The Silent Treatment

The silent treatment is a passive-aggressive action that we resort to for a number of reasons: to attempt to control a situation, as a form of punishment, to test boundaries and to avoid confrontation.

But I think that sometimes we forget just how powerful silence can be, not to mention painful. A lot of the time saying nothing can hurt much more than speaking volumes.

When you’re on the receiving end of the silent treatment you can’t help but to over-think EVERYTHING. Often the biggest question that you ponder is how/when you became so insignificant that you weren’t even worth a simple explanation. It can really mess with your head and knocks your self-esteem and ego, big time!

Plus in my experience it doesn’t actually solve any problems; the silent treatment just makes any situation ten times worse. So much goes unsaid with feelings of resentment building up higher and higher the longer that it goes on. And the longer that you can keep it going, the bigger (for lack of a better word) douche-bag you show yourself to be!

But we’re all guilty of resorting to it at one time or another.

Sometimes when we’re caught up in our feelings we become one-track minded, convincing ourselves that the silent treatment is the only course of action available to us. Other times we’ll even tell ourselves that we’re doing it in the best interests of the other person, we’re freezing them out for their own good. But believe me when I tell you that that’s never the case. We’re doing it for ourselves. The silent treatment is a cop-out. It’s an easy escape route, because it allows us to sweep the given issue under the carpet, while the other guy is left standing in the dark pining for us. Pretty narcissistic isn’t it? Not to mention immature.

All in all, it’s a cowardly way of dealing with a situation in which both parties are ultimately left feeling uneasy.

But like I said, we’re all guilty of resorting to it. On the few instances that I’ve been the initiator of the silent treatment, I’ve not enjoyed it one bit. As hurt as I may be for whatever reason, as the days go on I start to hear my eldest sister’s shrill voice in the back of my head, telling me to grow up and just talk it out (jheez, why does she always have to be right about everything?!). The truth is that nobody deserves to be dropped without so much as an explanation as to why, it’s harsh and unjust.

And if you’re anything like me and your conscience gets a kick out of working overtime, giving somebody the cold shoulder without providing a specific reason will eventually make you feel like ‘the bad guy’ (even if initially you were completely blameless); it’ll fill you with nothing but guilt my friend and it’ll slowly but surely eat away at you. I guess it kind of ties in with that famous Buddha quote, something along the lines of- holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.

I do have to clarify one thing though: dishing out the silent treatment and taking a temporary step back from a situation, are two very different things in my book. The former being a self-involved act, in which much of the time people have no intention of ever returning and resolving the issue at hand. And the latter being useful to gain perspective and think rationally as opposed to emotionally; a break to clear your head before coming back and fixing things properly.

If in doubt always remember that people are not mind-readers. Even if they’ve been massively disrespectful to you try to be the bigger person and communicate. Just be honest, it may be excruciatingly hard at times but it always pays off in the long run and most importantly your conscience will be clear. So do it for your own peace of mind. And once you’ve crossed that hurdle, by all means cut them out of your life forever if that’s what you feel is best, or start taking steps to resolve the situation. Either way, be classy about it and drop them a line before you make any major decisions.

Basically the moral of this story is: forget the silent treatment, just rule it out completely, because it’s really not worth the aggravation buddy, trust me!

 

11 replies

  1. When I was in an abusive, long term marriage, my ex used to resort to that all the time, with me and my son. Not even acknowledge either of us when we walked in a room. Finally, I decided to enjoy the time he was silent, and not screaming at someone. I thought, hey, good, if he’s not talking to me I don’t have to deal with him. And went about my life, completely oblivious to what he was trying to accomplish. When he realized it didn’t bother me, he stopped of course.

    But, I know everyone can’t do this. I had a lot of years of practice to get to that point. Just saying, at some point it can become an ineffective way for them to control the situation, because it left me free to just do what I wanted and needed to od.

  2. Spot on. My mother used this form of abuse on everyone around her, but it was probably most damaging to me because I was a child. A child can’t reason out that the person shutting them out is sicker, more badly behaved than whatever infraction of the child’s “caused” the silence. Thank goodness for therapists! It took many years to heal from the emotional abuse.

  3. Oh dear, sometimes I do resort to it but I can never keep it up for long. I am a conciliatory person, I can’t go to sleep if somebody is upset with me. But goodness I do agree with everything you have said, even being on the receiving end of it is just terrible. Not healthy for anybody, child nor adult. Humans are curious by nature and to exploit this curiosity especially when it conjoins with emotional pain can be terribly cruel.

  4. I had an ex who was terrible at that! He back-stabbed me once and I couldn’t figure out why and it took him two weeks to come back with some lame excuse. One that we both knew was a lie…But then sometimes I do it when I’ve been drinking and I’ve been hurt. I get so worried if I say something while I’ve been drinking, it might get worse!

  5. You are right about the silent treatment. It does no good. But sometimes silence is what can help them most. When you are so angry that anything you say will do more damage to your relationship then silence is good. Keeping silent until you have your temper under control and can communicate calmly it essential. Once those words are out they can’t be taken back.

  6. I do think there needs to be a distinction between silent treatment and the choice to just walk away because the relationship is too detrimental. It’s lovely when it’s safe enough to say “I don’t think our personalities mesh,” but sometimes it’s just not.

  7. Silence… My life in a word, half of it anyway!
    Rage… The other half
    When I’m silent it means safety and lack of reaction which is good, but I know well how others silence affects me
    I have an acquaintance that rarely communicates with me but when she does, an old demon awakens to the resulting silence from her
    So much of humanity eludes the creature I have become so silence without seeing a person’s face leaves me with questions that kill my mind
    Anyway, epic write and so true to the subject, keep it up

  8. Well done for admitting that you have on occasions initiated the silent treatment. Agree it’s a pointless exercise, I hold up my hand. Just talk. Simple. We write it in our CV, “gear communcater”, yeah right.
    Have fun.

  9. I admit I am terrible about using this not with everyone just people that argue by screaming. I hate listening to screaming and I hate my kids to hear it so I pull the silent treatment cause I have no ideas on how else to handle it .

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