Have you ever thought someone was upset with you, but you weren't sure, so you just "kept quiet" and hoped it resolved itself?
This could be any kind of relationship - married couples, siblings, friends, other family members, work colleagues. When things are left unsaid, unasked, misunderstood or assumed, it leaves room for additional ideas to continue to build in your mind, often constructing the "worst case" scenario. This often leads to bitterness and sometimes despise.
There is a lie that "if we ignore it, it will go away" (the problem that is) - and that is so far from the truth.
Opening and exposing the question or the concern in the right way can not only make a way to resolve an issue or correct a misunderstanding, but it also sets you FREE.
When you make a time to talk with the person, let them know you have sensed that something was wrong, and that maybe it is just you feeling that way, or maybe there might be a problem, but that you care about your relationship and want to take a moment to talk about it.
Ask the other person if he or she would mind chatting for a moment.
Think of the specific time when you started to notice or feel like something was wrong. Then when you talk with the person you can thank then for being willing to talk and say something like:
"I have noticed over the last few weeks... (or whatever the time frame has been)
"I noticed that ever since we were at dinner the other night... (or whatever specific event may have taken place as your reference point for that time)
Starting with the words "I noticed..." helps the conversation stay open at the beginning, as it was just an observation.
Adding the specific time period or time of reference also helps, as it take the person back to the time when you first noticed the difference.
You may find out that the shift has nothing to do with you at all, but maybe something else going on in that person's life that took place at or around that time.
Then share your observations. This could look something like:
"... that you haven't answered my messages."
"... that you haven't seemed as happy."
"... that you haven't made eye contact much when we meet."
"... that you seem quieter."
Then, if you think it could be something you did to bring it on, you can add something like:
"If I said or did something that bothered you or offended you, I want you to know that was not my intention." Then you can rest in the pause and let the other person respond. If the person shares that you did cause an offense, it's okay to ask how they think it could have been handled better, and to offer an apology if it makes sense to do so. You can also ask if the person is willing to forgive you. This opens the door for him or her to take the action to forgive.
If you think it wasn't something that involved you, you may say something like:
"Is there anything you might be going through? Or anything you want to share? I am open to listen if there's something you'd like to talk through".
Making sure that you ready yourself to listen (and not just respond) is important. Encourage the person that you value the relationship and that you want to make sure you have an opportunity to clear any misunderstandings. When people begin to share and come out of the silence in a safe listening environment, transformation can take place, people are set free and relationships can be restored.