What is the behavior we call getting or giving the cold shoulder? It is a deliberate discourteous act: the maintenance of aloof silence toward another person who is our relative or spouse as an expression of one’s anger or disapproval.
Are you getting the cold shoulder, and you don’t know why? Well, this is the classic passive aggressive situation: someone is angry at you, but you are not allowed to know why or what have you done to get the other person so angry….
Is someone who’s normally eager to speak to you now keeping your conversations to the bare minimum? This can be hurtful, frustrating, and confusing, and you need to do something fast. Otherwise, the anger provoking the cold shoulder will grow up into full blown resentment. This is a behavior like any other, and needs a response from you.
Here’s how to confront the person who’s ignoring you, without making things worse.
Rehearse what you’re going to say. It’s easy to get nervous and/or defensive, or to come off the wrong way, if you aren’t prepared. Close your eyes and imagine you’re alone with this person and say out loud what you want to say.
1. Begin by apologizing if you did something to offend or hurt the person, even if you’re not sure what it is. Say something like “Look, I’m sorry if I’ve done or said something that appeared as stupid to you.”
2. Tell them that you value his company. (E.g. “I’ve really enjoyed spending time and doing things with you.”)
3. Let him or her know that if something’s bothering them, you’re all ears.
4. If at this time they won’t share or discuss the reason, there’s not much else you can do. Just have the person confirm openly that he or she wants you to stop talking to them. If they say yes, they want you to leave them alone, then leave them alone. If they say no, or not really, or I’m not sure, then say something like “Well, what’s going on? Maybe we can figure something out together.”
5. If this action plan doesn’t work, you know that you have a fight in your hands! Your loved one is missing the basic interpersonal skills needed to confront, express his needs and negotiate a solution.
6. Instead, there is a very resentful child you are dealing with here, plotting on ways to get revenge by escalating into small sabotages.
Keep your eyes opened and ask: “I’d prefer that you tell me what is the situation that got you so angry. If you keep saying that it is nothing, and giving me the cold shoulder for more time, I will understand that you can’t express yourself and I will stop asking.”
7. Now, you need to convince yourself that the silence is his choice, that he is incapable to have a decent conversation with you and that just now you need to decide if you want to continue the relationship with someone who can’t share with you what his needs are.