ShareThis Page
More Lifestyles

Cold-shoulder treatment for friend who refuses to talk things out

| Monday, March 12, 2018, 9:00 p.m.

Carolyn Hax is away. The following first appeared on October 22, 2003.

Hi C:

A few months back I had a falling-out with a friend whom I was extremely close to. She initiated a “timeout” where she didn't want to talk to me about the issues at hand or anything else, because she “just didn't have time to deal with” me. Obviously, I was beyond hurt that my best friend wouldn't make time to talk things out.

Now when I bump into her in social gatherings she acts all cheery and chatty. To which I respond with a very cold (I'd even say Arctic) shoulder. She then fires at me that she's just being civil and that I lack the most rudimentary social skill. And I'll agree. But I guess I just don't see the point in plastering on a smile and spraying air-kisses on someone who wouldn't give up a half-hour to at least attempt to straighten things out. So where do you side, civility or reality?

-- Your Socially Heathen Fan

I'm surprising myself a little here, and voting civility down. Polite cheer is for when you've had the tough conversation and agreed that things can't be resolved. It's not for when someone wants you to make it easy for her to avoid the tough conversation.

If it makes you feel better, say, “I find it hard to be civil to someone who won't even ‘deal with' me.”

Dear Carolyn:

What is the proper response when a business associate or person with whom you have a professional relationship tells you they're getting a divorce?

I've been saying, “I'm sorry” or “What a difficult time this must be for you.”

My friend says most people (men in particular) would be put off by that, and that it conveys pity and judgment on their personal lives. I definitely don't want to do that, but there must be something better to say than “Oh.”

-- Surely, You Wouldn't Say “Congratulations”

I wouldn't, and don't call me Shirley.

The proper response to a divorcing colleague is, “I'm sorry” or “What a difficult time this must be.”

Or “Ooh, tough break.” Or “That can't be fun.”

And, since you didn't ask, the proper response to someone who sees these genuine yet safely generic expressions of sympathy as condescending or judgmental or somehow more grating particularly to men is “Huh?”

Hi there:

Is there an acceptable amount of time a guy should wait before asking a woman who recently became unengaged (not by choice) out for a cup of coffee? To complicate things even more, I work with the person practically on a daily basis. I would like to become better friends with her first to see if there is as great a connection outside of work as during, but don't want to be insensitive to her feelings. Is there a right answer in this situation?

-- Boy

Yes. Ask her to coffee -- as long as you're not crowding her or hitting on her (you know if you are) and she knows you're not hitting on her (I don't know, body language, I guess). The most sensitive thing you can do is like her, try to befriend her and trust her to decide if she wants that.

Email Carolyn at tellme@washpost.com, follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax or chat with her online at noon Eastern time each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me