How To Handle The Silent Treatment

The silent treatment is not fully silent, it is communicating multiple messages to the receiver indirectly from the giver of it. 

This is a common unhealthy communication tool people all to often use. It might be your boss, your co-worker, your sister, your brother, your ex-boyfriend, your ex-husband, your partner giving this too you. This article will equip you with the tools you need to handle the silent treatment like a boss.

WHAT NOT TO DO WHEN RECEIVING THE SILENT TREATMENT 

(If you have already done some of these things, please forgive yourself, and then stop doing them immediately.) 

Before you start thinking you need to do these things, please understand these are the ideas we have often heard about and you are not alone in thinking about any of these, yet we need to refrain from doing them.

  • You need to call this person constantly. 
  • Go to their workplace (to ultimately force a conversation).
  • Burn their stuff. 
  • Sell their things on Amazon.
  • Call their loved ones (their loved ones are theirs loved ones, they will most likely take your side).
  • Text their family (do not involve their family or yours unless it is an abusive situation, this is between you and them).
  • Vent to everyone about them (few people will truly understand, unless they are a counselor or a psychologist and have experience)
  • Start sending mass direct messages to your friends telling them to stay away from the other person (this makes you seem desperate and trying too hard to turn people against them). 
  • Offer to cook them dinner (this is a no-go because they are truly asking, indirectly, for space, and if you truly care about them you need to give them space).
  • Bring dinner to their house (do not go to their house unless invited).
  • Start sending messages to all their contacts (this will make you seem creepy, their contacts don’t know you well most likely and they will probably be on their friends side).
  • Tell your friends how horrible they are (your friends will want to have your back and they will most likely immediately not like that other person anymore. If the other person comes back and you guys talk through everything in a healthy way, your friends will not have gotten over it. This is between you and them).
  • Email them a lot (maybe 1-2 emails is ok to explain how you are feeling and how the silent treatment is unacceptable and hurtful, without blame, accusations, name-calling, or negativity – we will go over later in the article as to what to say when you reach out to them).
  • Text them non-stop (I know it will feel like someone has died and your heart is in shreds, yet you need to stop texting them and communicating with them, give them and you space. Take this time to give yourself the love you crave from them).
  • You may aim to find a way to communicate with them and say sorry to them endlessly even for things you didn’t do. (DO NOT do this. Their behavior isn’t ok, and saying sorry for things you didn’t do will display to them that you are ok to be treated in this way.)

You will most likely want to do all these actions above because all you want is the pain to stop. 

All you yearn for, all you can think about is to receive a text or a call from them telling you they love you, care about you, and everything is ok. This is an opportunity to self-soothe, give self-love, and to give what you yearn for from them to yourself. 

WHY IS THE SILENT TREATMENT PAINFUL

Our brains extremely dislike uncertainty, we immediately want to banish it quickly.

You might feel when you see even one text message from them that then the pain will cease. We have to take our power back. Giving to yourself in this time will give your power back. A person leave you alone and you still have yourself, do not desert yourself in this time. 

Right now even though you are in immense emotional pain from this experience, you need to give yourself love, support, respect, and healthy habits in every possible way you can.

Being the one who gave the silent treatment or receiving it is extremely painful. If you are the one giving it, please reflect on the best ways to express your emotional needs to your loved one without having this reaction. 

At some point it will be healthy to reflect on why you are having these reactions and preventing them in the future, and why a person is reacting to you in this way.

When being on the receiving end of the silent treatment it can feel as though your heart is being dragged on glass. It is immensely painful and has mental effects deeper than feeling badly. 

Referenced from an amazing article here:

‘Silence may be golden, but the “silent treatment” can ruin a relationship.

The silent treatment is part of what’s called a “demand-withdraw” pattern. It happens when one partner pressures the other with requests, criticism or complaints and is met with avoidance or silence.

“It’s the most common pattern of conflict in marriage or any committed, established romantic relationship,” says Paul Schrodt, Ph.D., professor and graduate director of communication studies at Texas Christian University. “And it does tremendous damage.”

Schrodt led a meta-analysis of 74 studies, including more than 14,000 participants, “A Meta-Analytical Review of the Demand/Withdraw Pattern of Interaction and its Associations with Individual, Relational, and Communicative Outcomes,” published in Communication Monographs (March, 2014).

Research shows couples engaged in demand-withdraw pattern experience lower relationship satisfaction, less intimacy and poorer communication. The damage can be emotional and physical; the presence of demand-withdraw pattern is associated with anxiety and aggression as well as physiological effects (urinary, bowel or erectile dysfunction).

