Why The Silent Treatment Never Works And 6 Ways To Communicate Better

Your silence says more than you realize. And everything it says is hurtful.

Does your partner just stop talking to you when you have a dispute, or when you do something he or she isn’t happy about? How is that working out for your relationship? When your partner gives you “the silent treatment” to show disapproval, they’re broadcasting so much more about themselves.

But is there a reason why partners do this to each other?

  • She wants to demonstrate power in the relationship (It doesn’t!)
  • He thinks you’ll give in without him having to do or say anything (Not likely!)
  • She’s willing to punish both of you by withholding love and/or intimacy (Ouch!)
  • He lacks the skills to communicate, and won’t risk trying (Buck up!)
  • She remembers a previous argument that didn’t go so well (So what?)
  • He’s afraid he’ll lose the argument if he opens his mouth (Get better skills!)

 

And you have a part in all that, too. Apparently, you two didn’t learn how to communicate better, especially when things don’t go well. Always look at your part first when troubles arise; don’t resort to blaming as your default.

 

A man in my anger management class asked me, “How long does ‘the silent treatment’ usually last?” Interesting question, as I just taught how the cold shoulder is one step toward escalating anger and violence, and he really sat up and took notice.

I asked him, “So how long does your wife go without speaking to you?”

“Six weeks.”

“Oh, that’s the more than the cold shoulder AND the silent treatment. That’s being frozen out completely.”

He needed to know that this was probably because she did not know how to communicate better about difficult things. She may feel afraid to bring things up because it previously didn’t go well with him. Or, she learned to bottle things up when she was still at home with her family, and now doesn’t trust that things with him will turn out any differently.

I suggested that she probably wanted to talk with him, but needed to feel very safe doing it. She probably longs for real partnership and feels very cheated that she can’t safely share her feelings with him. That would be a good thing to talk about very soon.

Was that their issue? Did he want to listen? Was he able to really listen? Or, was he afraid of hearing that he was failing in some areas and that possibility scares him?

It’s common for folks to get scared, and then get very defensive. That often even escalates into anger.

 

It’s very touchy. People can react in out-of-proportion ways when they feel that someone is attacking their self-worth, but it’s likely that’s not what’s going on at all.

One couple I worked with finally admitted — not easily — that no matter how gently the husband tried to bring up things they really needed to talk about, the wife shut him down and made him wrong. She could not tolerate the idea that there was anything wrong with her, her approach, or her style.

It scared her to her core to think she was still thought of as not good enough. She lived with that her whole life. So, when her husband wanted to resolve things, she took it as a personal blow and reacted with verbal violence. She shut down so she didn’t have to risk.

Her husband decided to suffer in silence. Finally, he could not. It wasn’t until it was clear she was losing him that she was willing to work towards real communication. That took work, but we made it.

 

Here are a few ways to communicate effectively without using the silent treatment:

1. Calm down before speaking about the issue.
2. Ask for time to talk about what you are feeling, without interruption or debate.
3. Be willing to listen to your partner, without judgment or defensiveness.
4. Take responsibility for your feelings and refrain from blaming your partner for them.
5. Ask for what you want from your partner.
6. Be willing to hear “yes” or “no.” There are no “have to’s” in relationships.

 

That sounds peaceful, right? It sounds grown-up, and that’s exactly right. Real grown-ups have conversations that solve problems; kids fight and take their toys and go home. The silent treatment is the adult version.

Rhoberta Shaler, PhDhttps://www.forrelationshiphelp.com
Rhoberta Shaler, PhD.  When you're ready to say 'No more!' to toxic relationships, unnecessary drama, and poor examples for your children to follow, work with Dr. Shaler directly now  Subscribe to her Tips for Relationships. Listen to her podcasts for valuable insights and strategies to reclaim yourself, and create healthy relationships with yourself and others:Emotional Savvy: The Relationship Help Show, and Save Your Sanity: Help for Handling Hijackals.
- Advertisment -

Latest

Friday the 13th - allegedly the most cursed day of our calendar, when everything is fated to go wrong. But where did we get the idea that it's a date when bad things happen?
Here are 11 strategies to help you deal with toxic family members during the holiday season.
How To Love Yourself When You Are in Love With Someone Else
Find out what the stars have in store for you based on your zodiac sign

Editor's Pick

Empaths and Narcissists are attracted to each other because they mirror each other’s shadow sides. They unconsciously project their dark sides and deepest fears onto each other.
Soulmate probability: Here’s a secret from the Zodiac to know early on whether your relationship stands a solid chance of becoming that rare, special connection you’re hoping for.
Each gem interacts with our aura, healing or helping it to adapt to certain circumstances. Look at the chart, gaze upon each stone… Let's see what this Aura Test can bring out
Is there something to fear on Friday the 13th?
- Advertisement -

Latest quotes

You Are Drowning Yourself
When You Can’t Look on the Bright Side