You’ve checked your phone multiple times in the past day, but it’s dead, silent, a big ole zero. Your friend is ignoring you, and you have no idea why.
“Many conflicting emotions might arise if a friend gives you the silent treatment,” Rachel Hoffman, PhD, LCSW, head of therapy at Real, tells Bustle. “You might feel angry, sad, confused and betrayed.” And while you might want to pour all these emotions out to them — or call them until they pick up — thoughtfully texting someone who’s ignoring you may help the situation.
The silent treatment can come out of nowhere, or it can be triggered by a specific incident. “It is important to understand what caused your friend to start withdrawing from the relationship,” psychologist Charmaine Jackman, PhD, tells Bustle. “For example, was there a conflict (perceived or real) or did they simply stop responding to you for an unexplained reason? Is this a pattern that they have engaged in before or is it connected to a mental health condition?” Depression can often make people withdraw or neglect relationships. These factors will color how you respond to the sudden wave of silence coming out of your phone.
Of course, if your friend is leaving you on read, you won’t have any idea why they’re ignoring you, and it could have nothing to do with you at all. Maybe they’re busy with a work project, or their new apartment has shoddy service. If you need them to see your text ASAP, you might try asking if they can respond by a certain time, or a friendly nudge like “Are you busy?” If that doesn’t work, you’ll want to try getting to the bottom of the silent treatment. When you’re staring at your WhatsApp wondering what to say to the blank screen, here are some tips.
Once you and your friend move through the silent treatment, you can talk about how to communicate better in future. But being left on read all the time might speak to bigger issues. “If your friend engages in a pattern of withdrawing when there is a conflict and is not able to work through the situation together, then you may need to evaluate whether you can tolerate this communication style over the long-term,” Jackman says.