My friend and associate John Daly recently wrote a blog that addresses the issue and how to deal with it. He graciously has allowed me to re-print it. So, thanks, John. Wise advise for all who will heed it.
The Silent Treatment
Let me set the scene. A good friend doesn’t return your voice or text messages. Your emails go unanswered. You get no response whatsoever. This comes out of the blue. You scratch your head and try to figure out what’s happened.
Has this ever happened to you? If so, what did you do? Did the relationship fall by the wayside? What can you do if it happens in the future?
Consider Your Recent Behavior
Put some thought into what you might have done to cause your friend to be upset with you. Could your words or actions have been misinterpreted? Reflect on recent events. That may shed some light on what created the problem.
Ask Your Friend If You’ve Done Something to Cause a Problem
First of all, your friend’s behavior may have nothing to do with you. Don’t make assumptions that you have caused a problem. Don’t let anxiety or tension grow within you. As quickly as you can, catch up with your friend and ask him or her point blank if everything is all right. That will immediately break the tension.
When you ask, you may discover that your friend’s mood change has nothing to do with you. That’s the time to be a real friend and help with the problem. Give your friend the chance to be honest and open up about the issue if there is one.
If you actually are the cause of your friend’s behavior, apologize for any misunderstanding you may have created. Use the words, “I apologize. I did not mean to hurt you. Please forgive me.”
Give Your Friend Some Space
Once you have ascertained the problem and either apologized or provided a shoulder to lean on, give your friend some space if he or she needs it. What happens next is in your friend’s hands. You reached out and made the effort to make everything right with him or her. It’s up to your friend to take the next step.
Don’t Discuss This with Others
This is a personal matter between you and your friend. It is only natural that you may want to turn to another friend for support. Don’t. Always sort this out with the person giving you the cold shoulder. If you go to others, you just create tension and most likely gossip among your other friends. That will only make matters worse.
Don’t Challenge or “Push” Your Friend
If after approaching your friend, he or she doesn’t want to talk about your concerns, don’t make matters worse by challenging or pushing for an answer. That will create more tension. If your friend tells you that nothing is wrong, take it on face value. Drop it. You’ve reached out and shown that you care and are concerned by the behavior. Understand that you did your best to assuage the situation.
Don’t Withdraw from Your Friend
You’ve reached out, shown your concern and apologized if need be. If you are told that everything is “fine,” try to set up a time to go out and have some fun together. Laughter is great medicine. It will be easier for your friend to loosen up and either confide in you or forgive you, whichever is needed. If your friend claims to have no time to “hang” with you, then something major is going on under the surface.
Keep in mind that not everyone will respond to problems the way you do. Some people take more time than others. At this point, give your friend time and space. Like the song says, “If you love someone, set them free.” If they love you, they’ll come back to you when they are ready.
It’s all about the effort that you make that will leave a lasting impression on others.
— John Daly is the founder and president of The Key Class, the go-to guide for job search success. Click here to learn more about The Key Class or to get his book. If you have questions about business or social etiquette, just ask John at firstname.lastname@example.org. Connect with The Key Class on Facebook. Follow John Daly on Twitter: @johndalyjr. Click here for previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.