This is the best joke I’ve seen so far on the silent treatment:
A man and his wife were having some problems at home and were giving each other the cold shoulder.
The next week, the man realized that he would need his wife to wake him at 5:00 AM for an early morning business flight to Chicago. Not wanting to be the first to break the silence and lose, he wrote on a piece of paper, "Please wake me at 5:00 a.m."
The next morning the man woke up, only to discover it was 9:00 a.m. and that he had missed his flight. Furious, he was about to go and see why his wife hadn't woken him when he noticed a piece of paper by the bed.
The paper said, "It is 5:00 a.m. Wake up."
Face it. At some point in our life, maybe as a child, we’ve been on the “giving” or “receiving end” of the silent treatment. It’s kind of a no brainer. It comes very naturally to some people. That’s why we should be so wary of it. Basic instincts aren’t always the best way to nurture a relationship.
It’s all about “the power” when it comes to the silent treatment.
You, “Human Being A” have a need for love, respect, approval, understanding and care.
You have done something to tick off “Human Being B”, maybe only in their head, but the bottom line is; you have caused them some kind of discomfort. (Again, this may have no relation to what really happened, but in their mind, it did.) “Human Being B” decides they can get their point across most effectively by withholding every basic element of human interaction from you. No warm and fuzzies for you! The grocery clerk is getting better treatment.
In all fairness, this may be a blessing in disguise if “Human Being B” is about to explode and do some kind of damage, they may just be protecting you from what they are really capable of. Or, they may find the subject so painful that they just can’t talk about it for awhile and they need to sort through everything in their own head in their own way before they can stand to talk about it. “Human Being B” may be so disconnected that they won’t even put the effort in to talk about what you see as monumental and they see as trivial.
The most common reason for the silent treatment usually falls into the category of: Human being B has decided “You must be punished and this is the best legal way I can think of to do it and make my point.”
For human being B, at least in the beginning, this is a delicious, heady almost euphoric feeling.
“I’m King or Queen of the world!”
The problem is, as this goes on it can unravel entire kingdoms, and for what?
Ugly things. Pride. Control. Making yourself more at the expense of another human being.
So, what can you, “Human Being A” do when you are the middle of this unpleasant situation? (Very few people reading this will be giving the silent treatment, they are much more likely to be on the receiving end, if I’m wrong- tell me!)
Here are some tips:
1) When you are not in the middle of a “session” ask your loved one if they would be willing to attend a marriage education workshop with you. They are most likely resorting to this type of behavior because they probably don’t have a “better one” up their sleeve. If you would both take the opportunity to learn how to communicate and resolve conflicts when you feel you have been wronged, you lessen the chances of resorting to the silent treatment.
2) Quit making it so rewarding. First of all (and you really have to put on your maturity hat to pull this off) ask yourself if there is truth in what they are upset about. Try to understand what set off this silence even if the other half of your brain thinks they belong in the Jerks Hall of Fame. Let them know that if something is bothering them you are all ears and willing to hear what it is. During the silent treatment, your temptation will be to withhold acts of love and affection. Resist those temptations and continue to do things like a love note in the lunch box. Actions can speak louder than words.
3) If they won’t discuss or share a reason, ask if they are looking for a certain amount of time to be left alone. Make it known you had no intent to insult or offend them, and you’re willing to talk whenever they are ready. Determine if this is actually just a “cooling off” period, and not a silent treatment.
4) When you have done your best to understand any part you played in your current cold shoulder situation, and you have concluded you can’t do any more, then go about your life as normal. I didn’t say it was easy, but it is necessary. Don’t feel guilty that you can’t read minds. If this has become a way of life in your relationship, you may have to seek outside help to break the pattern.
5) The silent treatment when done repeatedly is destructive behavior that can be seen as emotional abuse, depending on the situation and severity. It’ s mean and it’s no way to live. Don’t buy into it and if your loved one will not go to marriage education classes or seek help, you should still seek help for yourself if this is causing you distress.
6) When you aren’t in the silent treatment, see if you can talk about what you are both feeling during that time. See if you can agree that being right or wrong is not the most important thing, but that loving each other is what’s important.
At the end of the day, effective communication is the key to ending the silent treatment. (Ironic isn’t it?)
Have you been the recipient of the silent treatment?
What have you done when receiving it?
Have you given the silent treatment?