Advice to Designers and Young Lovers Part 1: Getting The Silent Treatment

I thought “silent treatment” only happened to love relationships gone bad but it seems to have infected everyone. I’m not talking about friends/family, people you know and hang out with, who just forgot to answer your voice mail or email. No, I’m talking about when this happens in business; in the middle of a business deal, or worse yet, at the beginning of one.

People tell me that young business relationships are like young love relationships. You seem to like each other at the start, agree on big issues, have a few “dates”, talk about some kind of potential future event, even make plans. You might have even sent up a proposal and heard back that it was approved. They always begin with a lot of fuss and positive feedback, right?

A week goes by after this wonderful presentation (or meeting, or lunch), and then nothing. The project sounded urgent; they said they’d be in touch within a few days. Now, two weeks have gone by and you email or leave voice mail but maybe because of simple human concern too. You start to think they’ve been hit by a bus, or that their mother died. But since you aren’t the person they would have called with this kind of news, you wouldn’t know that anyway, so there you are with your____ in your hands and boy do you feel dumb!

Business = Avoidance?
Now, if I were talking about young love, something at the earliest stages of a possible long-term hookup, this would make sense. He/she just had second thoughts after the first few dates, but chose not to share them with you; and as cowardly as that sounds, it’s pretty regular behavior. No, this isn’t about the fear of wedding bells. I’m talking about work, business, money, stuff that should not be wrought with emotional discomfort and angst. I always thought that was the beauty of business: an exchange of services and cash, not psychological problems, but I have been proven wrong.

Years of therapy, piles of anti-depressants and the popularity of Dr. Oz have made no difference. We’ve become a society emotionally uncomfortable in all kinds of inappropriate places and no one ever questions why. Well…why???

My corporate clients & friends tell me that the economy, this general world instability makes people “do crazy things” (read: drop a project in the middle without explanation and ignore future contact). Sure, THAT makes sense: make a difficult situation worse for all of us by not communicating? I guess it takes courage to say “the project got canceled” or “we’ve decided to go with someone cheaper” or  “we lost the funding”, or “we need to go in another direction”. So since when did business stop requiring courage? If you can’t stand the heat, start flipping burgers for a living! It looks like the age of the wimpy entrepreneur is upon us. ( more about that in another post!)

So if your latest “new” client or new beau left you in the lurch without a sign of closure, they’ll probably never figure it out. A world full of uncertainty will never get better if we keep avoiding each other. Silence equals death has new meaning here.