Why Giving Someone the Silent Treatment is a Mistake

Why Giving Someone the Silent Treatment is a Mistake

The silent treatment is a refusal to communicate with someone that wants to communicate. Experts in psychology and marriage therapy often label the silent treatment as a form of emotional abuse, passive-aggressive behavior, and controlling behavior.

It’s basically an attempt by a person to get what they want by making the other person miserable. It’s a form of pouting.

While this might be an effective way of getting what you want in the short term, it’s very damaging to relationships of all types:

  • Friendships
  • Parent-child relationships
  • Sibling relationships
  • Work relationships
  • Intimate relationships
  • And more

The silent treatment has several drawbacks, such as:

  1. It solves nothing. Refusing to speak to someone hardly resolves the issue at hand. In many ways, it’s similar to a baby crying because it isn’t getting what it wants. However, the baby is being honest about its feelings and trying to communicate.
    • Some silent treatments also include the guise of pretending that nothing is wrong. Even though they act like nothing is wrong, this couldn’t be farther from the truth, and doesn’t resolve the issue at hand either.
  2. Others resent receiving the silent treatment. Granted, this is the intention of the person giving the silent treatment. However, the resentment between the two people only increases.
  3. It creates additional stress in the relationship. The silent treatment creates stress. How is this a good thing? Relationships don’t do better when the stress level within the relationship increases.
  4. It decreases trust. The receiver of the silent treatment has less trust for the other person. Silence is an odd way to try and solve a problem. Who knows what other odd things this person might do in the future?
    • The receiver often starts looking around for better options.

When you’re upset, consider these options instead of the silent treatment:

  1. Speak directly to the other person. It’s okay. You can just talk to the other person about the issue you’re having with them. They’ll probably respond, and then you’ll be having a conversation about the issue.
    • If you’re both talking about it, you might even reach some sort of resolution. You can both move forward with your lives.
  2. Write a letter. Some people have a difficult time verbally sharing their feelings. A letter can work just as well as a verbal conversation. Don’t like using a pen? Send an email. The method of communication is secondary to the fact that you’re actually communicating.
  3. Communicate effectively. Describe the behavior or the situation that is bothering you. Be certain to address the specific behavior, not the person. Attacking the person’s character is a sure way to only escalate the situation.
    • “It drives me crazy when you leave your dirty dishes in the sink instead of putting them in the dishwasher.” This is a better option than the next version.
    • “What is wrong with you? Didn’t your mother teach you how to be a decent person? Put your dirty dishes in the dishwasher.”
  4. Be willing to listen. There’s always another side to the story. After you’ve communicated your concerns, it’s your turn to listen. Listening is great, because it provides the opportunity to learn something you didn’t know.

While the silent treatment can be satisfying, it can also be detrimental to relationships. In the short-term, the silent treatment might get you what you want and leave you feeling smug about the situation. But be aware that the other person is neither impressed nor happy about the situation. It’s a reason for people to view you negatively and consider finding their companionship elsewhere.

The silent treatment isn’t a good solution. Open and respectful communication is a more effective option every time.

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