“I think I accidentally hurt my best friend by not inviting her out with a group of our mutual friends, and now she’s giving me the silent treatment. I don’t know why this upset her so much, but now my friend is mad at me and ignoring me when I call and text. What should I do?”
No one likes conflict, but sometimes the silent treatment can feel even worse than a bad argument with a friend. When your friend doesn’t respond to your texts and calls, it’s normal to feel anxious, threatened, guilty, and sad.
The silent treatment is a passive-aggressive way of dealing with conflict and hurt feelings and can be very damaging to a friendship. It can be difficult to know the right way to respond to a friend who deals with conflict this way, and responding the wrong way can sometimes make things worse.
In this article, you will learn 12 ways to handle a friend being upset and ignoring you without making things worse.
While you probably want to work things out with your friend right away, being too forceful or quick to react can actually make things worse. Things you say out of fear, guilt, or hurt feelings might make you feel better in the moment but are often a source of regret later.
Pushing a friend to talk before they feel ready can often backfire, resulting in more conflict or conversations that feel forced. Sometimes, people need some time and space to cool off before they are ready to talk, so resist the urge to call them or text them repeatedly. Instead, try to take a step back, give them some space, and wait until they are ready to talk.
Sometimes, you might have assumed a friend is not responding because they are mad at you when they are really just busy or didn’t see your text or calls. Make sure that you reality-check your assumptions and consider other explanations for why they aren’t responding to you.
You may have incorrectly assumed they are mad at you if:
- You can’t think of anything you said or did that may have upset or hurt them
- They have a lot on their plate right now and don’t have the energy to socialize or respond to messages
- You are feeling overly sensitive, anxious, or insecure
- You’ve assumed they’ve been mad before, but you later realized you’d misread the situation
It’s often best to let your friend come to you on their terms, especially if you’ve said or done something to anger, hurt, or upset them. While you might be ready (and eager) to talk things out with them, they may not be. If they aren’t responding or say they aren’t ready to talk, respect this boundary while also letting them know you are there when they are ready.
Use the space and time away from your friend wisely by doing some self-reflection about what happened. Sometimes, you will be able to pinpoint exactly what upset them. Other times, it won’t be as clear. This is where self-reflection can help you get a clearer understanding of what happened.
Here are some questions that can help you figure out what happened:
- What happened last time you talked with your friend?
- Was there a moment when you noticed a shift in their mood?
- Can you identify something you said or did that may have hurt them or offended them?
- Is conflict an isolated incident with this friend or part of a frequent pattern?
It can be hard to keep things in perspective when someone is mad at you, especially when it’s a close friend. Strong feelings, insecurities about the friendship, and self-critical thoughts can all skew your perspective, making it hard to know what happened or what you may have done wrong.
In order to get a clearer perspective on the situation, consider:
- Asking a close friend or family (who doesn’t know your friend) for honest feedback
- Consider your friend’s thoughts, feelings, and experience as well as your own
- Consider what you would think, feel, or do if the situation was reversed
- Take a step back and consider the overall closeness and importance of the friendship; think of the times your friendship has enriched your life. This period of your friendship might not be significant compared to all the good times you’ve had together
When you’re feeling guilty, sad, or angry, you may get stuck ruminating on thoughts that are unhelpful or unproductive. This can make you feel worse, more exhausted, and less able to respond in a positive way to your friend. When you find yourself stuck in an unhelpful thought, try to pull your attention away by focusing on the here and now, your breath, your body, or by focusing on a task.
Some examples of unhelpful thoughts to pull back from include:
- Replaying parts of an interaction that make you feel angry, upset, or bad
- Thinking of times you’ve been a good friend to them and of how unfair they are being
- Being overly self-critical and beating yourself up for things you said or did
- Rehearsing heated conversations or arguments with them in your mind
- All or nothing thoughts of ending the friendship or taking other drastic actions
While your initial response to a friend who is ignoring you may be feelings of guilt and wanting to apologize, these feelings can quickly sour into feelings of anger, hurt, and resentment about being ignored. When this happens, you may have urges to tell your friend off, do or say something hurtful, or even to end the friendship, but these are likely to be actions you later regret. Resist acting on heated emotions and urges to prevent making things worse.
After an argument or conflict with a friend, it’s often helpful to see them face-to-face instead of trying to work through things via text, messaging, or even on the phone. Miscommunications and misunderstandings are less likely to occur in person when you can read each other’s body language in real-time. This way, you are more likely to get clarity on what happened with your friend and where you both stand now.
It’s natural to get defensive when you feel attacked or criticized by a friend, but doing so often makes conversations less productive. When talking with a friend who is mad at you and has ignored you, try to notice when you feel defensive and avoid putting your guard up in ways that would end the conversation or make things worse between you and your friend. Instead, try to ask respectful questions that will help you understand their point of view.
Some examples of defenses to avoid when talking things out with a friend include:
- Blaming them, accusing them, attacking them, or other statements that start with “you”
- Interrupting them, talking over them, or not letting them speak
- Getting loud, aggressive, or making personal attacks on their character
- Bringing up the past or ‘snowballing’ other issues that aren’t related
- Shutting down, closing yourself off, or acting apathetic
- Always feeling the need to argue your point or defend your actions
When you avoid getting defensive, it gets easier to have conversations that are helpful, but many people still feel afraid of confrontation. Still, confronting an issue head-on is often necessary to find a resolution, although this doesn’t always mean you and your friend will be on the same page.
In fact, it may be necessary to agree to disagree, find a compromise, apologize for how you made them feel, or just let things go. While these might not always feel like they ‘resolve’ an issue, they can help you and your friend move forward, especially when the conflict was petty or unimportant.
Giving someone the silent treatment isn’t a healthy or emotionally mature way to respond to someone, even if they really hurt your feelings. It’s OK for you to confront your friend about not responding to you and to ask them to communicate more clearly the next time they are upset.
You can ask for more open communication by saying something like:
- “Next time, can you just send me a text letting me know what’s going on?”
- “Please let me know next time you feel that way.”
- “I know you were upset, but I felt really hurt when I didn’t get a response from you. Could you give me just a quick response next time, even if you aren’t ready to have a conversation about what happened?”
Not all arguments with friends can be resolved. Unfortunately, sometimes it will be necessary to let go and work through the grief of being ghosted by a friend. This is often a sign that your friend was not invested enough (or mature enough) to put the time and effort into making things right.
When this is the case, the best thing to do is not to chase after them trying to force the friendship, but instead to take a step back and re-evaluate. It may be necessary to let the friendship go or at least pull back and set some stricter boundaries with them.
Getting the silent treatment from a friend who is upset with you can feel really bad, and it can be hard to resist the urge to repeatedly call or text them, force them to talk, or even make things worse. Sometimes, it will be possible to make things right with your friend and resolve things, but other times, it will be important to pull back, take care of yourself, and even distance yourself from a friend who has become toxic.
If your friend isn’t responding to you, try sending a text asking them to call you when they are ready to talk and then give them time and space to cool off. When they’re ready to talk, hear them out, apologize if needed, and try to make things right.
Miscommunications are common over text, with many people misunderstanding a simple reply. If you’re not sure, asking a friend directly if they are mad at you is the best way to know for sure if they’re upset.
Your friend may be ignoring you because they are hurt or angry, or it could be for a reason that has nothing to do with you. For example, they may be working, have no phone service, or their phone may be out of battery, so try not to jump to conclusions too quickly.
Send a text or message saying, “I’m really sorry for what I said. Can we talk?” Alternatively, call them, leave a voicemail apology and ask them to call you back.