How To Handle Silent Treatment

How To Handle Silent Treatment
Self, Health And Wellness

Don’t you hate that terrible feeling of uncertainty, maybe insecurity, when someone does not get back to you as she or he usually does, whether it is through text, phone call, or personal conversation?

Aren’t you confused and tense about those tight-lipped, arm-crossed, silent evenings, when you feel something is brewing, but have no idea what’s going on, or why your loved one is so uptight?

Don’t you feel jerked out of your confidence when your lover shows no interest whatsoever to be affectionate with you for a long while and you have no clue why?

These all can be the silent treatment. It serves one purpose only: “Do what I say!”

Unfortunately, the silent treatment is a very effective force. But why is that?

It is working on our deepest, most nagging fear: fear of abandonment and fear of rejection. Being loved, appreciated, connected, and accepted, in other words emotionally nurtured by our loved ones, is our basic psychological need. When they withdraw it from us: we suffer deeply.

In order to be able to handle this kind of psychological brute force, we need to understand its nature. The silent treatment is one of the dirty tactics that belongs to the toolbox of emotional manipulation

What I call emotional manipulation is when someone coerces you into doing something you don’t want to do by invoking guilt, shame, or anxiety. While making you feel guilty, ashamed, or anxious, they show with hints, stories, body language, or other non-straightforward ways how you are supposed to behave in order to avoid those feelings.

The way for how “you’re supposed to behave” is the goal of the manipulation.

You need to see that the invoked feeling--your fear that your loved one is abandoning or rejecting you--has nothing to do with the goal of the manipulation; let’s say that you’re expected to go to a specific event with them or you’re not allowed to contradict their opinion in an argument.

What they want is a demand that is probably against your will. Instead of negotiating, compromising, taking turns, or communicating respectfully about your differences, it forces you into doing something. That completely disregards your right for your opinion or wish, your interest that you do whatever is best for you, and your feelings.

You probably agree with me, that the silent treatment is not only uncomfortable, but also a profoundly unfair, passive-aggressive communication tactic.

How to handle the silent treatment? Like every other dirty tactic in the manipulator’s toolbox.

- Identify and separate the feeling it invokes and the goal of the manipulation.

- Disregard the feeling. I know: easier said than done.

- Resist the goal of the manipulation.

- Communicate about it in a calm, matter-of-fact way.

But first and foremost: be aware that you have the right to decide whether or not you want to do what is expected of you. If it’s hard to decide, think about it: what would you like to do without anybody’s influence?

Break it down to the silent treatment.

Habitually, you probably became fearful, and you complied with whatever you were pressured to do.

It’s ok. Don’t feel bad about it. We all do this first, because we want to avoid the painful feelings.

But from now on, you need to do the opposite.

Disregard the fear, and show that you are not fearful.

Do not comply with the manipulative force, but do what you want to do.

My standard response that is the basis of every individual variance is this:

“I see you don’t want to talk to me right now. I’ll go to my room and read a little bit. You can tell me when you are ready to communicate with me.”

Feel free to rephrase and replace the words based on what applies to your situation.

If you can, try to sell it in a matter-of-fact way that informs the other party that manipulative pressure did not make you feel fearful. That’s the important point on the emotional front. The fact that you do not comply is the important point on the action front.

Why is it important to resist? Because emotional manipulation--including the silent treatment--is a self-reinforcing cycle. If you comply, it shows your partner that this pressure is working. The more you comply, the more they play this trick on you.

All in all:

1/ Realize what action the silent treatment is motivating you to do.

2/ Disregard the fear of rejection and abandonment.

3/ Decide what to do without others’ influence.

4/ Tell your tormentor in a neutral way that you see she or he is not communicating with you, what you’re going to do now or in the near future, and that she or he is welcome to pick up communication whenever she or he is ready.

5/ You can also add that you understand that the silent treatment is an unfair communication tactic of which the goal is to coerce you into doing something you don’t want to do, but it is not effective on you anymore.

You can find more tips and tools to handle Emotional Manipulation in my Mini Online Training:

From Strings To Wings

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Reveal and Override Emotional Manipulation