Business Development Leadership

Dealing with the silent treatment

What do you do when the friend, client, contact, family member you have reached out to responds with the silent treatment? 

In general we might just guess that our contact is busy and get in touch again.  But in cases where there have been some bumps in the relationship or where someone doesn’t respond after a couple of attempts the assumptions come rushing in.

In verbal conversation we have the urge to fill the silent gaps in conversation with words.  In the communication that happens in email or through voicemail we fill the silence with assumptions.  When we don’t get a response to our first or second messages we start to make guesses about why we aren’t hearing back and these guesses feed on our insecurities.

“Why do we go to our insecurities? Because we know that people tend to shy away from communicating negative messages. If someone hasn’t called us, we think to ourselves, it must be that she doesn’t want to communicate something negative to us. Or she simply wants us to stop bothering her and go away. Also, we figure, if the person wanted to work with us, it would be in her interest to let us know ” she would have called.” Peter Bregman

If you want to learn how to handle the silent treatment check out HBR blogger Peter Bregman’s post this week.  He maps out the three vital steps to take and explains how to handle these silences with dignity and polish.

About the author

Allison Wolf

I am the founder of AWAL and one of the most senior coaches for lawyers in North America. I have helped countless clients over the past fifteen years, develop thriving legal practices and before that served as director of marketing for award-winning law firms. My specialty is uncovering the thinking traps and gaps holding clients back and helping them acquire the mindsets, skills, and habits for growing successful and rewarding legal careers. After a career in legal marketing and business development with law firms in Beijing, New York, and Vancouver, I was trained as a coach in 2004 at Royal Roads University and now coach clients from across North America. You can reach me at or learn more about my coaching practice from the coaching section of the Attorney With A Life Website.