If you're one of the lucky ones, you forge a friendly rapport with your neighbors, the people you work with and other people you meet in your community. But as an adult, you're old enough to know that there's a big difference between enjoying a friendly rapport and forging a meaningful friendship with another human being – the kind in which you share similar interests, trade confidences, give and accept advice and take turns covering each other's backs through life's challenges and tribulations. A deep friendship is something to cherish, which is precisely why it can be so upsetting when conflict strikes and, for whatever reason, your friend suddenly avoids talking with you. At this point, the friendship is still worth fighting for, so plan a strategy and be ready to follow through when you're calm, rational and in a peaceful (that is, non-antagonistic) mood.
Make a Direct First Move
Face-to-face conversations are always best for sorting out differences, but your friend might not be ready for such an exchange. If you find this to be the case, “downshift” progressively to a phone call, then an email and then a text.
Engage Your Friend With Feelings
Reassure your friend with a heartfelt statement of how much you value her friendship. This simple reminder could soften your friend's resistance, but you may have to be succinct – just in case the reason for the rift is deeper than you may suspect.
Admit Your Confusion
Unless you know what's bothering your friend, there's nothing wrong with admitting your confusion over the silent treatment. Ask her to explain what has happened. Tell her that if you've done or said something to hurt or offend, you'll do more than apologize; you'll do what you can to make things right between the two of you.
If your friend walked away from a direct exchange with you, or failed to respond to a phone call, email or text, wait a few days before following up and repeating these messages. End these correspondences on an upbeat note, such as “I can't wait to hear from you. I miss you.”
Give Your Words Time to Sink In
Now that you've taken the high road and have put your feelings “out there” to heal the relationship, you really have no choice but to leave the matter in your friend's hands. As well as you may think you know your friend, the reality is, she may not be as good at resolving conflict as you are. And she may need time and space before summoning the courage to communicate with you directly.
(Try to) Prepare for a Painful Reality
By this time, your patience may be tested, and you may even be harboring anger toward the friend you thought you knew so well. Without elevating these feelings to an extreme, a little defensiveness might be a helpful “armor” – just in case your friend doesn't come around after all. Like many people, you could revert to saying, “Well, that's her loss, not mine.” But in fact, both people lose when a relationship breaks apart. Many wise souls use this hurtful experience to their benefit in the future by making a pact, of sorts, with future friends. In a lighthearted but meaningful way, they communicate how they intend to resolve disagreements and rifts – before a slight chill develops into a deep freeze that puts their friendship on permanent ice.
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