I like to get replies to my emails, even if they're just short replies to confirm receipt of the email.

One very good reason for not replying (at least not right away) is that sometimes emotions get high-strung.  Personally, I know there are several emails that I have responded to (especially in regards to me coming out) that I have had to wait for several days before being able to respond because if I were to respond immediately, the response would have been filled with anger and hurt.  I don't like hurting my friends or angering my family, so I try not to.  So, I can see how some people would just need more time before replying to one of my messages.  But, I would hope that sometime down the road, after emotions have cooled down a bit, that I would get replies to some of the emails I have sent out.

In the case, such as that described in my friend's blog post, where the other person decides that they don't want to be my friend anymore, I feel that it would be courteous of them to at least inform me of that.  Perhaps, though, it would be easier for me if I never knew that they had made that decision.  Maybe it would hurt me more to know that they didn't want to be my friend anymore than if they were to just never talk to me again and I were then left with the option of thinking that perhaps their life just got real busy.  I really like having lots of friends.  Whenever I meet someone new, I usually want to become friends with them.  I like liking people and I like being liked by people.  So, it hurts me when I find out that someone doesn't want to be my friend.  I'm getting better in this--more calloused, you might say--and not letting it bother me to much.  Some people just have different personalities and just don't get along well with certain other people.  I've come to accept that and not take it personally when I meet someone that I'm not immediately friends with.  So, if you have decided that you don't want to be my friend anymore, I might say that I want you to at least tell me that much, but use your own judgement--maybe it would be best for both of us if you said nothing.  Who knows.