It’s also a very hard pattern to break.

“Partners get locked in this pattern, largely because they each see the other as the cause,” says Schrodt. “Both partners see the other as the problem.” 

Regardless of the role each partner plays, the outcome is equally distressing.’

IF PEOPLE KNOW IT IS HARMFUL WHY ARE THEY DOING IT

Unfortunately this is a coping method for people all around the world. Even though it is proven to degrade trust on all levels, and it eventually erodes the foundation of relationships, and often leads to divorce and ‘friend breakups’.

Some professionals will state when you receive the silent treatment it is a message to you how they are desiring space, and time to process. Perhaps they were emotionally taxed and overwhelmed. Regardless, it is still not ok! 

This still doesn’t justify this treatment, in a healthy relationship both people need to be able to fully express how they need ‘time’, ‘space’, or ‘time to process,’ and give an estimate of the amount of time to circle back. 

When someone gives you the silent treatment, this is clearly letting you know they most likely DON’T have the tools to communicate effectively

WHY WILL SOMEONE FEEL THIS IS AN EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION TOOL

A lot of experts believe this is a handy unhealthy communication tool utilized by narcissist. 

Even a healthy person may not have the tools to communicate effectively because they saw this behavior modeled for them in their family. 

They may feel they need time to think things through. If this is truly what they need, they need to let you know this clearly. 

They might be a person whom has a difficult time expressing their emotions. 

They feel overwhelmed with emotions and are usually not an emotional person, unable to process their emotions.

They might be non-confrontational, and saw this modeled in their family.

They may feel if they run away from the problem then when they come back it will be forgotten. Do not let this happen, when they do come back, make sure they understand it is unhealthy and how it made you feel.

Their family wounds are not your responsibility, it is theirs to be aware of and how this is being brought in an unhealthy way into your relationship with them. 

When someone inflicts emotional pain onto you by giving you the silent treatment it invokes feelings of unworthiness, low self-esteem, often suicidal thoughts, and more. 

The sad truth is, some people may enjoy seeing you suffer, and knowing you are hurt. They may feel hurt and in pain by something that happened either between you two or in their lives and instead of communicate this to you they choose to reflect their pain onto you. This behavior is extremely manipulative and NOT OK. You must at this point dis-engage. It will not help to let them know you are hurting at this point. 

You might be searching and analyzing all past communication you both had for clues as to why they are giving you the silent treatment. You will desire to find why this is happening and what you did wrong. You may even say sorry endlessly before reading this article to hope that by saying sorry will make this pain go away. 

DO NOT say sorry for things you didn’t do. It will have the opposite effect as to what you truly desire/ deserve, it will give the silent treatment giver acceptance of this horrible behavior, with them thinking you are ok with being disrespected. It will allow for the pattern to continue. 

You want this pattern to stop completely or you will need to distance yourself from this person. If the silent treatment is prolonged it is natural for you to wonder what is wrong with you. 

It is not fair and it is natural for you to desire to communicate with someone you care about. Forgive yourself for having needs of aiming to communicate openly and considerately. Focus on all the healthy relationships you have in your life and spend time with those loved ones who accept and love you.

THE BEST REACTION TO SOMEONE GIVING YOU THE SILENT TREATMENT

If this is a person you still love and care about, the best reaction if someone is giving you the silent treatment is to let them precisely know how it is affecting you and the relationship you have. Then stop communication immediately with them and distance yourself from someone capable to give you the silent treatment. 

The silent treatment is a form of emotional abuse. I do not want to dismiss how damaging this is on someone’s emotional health, it is abusive. It is also often a power move utilized by narcissist, BPD, and those with unstable mental health conditions.

Remember you cannot force someone to love and respect you. Continue to respect yourself through this process. Get sleep, eat healthy, watch your favorite shows, hang out with good friends and family. Do everything in your power to be there for yourself. Also, when you start feeling healthier analyze why you are accepting of this behavior, and how to prevent it in the future. Where you might have seen this behavior displayed in your family to maybe make you think it is ok? 

Make new connections in your brain as to how you handle this challenge. How you handle this challenge will make you stronger or unhealthy in the long run. If you decide to go to the gym or hang out with loved ones when frustrated this will create more healthy patterns of coping with things you cannot control. 

You cannot control a person acting in a passive aggressive way towards you. It might be a loved one, a best friend, a boss, ultimately they have learned super unhealthy coping methods in their life and you cannot be their savior or motivation to change. 

