The psychology of ignoring someone to get them to like you

Treat them mean to keep them keen, right? It’s a saying I’m sure many of us are familiar with, but does it really work?

The confusing answer is — sometimes.

Because it’s true that our longing can grow the more we sense that we can’t have something. It’s just one of those weird psychological quirks.

But the tricky part is that in the long run, it also creates more problems than it solves.

In this article, we’ll talk about ignoring someone to get them to like you — when it works, when it doesn’t, and a better way of getting their attention.

So let’s dive in!

Does ignoring someone make them like you more? 3 reasons why it works

1) It stops you from coming on too strong

When we seem too keen too soon, it can scare people off.

If you really like someone, you may inadvertently try too hard to impress them. Frustratingly, this can then have the opposite of the desired effect.

Think about it this way:

If you went to buy something and the salesperson was super pushy, would you be more likely to buy, or less likely to?

We psychologically get turned off when we feel like something is being pushed on us.

We may even wonder if there’s something wrong with it, or why else would they need to give us the hard sell?

If something is valuable, it sells itself.

If you have a habit of coming on too strong, trying to play it cool a little can help to balance this out.

Because as we’ll see next, the less available you seem, the more desirable you can become.

2) People want what they can’t have

The idea of ignoring someone to get their attention has been around for years. So it’s unsurprising that there is some truth to it.

A psychological phenomenon called the scarcity effect lies at the heart of this old advice.

It works like this:

The rarer something seems, the more important we assume it is and the more we want it.

It comes down to how we’re hardwired to survive. We are simply programmed to notice things more if they are in short supply.

It increases our craving if we worry we may not be able to have it. And the same can go for people too.

That’s why we can end up mooning over that guy or gal who doesn’t seem that into us, even if they’re not so great.

Why are we attracted to people who ignore us?

The more unattainable they seem, the more we want them.

So making yourself appear less available can raise your status level in someone’s eyes. Instead of looking needy, you seem independent and confident — and that’s sexy.

3) It prevents you from obsessing over someone

If you can’t get someone out of your mind, then going cold turkey can be the best thing to do.

Maybe you’ve liked someone for a while and keep getting mixed messages. Perhaps it’s an ex who thinks they can swan in and out of your life all the time.

Ignoring someone who seems to be playing with your affections can be better for your mental health.

There’s a chance that the risk of losing you can scare some sense into them too.

But there is a caveat:

Rather than “ignore” them, you should aim to get on with your life.

That means keeping yourself positively distracted for the sake of your well-being, rather than to try and manipulate a response from them.


Because the truth is that there are plenty of reasons why ignoring someone to get them to like you isn’t going to work.

Why ignoring someone to get them to like you won’t work

newimagesize 2023 06 30T150646.635 The psychology of ignoring someone to get them to like you

1) You may seem disinterested

If ignoring someone in the hopes they will fall madly in love with you is your first strategy…it’s time for a rethink.

It can backfire on you as they may just assume you aren’t into them.

If you have shown zero interest, how will they know that you even like them?

In the era of social media and dating apps, plenty of people won’t bother waiting around for someone that gives them absolutely no attention.

And why should they?

If the other person doesn’t know where they stand, don’t be surprised if they look elsewhere and move on.

2) If they aren’t into you, they won’t care if you ignore them

Here is the brutal truth that you may not want to hear:

If you ignore someone who isn’t that into you in the first place, it’s extremely unlikely that it will make them suddenly fall for you.

In fact, what you will probably find is:

  • They may not even notice
  • They won’t particularly care if you ignore them

Making yourself seem less attainable is only ever going to work if they have some interest in you in the first place.

That’s why playing hard to get will not be effective for many people.

Because the actual problem isn’t getting them to like you, the real issue is that they don’t already like you.

And as we’ll see next, you should never have to get someone to notice you.

3) Mind games always backfire on you in the end

Let’s face it:

If you have to trick someone into liking you with psychological tools, it spells trouble.

Picture this scenario:

You like a guy or a girl and there’s been some flirting. You want things to go further, but they are giving you a lukewarm response.

So you pull back in the hopes of getting their attention. Maybe it seems to work too, thanks to our psychological scarcity effect trick we spoke of before.

They may show some interest whenever they’re bored, looking for attention, or enjoying the chase.

But then what?

You have to be prepared to keep up this push-and-pull dynamic to keep them interested in you.

It ends up being emotionally exhaustive and unsustainable.

Because all the psychological tricks in the world won’t make up for the fact that they’re just not that into you.

I’ve learned the hard way that needing to play games always ends in tears. Sadly, they will be your tears.

4) It isn’t healthy

Let’s call ignoring someone what it really is:

Emotional manipulation.

Healthy relationships involve two committed people who want the same things.

If you start out in an unbalanced and unhealthy way, it leads to toxic relationships.

That’s why ignoring someone to get them to like you isn’t good for your self-esteem and well-being.

On top of that, it teaches us ineffective and potentially destructive relationship habits.

Rather than communicate in honest and constructive ways, we turn towards manipulation.

How to attract your crush? Don’t ignore them, do this instead!

phrases used by conversational narcissists to manipulate you 3 The psychology of ignoring someone to get them to like you

So what is the solution?

There is a happy medium to be found.

Show some (limited) interest

If you like someone, and you aren’t sure how they feel, you will have to put yourself out there a bit.

I know it can be scary but be sure to show some interest, without coming on too strong.

It could involve things like:

The key is to then see how they respond to that.

All relationships need to be a two-way street. If they like you, they will reciprocate.

Match their effort level

Ultimately, you don’t want to pursue someone who isn’t reciprocating.

That means they should be putting in roughly the same amount of time and energy as you are.

For example, if you text them, they should text you back.

If you are usually the one initiating or driving forward contact, then it’s unbalanced. This creates an uneven dynamic, and it can ultimately lower your status in their eyes.

So it’s less about ignoring someone to get them to like you, and more about showing them your self-worth by not chasing them.

That means if you feel like you are doing all of the work, you step back a little from them and let them come to you.

Trust me, if they are genuinely interested and open to dating or a relationship, they will step up and match your effort level.

Show your self-respect

As we’ve already seen, desperate isn’t a good look on anyone! But ignoring someone to try to get them to like you is a step too far.

The truth is that if they do like you, being yourself should be enough.

Self-respect and dignity are something we convey with our actions. You can communicate yours through:

These things will make you far more magnetic to your crush than ignoring them ever will.

Final thoughts

As someone who has had plenty of crushes on lost causes, I know how frustrating it can feel.

But I also know this:

Ignoring them in the hopes of getting them to like you never works in the long run. They have to like you without all the games if you want it to ever work between you two.

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Picture of Tina Fey

Tina Fey

I've ridden the rails, gone off track and lost my train of thought. I'm writing for Ideapod to try and find it again. Hope you enjoy the journey with me.

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