(I’m not suggesting to not ‘hold your tongue’ briefly rather than use sarcasm or say something deliberately hurtful.) I am referring to using the ‘silent treatment’. It’s no treatment at all in the sense of restoring or dealing with a relationship…with a child, friend, partner or spouse or parent.
Long ago, a woman told me that when she did something wrong, as a child, her mother did not speak to her, for a week! She did not always understand why her words and/or behavior, were not acceptable. Silence was her mother’s go-to punishment. She felt unloved and, therefore, unlovable. Many problems, in that and other relationships ensued.
We all feel upset with friends and family at times. Ideally, we can discuss our reactions about something they said or did. We let them know we were hurt and why. We reach out to them to have a dialogue. Communication fosters relationships. If one person just drops out, the friend simply does not exist any more. That hurts and there is no way for the discarded friend’s thoughts and feelings to be heard.
Some couples engage in loud disputes and even throw or break things…not great. At the other end of the spectrum is silence. Often, with couples, one person has to talk and the other keeps their feelings inside. Disputes result in a traumatic tango…it takes two. Something occurs between them and one partner withdraws. The more s/he pulls back, the more the talker needs to hear and be heard. The silent one recedes even more and the talker feels placed on the other side of a thick wall, as if s/he did not exist.
Extended silence does not resolve differences. It shuts them down so there is no way to resolve a disagreement. Those who make up, letting the past be the past, without discussion, move forward without understanding. History does repeat itself, especially in relationships. There are areas in which our personalities either “fit” or don’t fit. Other situations will engender those differences and we need to know how to settle them in a way that enables us to move along more smoothly on the bumpy road of relationships.
Are you the silent one?
- Are you silent to punish?
- Do you feel you would lose the verbal match?
- Are you self aware of how you feel in situations?
- Do you prefer ‘just the facts’ briefly? Do you dislike talking about your feelings?
- Would you prefer to not hear details of others’ feelings?
- Are you a man, or woman, of few words in general?
- Has this affected .your relationships?
What to do if you have answered ‘yes’ to the above.
- Acknowledge that the above is your style.
- If it has affected relationships, reflect.
- Do you want to alter your response to disputes?
- If yes, share with those with whom it is an issue.
- Seek counseling IAre you the ‘talker’ ?:
- Try not to feel as if you don’t exist to him/her.
- Share that you feel abandoned with extended silence.
- Acknowledge your need to connect and share feelings.
- Ask if s/he needs some time to gather her/his thoughts.
- Learn if s/he prefers another way to communicate.
- Suggest .counseling to learn a better way. Extended silence is not a viable way to settle differences whether it serves as a defensive mode to protect you from a verbal onslaught or to quietly bully. It will cause more problems than it settles. Dare to share !