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How to Handle the Silent Treatment

Let's say that you've dated a girl a few times and all of a sudden, she stops picking up the phone or returning your calls when she was very responsive before. What do you do?

First, you stop pouting and sitting by the phone trying to will her to call by sending your aura through the telephone wires.

Instead, you decide to take some action. Simply jumping however is never a good plan. Instead, you use this three-step silent treatment guide: analyze, plan and act.

Step #1 - Analyze

First of all, let's be sure she's really avoiding you. Just because she didn't call you back within a few minutes – or even hours – doesn't mean that you're getting the silent treatment. Instead, she may just be busy. It's rude to not return a phone call within a day or so however. If you haven't heard from her via any of the many communication methods in 3-4 days, you're likely getting "treated."

Let's try to analyze why this happens. Think back about your recent interactions with her. They may have been fun for you, but try to remember what she did or said, how she acted, etc. As you do this however, keep in mind that women are notoriously good at hiding their real feelings! It may be difficult to analyze exactly what she was feeling at the time, but you can probably get pretty close.

There are many possible reasons for her pulling back, but here are the most common:

1) She gets bored

Trust me on this one: women have an image of the man they want to be with. If you're not that man, she may feel like she's wasting her time. I chastise women about this all the time by telling them to be more open to new people rather than being locked into one "model" all the time.

These women will actually look for ways that you don't fit their models! If she gets the idea that you're not her man, she'll pull away. She probably won't tell you this or ask you to take her home however. You'll just be left wondering what happened.

2) She starts to feel pressure

Many women are terrified of men pressuring them into something they don't want. This is the most common source for "Let's Just Be Friends" (LJBFs) comments as an example.

Men often have an agenda when they go out with a woman, (as you should!) After all, it's your job to lead this little dance. Likewise, women want you to do this. They want to feel like you have some direction and purpose for going out with them. However, if they feel like you're moving too fast or not fast enough, they start to feel pressure and can express it by not calling you back or returning your emails. This is most often done out of fear of having to justify their feelings.

Of course, adults have to do this all the time in the real world. It's not adult behavior to simply avoid calling someone and telling them what they do or don't want. However, women do this all the time in order to avoid conflict.

3) She meets someone else

If a woman calls you and starts to tell you all about some great guy she just met and how excited she is about him; you, my brother are centered squarely in the "friend zone" with this woman. In other words, she doesn't see you (and likely never has) as anything other than her "friend". Bad form old buddy! See my FAQ's here: http://beingaman.com.

On the other hand, if she originally started dating you because she was hoping you'd be more like the new guy she met; don't expect a call to tell you so. Women won't do this. Instead, by not calling you back, they are trying to tell you to get lost.

As with "feeling pressure" above, this isn't a very mature way to handle the situation!

4) She's giving you "The Test"

I talk about "The Test" in my books and many articles. Not calling you back can be a very direct form of The Test. You need to understand The Test and how to deal with it as you absolutely WILL be Tested!

Step #2 - Plan

Either you try to make contact and get things handled with her – for good or bad – or you move on. If you're going to move on, don't feel like you have to tell her this if she won't return your calls or emails. She'll assume that from your lack of follow-up. Just move on.

On the other hand, if you want to get a definitive "yea" or "nay", then you'll eventually have to contact her for it if she won't give it to you on her own. This isn't a good time to just react since you don't know the real reason for not hearing from her. She may actually have a good reason! Really!! Likewise, if this is The Test, you'll have to react to it to beat it.

So, a little planning here is going to go a long way. Decide just what you want to know. Don't leave things open. Instead, have a specific plan of what to ask her. The simpler and clearer your question is; the better.

Also, make a promise to yourself to absolutely, positively NOT be apologetic about anything! This is a critical step. For instance, don't call her up and pre-apologize for some perceived harm and expect her to be sympathetic. You'll come off as weak and unreasonably sorry. After all, what did you do? You took her out a few times for fun and to get to know her. You have absolutely nothing to apologize for, so don't open like this!

Write down the basic things you want to ask. Don't create an entire script; just make 2 or 3 bullet points so that you can be sure to get them answered. Also, don't make assumptions about her answers. This will just lead you to a conclusion that you've created rather than one that flows naturally. Instead, concentrate on what you want to know.

Lastly, expect to hear that she's wanted to call you and is glad to hear from you. This might very well be the case.

Step #3 – Act

I suggest that you avoid showing up at her work or some other function however. Don't go by her home either. This could be a very bad move for everyone involved. Instead, give her a call – no letters, email, text messages or faxes! These are just too impersonal. If she won't answer the phone after you've tried a few different times, leave a voicemail message; but try to call her when you really believe you can talk to her.

When you call, simply say, "Hi, it's Dave [you should probably use your own name here]. I was very surprised that you didn't return my call! Is everything OK with you?"

She might just say, "Yeah – everything's ok" and stop. If she doesn't seem to want to talk to you, just expose it. Say, "You don't sound like you want to talk to me. Is there a problem?" If she gives you a curt "no", then just end the conversation and move on. She's not interested in going any further, and you shouldn't waste your valuable time.

On the other hand, your point here is to get a dialog going. If she doesn't call you back because she's "too busy", that's rude, and there's nothing wrong with you pointing it out. You can say something like, "I appreciate having my phone calls [or emails, texts, etc.] returned. That's only polite. After all, I always try to do that." Then, let her answer.

Be careful to not be accusatory here. Don't say things like, "Well, YOU did …" or "…YOU said..." etc. You're just collecting information here and seeing where things are going. That's all.

As she answers your questions, try to categorize her meaning. If you're not sure what she's saying, ask her to clarify by saying, "Are you saying …" and insert your question. Listen closely to what she's saying.

Don't fall into the trap of make excuses for her behavior however. Men do this all the time. If she tells you that there's something about you she doesn't like, fine. Don't try to change her mind about it or make excuses. On the other hand, if she's just flaky, you shouldn't have to tolerate that from her and its ok to say so.

Finally, be careful not to overreact. Listen to what she tells you and react in a calm, comfortable way. If this is The Test, you want her to know you expect to be treated properly – and that you're willing to walk (WTW) if need be. You can have expectations of her just as she can with you!

Consider too if she's just flaky. If she can't pick up the phone and return your calls, is she really worth your trouble? I seriously doubt it!

Finally, if you aren't getting the responses you think you should be, it's time to get out your black book and call up a few backups for this next weekend.

What's that you say? You don't have any backups? What are you thinking! Great women are all over the place – get your lazy ass out there and meet a few. This will change your outlook dramatically.

Best regards…

Have a love, dating, relationship, sex or man/woman question? I answer all email. You can write to me at dwneder@beingaman.com for answers. For more information about my books, "Being a Man in a Woman's World" (volumes I & II), and other products visit: www.beingaman.com. Check out the discussion group at: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/beingaman.

Copyright (c) 2005, Dr. Dennis W. Neder
All rights reserved.

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