Friday, July 15, 2011


The other day, a friend told me she had been 'dropped' by a best friend. She didn't know what she had done, but her mate had simply stopped communicating. She had gone over their recent relationship, trying to think of ways she could have offended her friend unintentionally. But nothing made much sense.

"I have no idea what's happened," she said.
"What are you going to do?" I asked.
"I'll wait for a while," she said. She didn't want to be confrontational. Of course she would have loved to know what she'd done, so she could make peace if necessary.

Relationships are funny things. We can be travelling along fine, and then a friend, a customer, or a family member can seem to be avoiding us. It becomes like a detective game to work out what, if anything, we might have done wrong. Whether we ever find out can depend on the approach that other person has to communication. I'd suggest there are four types:

1. THE COMFORT SEEKER (low-risk, low-energy) - This type of friend will do whatever's easiest. If they have something they can't tell you, they will just avoid you until the problem has blown over. They don't like risk, so they won't pick up the phone and risk the chaos that might result. They don't have the energy to work through the issues, so they'd rather leave them.
What to do: Wait. You will hear from this person when it suits them. In the meantime, you're on your own. They don't mean any harm. They just want an easy life.

2. THE PACIFIER (low-risk, high energy) - This type of person applies a lot of energy to making peace in their world. Like the comfort-seeker, they don't like risk, but they do apply a lot of energy to making things right with others. They will generally keep on and on adapting, and rarely avoid people, preferring to make the effort to stay in touch. It is very rare for these people to avoid others, but if they do, it is because they feel they have tried everything, and there is nothing more they can do.
What to do: Get in touch, sit with them in a safe environment, and ask them for thoughts, ideas, suggestions. If you show yourself willing to make peace, so will they.

3. THE NEUROTIC (high-risk, low-energy) - This type will be impossible to read; their behaviour will seem inconsistent, blowing hot and cold. When they are in the mood to be friendly, you will receive their friendship; when they are in the mood to withdraw, you will hear nothing.
What to do: Accept that this person's behaviour will depend on their mood. When they're in a good mood, enjoy it. When they're in a bad mood, get occupied on something else. Don't require rational explanations: they won't have one.

4. THE NOMAD (high-risk, high-energy) - This person will enjoy things for what they are, but if something more interesting comes along, they're off enjoying that instead. They generally don't mean any harm - they have just acquired the habit of choosing new adventures, and 'going for it'.
What to do: Accept that you cannot chain this person to the ground, and that it's not personal. Wait, and keep yourself occupied on other things. You will hear when they have a window in their diary!

I hope this helps to interpret the sometimes confusing behaviour of our fellow human beings! The main thing is not to take things personally - it will just eat you up while you try to guess what you have done wrong. In the famous words of St Paul, 'Love keeps no record of wrongs'. If you love others truly, then you will allow them to be themselves, adapt where possible, and, most importantly… when they come back from hiding, retiring, sulking or adventure-seeking, smile, love them, and enjoy them for the imperfect but beautiful human being they are!