You've probably experienced giving the silent treatment to someone or perhaps receiving the short end of the stick yourself. If you have, then you understand how hard it is to be ignored or to remain unacknowledged.
Silent treatment could happen not only in romantic relationships but also in many types of relationships. Sometimes, when used to control or manipulate the other person, it is even considered a form of emotional abuse.
But why do people use this strategy when they know how hurtful it is? Perhaps it is because they know exactly how it feels to be on the receiving end of a silent treatment themselves.
Here are some other reasons why people use the silent treatment
TO AVOID CONFLICT
Sometimes, people tend to stay silent or quiet when they want to avoid conflict. You know that feeling when you understand that answering or engaging in the fight or argument will only make it worse? A lot of people feel that and opt to stay silent instead.
Or perhaps it is because you don't know what to say. When we engage in a fight with another person, it involves a lot of heightened emotions. This means that there is no logical way out of the argument apart from silence. You know that no matter what you say, the other person will not understand until he calms down a bit and allows his logical mind to control his words instead of his raging emotions.
Contrary to what a lot of people think, talking is not the only form of communication available to us. A lot of times, nonverbal cues are more effective in getting our point across. One of the nonverbal cues that are particularly successful in conveying emotions is the silent treatment.
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It is, in fact, more useful, especially when you don't know how to express your feelings. This is probably because you don't think the issue is big enough to warrant an argument. Then again, you can't stop feeling upset just because you don't think you should be.
So you let the other person know how you feel by being silent. If he knows you well enough, he will know what your silence means.
If you use the silent treatment to control them and their behavior, then your reason is punishment. This third reason is a form of emotional abuse. Trying to exert control over your partner by punishing him with silence is not only underhanded. It is also hurtful.
Most people who do this don't even explain the nature of the offense. Their goal is to hurt the other person, and often, they succeed. After all, being on the receiving end of a silent treatment when you don't know what you did wrong is a cold form of torture.
You will be sleepless, racking your brain to understand how you got saddled with such behavior. Slowly, you'll start doubting yourself and your judgment. One day, you will wake up without any sort of healthy self-esteem anymore.
HOW TO RESPOND TO THE SILENT TREATMENT
1. MAKE IT ABOUT THEM
If the other person doesn't really do it often, use the gentle approach and make it about them. This means that you may have to get the conversation started by making them understand that you know they're hurting and that they probably gave you the silent treatment as a way out.
You just need to stay calm and let them know that you noticed their silence and you want to know why. Make sure that they know you want to resolve things and that you're open to a conversation. This could involve apologizing for something you did wrong, perhaps unwittingly, which triggered the silent treatment in the first place.
If they're not ready, don't push it. Give them some time alone, but make sure they know that you still want to resolve the situation, though only when they're ready.
2. MAKE IT ABOUT YOU
If making it about them doesn't work, you can always resort to making it about you instead. Let the other person know how much their cold shoulder hurts you. Explain to them how you feel frustrated and alone whenever they do it.
Open a conversation about how you would rather you both resolve conflicts in your relationship. Let them know that you don't need or want to be constantly guessing about what you did wrong. If this is a deal-breaker for you, tell them to know that as well. A lot of people prefer to be specific about issues and problems instead of being vague.
3. IGNORE IT
If you don't think it's something that signifies an attempt to gaslight you or control and manipulate you, you can always let it slide. Sometimes, the silent treatment is only an isolated incident.
However, if you feel it is a passive-aggressive approach to keep you under the other person's thumb, then let them know that what they're doing won't work. Go about your business and ignore it. Make it seem like it doesn't bother you at all.
If you can, distract yourself from their manipulation and don't give them the reaction that they want to get from you. This should discourage them from future attempts of using the silent treatment to get what they want.
4. OPENLY COMMUNICATE
If you want to have a successful relationship, you have to understand each other better. The only way to do this is to talk to each other. You can even discuss how you usually deal with conflicts and how much you hate giving or receiving silent treatment.
This should lead to more interesting and useful ways of communication other than giving the other person the cold shoulder. So tell him what you want and listen to what he needs as well. Be clear on what you expect from each other. Open communication often works a lot better than when you don't talk at all.
5. BE YOUR OWN HERO
It's always a good idea to put yourself first, especially in unhealthy relationships where the other one uses the silent treatment to emotionally abuse you. However, if you believe that your relationship is worth it, stand up for yourself and set firm boundaries about how you expect to be treated.
Suggest counseling and work on your communications issues together. You can even let the other person know what you'll do if he gives you the cold shoulder again.
If you don't think it's going to work out, you may have to consider breaking it off with your partner.
HOW TO KNOW WHEN THE SILENT TREATMENT IS EMOTIONALLY ABUSIVE
• It happens a lot, and it lasts for longer periods
• It happens because of the need to punish, not out of a need to cool off
• It only stops when you apologize or beg for forgiveness, or else cave in to their demands
• You end up changing your behavior, attitude, or general outlook on life just to avoid getting the cold shoulder again
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Nicole Graham is a relationship expert at Womenio.com. She is helping women grow into their best selves so they can be confident and bring more love, passion, and purpose to their lives. Nicole enjoys studying the psychology of love and is passionate about writing on them. She offers helpful tips and advice to help overcome any relationship issue, whether you’re single or already in a relationship.