The silent treatment

It’s not that what we’ve said is wrong, but then the silent treatment happens. When one person says something, whether it’s a request, complaint or something constructive and the other person responds with emotional distance and silence.

Although, it’s not about what we’ve said, we’re just communicating, it’s how the other person is in their own emotional and personal space, yet it’s something we’re made to endure. Sadly, the silent treatment is a way of inflicting pain on someone without the physical marks. It’s a form of manipulation and can be tremendously damaging to relationships.

Research carried out by Paul Schrodt, PhD, Professor of Communication Studies reviewed 74 relationships and 14,000 participants. His findings show the silent treatment decreases relationship satisfaction, reduces our ability to communicate in a way that is meaningful and healthy. It also diminishes feelings of intimacy.

The key to anyone staying emotionally close in the good times, lies in the way we treat each other in the bad times. It can take hours, even days to get back into normal communicative patterns, after ‘the silent treatment.’

When we actively choose to ignore people, giving them the cold shoulder, we do it to punish. It’s also a form of abuse. Sadly, we’re also handing the same abuse we’re inflicting on others to ourselves and yet people don’t always understand or equate the emotional damage.

It’s easy for the person handing out the abuse, to deny when the other person simply says, ‘you’re ignoring me’ and he or she gets away with it.


1 Aug, 2017

4 thoughts on “The silent treatment

  1. I completely understand your blog. I can be guilty when it comes to the silent treatment. It’s not meant as a punishment, but that I need time out to process; that’s all.

    I find it easier sometimes to do that, than to talk through an issue at that time and sometimes it is best that nothing is said for a while, as long as it is discussed eventually.

    1. Thank you for being honest. I believe that’s the first step to recognition and then change. Sadly, whether what we do is not meant as a punishment, that’s exactly what it is.

      If we were to tell the other person we wanted time out then that would be fine because the other person would know, the problem isn’t with them, but that we need time to reflect for ourselves.

      When anyone gives someone the ‘silent treatment’ they’re already implying that person isn’t worth talking to and therefore they’re going to be ignored.

      As my blog explains, whichever way we look at this, it is emotionally damaging and sadly a form of abuse, both for the person handing out the treatment and for the person on the receiving end.

  2. I sometimes inflict the silent treatment to give myself space to think coherently when accessing things. It’s a safe place to gather my thoughts when nothing else makes sense.

    I guess it’s my way of consulting the universe, which has answers if I’m quiet enough.

    1. Thanks Tim. Inflicting the silent treatment on ourselves is sometimes the only way to inwardly reflect.

      And like you, I believe if we’re quiet enough the universe will listen.

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