How to Deal With Cold and Distant People

A distant person may not be aware of her cold demeanor.
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Nothing says "awkward" like cracking a joke to a new acquaintance and listening as it falls as flat as a slab of ice sliding into the Arctic Ocean. Getting through to people who are cold can be difficult, to say the least. Viewing the situation in a new light can help to facilitate communication, however, or at least make you feel less rejected.

1 Understand the Person

Many cold and distant people are that way because of rejection early in life, says psychologist Leon Seltzer in the "Psychology Today" article "Cold People: What Makes Them That Way? Part Two." For example, a woman who was pushed away by her mother growing up learned to emotionally protect herself, and will likely repeat that learned behavior with other people in her life. So the next time your coworker clams up and refuses to talk about your comment that upset her, realize that her behavior is a learned psychological survival mechanism that once served her best interests. This realization can help you to maintain your calm when dealing with such a person.

2 Address the Cause

While some people are distant because of their upbringing or general nature, others can display cold behavior in response to a problem. For example, your normally emotionally accessible friend may have become distant after her father died. In this case, you may need to simply give him time to process his feelings, knowing that sooner or later your relationship will return to normal. On the other hand, if you've recently antagonized your boyfriend by attempting to make him jealous, his aloofness may be a direct result of your error, in which case an apology is in order.

3 Be Yourself

Relax when you're dealing with a distant person, advises The National Healthy Marriage Resource Center. Some people are more demonstrative and outgoing than others, and you don't need to take a distant person's failure to "warm up" to you personally. Look for other ways that the person expresses her enjoyment of your company. For example, perhaps your favorite professor always makes room in her busy schedule to meet with you for coffee, even though she rarely makes the time to get together with most people.

4 Avoid Being Pushy

With an emotionally cold person, chances are good that the more you push, the more distant he will become. Continually asking such a person to share his feelings, or attempting to make him feel guilty for not doing so, can cause him to back away from you and spend time with people who aren't as demanding. While it's okay to let your aloof boyfriend know that it's important to you that he let you know when he's upset with you, leave it at that and don't turn your request into an unending demand for something he may not be able to offer.

Elise Wile has been a writer since 2003. Holding a master's degree in curriculum and Instruction, she has written training materials for three school districts. Her expertise includes mentoring, serving at-risk students and corporate training.