They will need to have the desire to create healthier coping methods, through counseling, reading books, and of them grasping new tools and ways of handling their conflict style reactions for you to have a healthy relationship with them. You can control your reaction to others actions. You can manage your emotional world in a healthy way. You can love yourself and be there for you in this time. Make sure to do things that bring you joy, self-love, and take this alone time to refocus on what you truly desire in your life. 

Ask yourself questions as, “Is this love? How can I show myself love today? What do I want my life to look like 5 or 10 years?”

The best reaction to a person you care about giving you the silent treatment is, “I see you are upset with me. I’m unsure what is bothering you right now, I invite you, when you are ready to please let me know when we can talk. It seems you are giving me the silent treatment. I’m sensitive to the silent treatment and it doesn’t give us the opportunity to come to any resolutions. Please let me know when you can what you need, and if you need space I will honor this, let me know how long you need. Thanks.”

Or 

“I love you and care about you. I see you are upset and something is bothering you. I’m here when you are ready to talk about this. Please let me know when is a good time we can chat to come to solutions together.”

If it has been a few days since you have heard from them you can send this message, “I cannot continue with this relationship if you keep shutting me out. The silent treatment is too toxic for me. I will have to call things off if it continues.”

These display a lot of compassion for someone you love and care about and they also hold strong boundaries. This behavior is not ok. When they do come back let the trust build slowly, let them back in slowly, let them take accountability for their actions, do not let them think this behavior is all your fault or ok. 

FIGHTING FAIR AND DISAGREEING IN A HEALTHY WAY AND HANDLING THIS

When a person gives you the silent treatment they are displaying to you through their actions how they do not know HOW to handle confrontation in a healthy way. They are displaying to you how they need to mature in the ways of coming to mutual solutions for disagreements. 

It is a form of running away with their tail between their legs, giving this as a mental picture, I hope I made you laugh a little. 

I know you are you in pain now if this is happening to you, my intention in this article is to bring enlightenment on the situation and hope. You don’t deserve this. Even if you yelled at them, even if you said a few things you regret, and were frustrated, every couple argues this is healthy. 

Unless of course there are a few exceptions to someone giving you the silent treatment one of them is abuse. 

If you are sure you didn’t do anything to provoke this, stay calm and forgive yourself. 

Stop searching endlessly through your brain of what you could have done differently. 

Remember this – No one deserves to experience this emotional abuse and passive aggressive behavior. 

This is not love. Love is patient and love is kind.

It’s tremendously difficult to understand and have compassion for a person you truly care about whom JUST doesn’t know how to show and give you love when they are upset. 

Most likely they are hurting too.

Explore many solutions online of tools people can use to have healthy disagreements. 

One amazing tool is the time-out method. It goes like this…if either of the people are feeling emotionally overwhelmed they say something along the lines of, “I’m feeling super triggered right now, I need a min to process this, can you please not talk to me until I have processed this. I don’t want to say something I regret, I’m really upset right now, I care about you, and I promise I will get back to this topic after I have processed it.”

If the people are too upset to go into detail and are about to explode, say something like this, “I’m really triggered right now, I cannot hardly talk, I feel super upset, please give me a min to process this. Please don’t talk to me at the moment, I’m not mad at you, yet I need some space to process this.”

WHEN, IF, THEY COME BACK WHAT TO DO

The person giving the silent treatment must at some point take responsibility for their actions and aim to uncover why they reacted in this way to truly break the pattern. 

This is an unhealthy pattern, if not taken responsibility on their side, it can keep happening and cause severe damage to a relationship. 

They simply don’t have the tools to express to you how they feel. They cannot handle confrontation. They most likely saw avoidant behavior modeled in their family. Perhaps this behavior has worked for them, and when they come back to you they hope you have forgotten what happened.

Bringing this up in a healthy way can look something like this, “Susan (insert their name), I’m happy we are talking now, I love being around you. I do want to mention that the time in which you were silent without letting me know beforehand, was extremely painful for me, it was outright tortuous and I honestly don’t feel ok to ever go through that again. Are you open to explore strategies for us both to improve our communication and prevent these unhealthy patterns from happening in the future?

 

WE ARE SENDING GOOD VIBES

This might be the hardest situation you’ve been through in a long time, take some time to forgive yourself and give yourself love in this time. The silent treatment is one of the most torturous actions a person can inflict on you. 

You can also find more information about Allison Ramsey, Facebook Digital Marketing Professor & Empire Life Founder at Instagram, LinkedIN, Website, and Twitter.

 

“They may feel they need time to think things through. If this is truly what they need, they need to let you know this clearly.”

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