What to do when a friend gives you the cold shoulder

By: Jen Kirsch

© Author: Canadian Living Credits: ©


What to do when a friend gives you the cold shoulder

By: Jen Kirsch
In this day and age when everyone is so accessible, it's hard not to think you're getting the cold shoulder from a friend when all your calls to her go to voice mail, your messages and texts go ignored and she doesn't even offer an excuse for not responding. If the situation sounds familiar, we have some solutions.

We turned to psychotherapist Nicole McCance to find out what to do when a friend is acting distant for what feels like no reason.

1. Take time to reflect
When you take the time to reflect, you might pick up on something you did that would cause your friend to pull back or misinterpret a situation.

"Take a few moments to ask yourself if there is anything hurtful that you have said or done recently," advises McCance. "Is there anything that you need to apologize for?" By digging deeper into the time you've spent together lately, you will be better able to understand what may be going on.

2. Ask your friend about what happened
Although you might easily judge her actions as being standoffish, we often make assumptions that are unfounded. McCance suggests breaking the silent tension and asking your friend what's going on. We can get so wrapped up in our concerns that we end up creating conflict out of nothing. Meanwhile, simply asking if everything is OK can alleviate all of that tension and anxiety. Just keep in mind that, if you go the direct route, the sooner you ask the better. "You want to do this as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the more the tension will build," McCance says.

3. Don't take it personally
Not every unreturned text or ignored email will be directly related to something you did. "When you ask, you may find out that her mood or behaviour change has nothing to do with you at all," says McCance.

By talking to her about it, you are giving her the opportunity to open up and confront the issue if there is one, but perhaps something else is going on in her life and she needs space -- not just from you but from others as well.

"Give her space and, when she is ready, she may open up and need you to lean on as a friend," explains McCance. Know that you did your job as a friend by reaching out and checking in. The next step is all up to her.

Page 1 of 2 -- Discover more great tips for dealing with a friend who's giving you the cold shoulder on page 2.

4. Don't gossip about your friend
When we're wondering what's going on with a friend, we often turn to another friend to help us figure out what happened or what we did to be pushed aside. But this can be dangerous, warns McCance. Try not to chat with your other friends about this person's attitude change.

"Go to the source and sort it out. We tend to want to get other opinions about how to deal with uncomfortable situations. However, you are just feeding into the tension and may even be creating more of a problem than is actually there," she says.

5. Let it go
If your friend doesn't want to talk about why she has been distant, nothing will change that. The more we push people, the more tension we can potentially create. "If you ask her what's wrong and she says 'nothing,' drop it. Take her word for it and let it go," advises McCance. By reaching out, you've shown your concern and have let her know you're a bit thrown off by her behaviour, she explains. Your friend can talk to you when she's ready. Realize you did the best you could by trying to confront the situation.

6. Do something fun together
Just because you're no longer pushing for answers about why she seems to be acting distant doesn't mean you can't make an effort to bring back the fun times you've been known to have together. "The worst thing to do is withdraw from a friend when you think she is mad at you," says McCance. "Try to make plans to do something fun together. It's easier to get over something when you are laughing and enjoying each other's company," she advises. But, if your friend seems to have no time for you when you attempt to make plans, that could be another red flag that something more major is going on.

People process emotions differently. Some of us tell our friends our problems right away, while others hold them in. "Don't expect your friends to be like you. Accept who they are and allow them to withdraw if they have to," says McCance. Trust that they will come back to you and open up when they are ready.

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What to do when a friend gives you the cold shoulder