What to Do When Your Friend Is Giving You the Silent Treatment

A woman giving a man the silent treatment.

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What to Do When Your Friend Is Giving You the Silent Treatment

When friends become angry, hurt, and sad as the result of something you've done (or they think you did), they can respond in all kinds of ways-from knock-down-drag-out ranting to the silent treatment. And both reactions can be just as devastating to one who's on the receiving side.

If a person screams and yells, however, at least you'll know what's bothering them. But if they choose silence, you're left grasping at straws, scrambling to retrace your words and actions, and all alone, attempting to read their mind.

You've called the friend, sent them an email, waved to them on Facebook, and even posted a heartfelt #TBT on Insta featuring the two of you in second grade-and still nothing. Well, we're no geniuses, but it looks like your friend is giving you the old silent treatment. Here, some reasons why you're getting the silent treatment and what you can do about it.

Don't Panic

Just because a person is giving you the silent treatment doesn't mean they want to completely end the relationship. In any situation, it's easy to let your mind wander to a dark place, but until you hear from them, you won't know for sure. So give your friend a bit of time to respond, and don't panic! Excessive calling is not a good idea when another person is seeking space.

It's possible that technological difficulties, sudden travel, or a busy schedule could be the culprit for their silence. At one time or another, we've all found ourselves in the weeds, with barely enough time to take a shower, let alone dig ourselves out of a massive email or voicemail backlog. Or perhaps your pal is dealing with a private personal issue that you don't know about. Basically, non-responsiveness could be chalked up to any reason under the sun. Even close friends with a healthy relationship can find a situation when it is hard to keep up. Be patient and give it some time.

Try Another Way to Communicate

If your friend doesn't respond the first time you reach out, try a different means of communication: If you sent an email first, call or send a text the next time. Perhaps most importantly, whenever you put yourself out there, be mindful of your tone. Avoid accusatory statements, a gruff attitude, and questions that invite further conflict, such as " What's your problem?" and even the classic, " Are you mad at me? " Instead, take a gentler approach by saying you've noticed they're not responding and you're looking forward to talking in order to resolve the issues.

If a friend's stonewalling behavior continues, it may be time to take a step back from the relationship.

Silent Treatment from Friend Causes Emotional Pain

It's also quite possible that your friend is mad at you for something you did or said-or they think you're guilty of. Don't drive yourself batty poring over every conversation and interaction you two have ever had, but try taking an honest look at your behavior up to now. You might be able to pinpoint where the trouble started, whether due to your offhand comments or outright rude actions.

Have you two had issues in the past? Did they tell you what was bothering them? How did you deal with it? Did you shrug it off and steamroll over their feelings? If yes, then you're clearly not listening. The silent treatment could mean that your friend is sick of your hurtful behavior, and it's possible they no longer want to be friends. If you've discovered that the problem is you, you must acknowledge this fact and sincerely apologize in the hope of salvaging your relationship. But if there is no history of prior problems and the person continues the silent treatment, you may need to consider if the relationship is healthy for you.

Is This a Toxic Relationship?

Some people use the silent treatment as a punishment. If this a typical trend in your friendship and your friend only speaks to you after you've apologized profusely, gave in to their demands, or done or bought them something nice, they may be giving you the silent treatment to manipulate and control you. If this is the situation you're in, you need to step back and walk away.

That kind of behavior is emotional abuse, and you are in an unhealthy relationship. Ignoring a person's feelings is toxic in any relationship, whether it's a friendship or an intimate relationship. You have to take care of your mental health because ignoring these negative emotions can lead to psychological abuse.

Walk Away from a Toxic Person

Andrea Schneider, LCSW, is a contributor at Good Therapy. According to Schneider: "The silent treatment is a form of emotional abuse typically employed by people with narcissistic tendencies. Often, the result of the silent treatment is exactly what the person with narcissism wishes to create: a reaction from the target and a sense of control." Dealing with a narcissistic person in a romantic relationship is written about more frequently, but this type of emotional pain is present when a person is friends with a narcissist.

Even if the friend is not a narcissist, when a friend ignores you, it can leave you feeling bad when a friend ignores you, it can hurt like you are in physical pain. Writer Tracy Moore of MEL , a men's lifestyle and culture mag sought to demystify this type of ostracism in her 2019 article on how to "break" the silent treatment . Moore spoke to the clinical psychologist Jacqueline Duke, Psy.D., who explained, "Most often, a person walks away because they are emotionally flooded. They require some time to sort out their intense or mixed feelings. They "flight" rather than "fight" to avoid saying the wrong thing."

Remember that an unhealthy relationship is one that brings more negative feelings than positive ones. Conversation and communication are vital in friendships and romantic relationships.

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