Some are not good at expressing their emotions, whether good ones or bad. When such people are angry and pissed at others, they use silent treatment to express their resentment instead of openly talking about it.
This stands to reason, at least from their point of view. When they can convey their anger without uttering a single word, why not? But things are not as simple as they sound. When using the silent treatment manipulation as a form of expression of anger, it’s an opportunity lost for consultation and discussion.
However, if someone is using the silent treatment manipulation with you, how can you respond? How to handle the silent treatment with dignity?
This article explores the silent treatment psychology and comes up with suggestions to handle the silent treatment with dignity without losing grace and poise.
Why is the silent treatment used to express dissent and anger?
The silent treatment is a form of expression steeped in passive aggression used by those who are unable to express their anger. The silent treatment psychology is to hurt and punish the recipient because they were wounded by their behavior. It is typically used by people who have trouble with communication. Such as someone with borderline personality disorder.
Either they won’t or can’t express themselves well enough or with maturity. When they feel wounded by the behavior of someone, they will say nothing and bottle it up. But they won’t let go of their anger or resentment. Their discontent will come out as the silent treatment.
However, for the recipient of the silent treatment, it can be hard to take. They feel shut out in every sense of the word, especially emotionally. It is a form of emotional abuse. Dealing with silent treatment manipulation the wrong way can worsen the situation for both parties involved.
The ideal way is to learn how to deal with the silent treatment with dignity and with grace.
Borderline silent treatment is a common behavioral disorder among those suffering from BPD. Handling borderline silent treatment is more complicated.
How to handle the silent treatment with dignity?
The silent treatment is a form of emotional abuse and abandonment where one person in a relationship disengages from communication and refuses to interact with the other person. This can happen in romantic relationships, familial relationships, and even professional relationships. The reasons for the silent treatment manipulation can vary, but it is often used as a way to punish or manipulate the other person.
The silent treatment is a form of emotional abuse that can have a damaging impact on the recipient’s mental health and well-being. Receiving the silent treatment can be hurtful and confusing, but it’s important to respond in a way that preserves one’s dignity and self-respect.
Giving a dignified response to the silent treatment manipulation can help you to maintain your self-respect and avoid being drawn into a destructive pattern of communication. It can also demonstrate to the person giving the silent treatment that their behavior is not acceptable and that you are not going to tolerate it.
Ultimately, a dignified response can help to resolve conflicts and improve the quality of your relationships. Here are a few suggestions for you to try when you have to endure silent treatment manipulation from someone.
1. Avoid retaliating
The silent treatment is really hurtful and at times infuriating. It’s hard not to react or retaliate. In fact, that is the primary aim of silent treatment manipulation. The person is taunting you and inciting you to react without thinking. If you rise to the bait and react, you are digging yourself further into the hole.
The best way to deal with the silent treatment manipulation is to act as if it is not affecting you. This may be really hard because it is actually affecting you a lot. But be the more mature person in the situation and tone down your response to decent levels.
Even when the other person is not responding to your peaceful and placating replies, resist the urge to feel annoyed and bring out your fighter mode. Instead, act cool and unbothered. Distract yourself from this ugly situation by diverting your attention to more positive and productive activities.
It’s up to the person giving you the silent treatment to make explanations and not for you to ask for one. Whenever you come face to face with them, interact normally as if nothing is wrong. If the person continues to shut you out and remain silent, you can say, “I’m here whenever you’re ready to talk”.
Make it clear to the person either through your actions or words that you won’t consider their silent treatment as a punishment.
2. Take time to reflect
Though at a glance, you may consider the silent treatment manipulation as a one-sided offense and you as the victim, you should think deeper to figure out your role in the whole situation.
- How did you contribute to it and make this person resort to silent treatment manipulation?
- Could you have avoided it?
- What can you do to improve the situation?
Clearly, the other person thinks of you as guilty of hurting or offending them in some way. If you want to resolve the situation and get your relationship back on track, you need to find out exactly what you did to trigger such a reaction from the person.
You need to understand this person’s perspective of your past actions or words. How did it affect them? How did they feel about it? You need to understand both your words or actions that triggered the whole episode and their feelings and reactions.
You also need to remember that at times, you may have done nothing to offend them and the offense you committed is all part of their imagination. Even then, understanding the root cause will help you resolve the situation.
3. Be patient
The person giving you the silent treatment may be expecting you to react impulsively. And use your reaction to further flame the situation. This is all the more reason for you to keep calm and show patience while dealing with the silent treatment manipulation.
However, you cannot avoid responding to their silent treatment manipulation. At some point, you need to respond even if the person keeps stonewalling you. But how you confront someone giving you the silent treatment is what matters the most. Before you do anything, take your time to think things through. Calm yourself with deep breaths. With a clear mind, initiate an open conversation in private.
Use more “I” statements than ones with “you”, as you will be focusing more on how you feel than what they are doing. You can express the same thoughts without resorting to blame. You can also try the “sandwich method” while offering feedback. This involves alternating between positive/factual statements and hurtful/negative behavior/tactics of the person.
End the conversation by offering positive suggestions and offers of reconciliation.
4. Improve communication
When the person is ready, approach them calmly and express your desire to resolve the issue. Listen actively to their perspective and respectfully communicate your own views. Under no circumstances should you show your irritation or anger even if the other person tries to provoke you.
Communication is the mainstay of any relationship. As long as the individuals manage to communicate their feelings to each other, small skirmishes can be easily contained before it reaches mammoth proportions. The silent treatment manipulation is a sign of inadequate or lack of communication. So, you should invest efforts into improving the communication between you and this person.
5. Apologize if appropriate
If you have made a mistake, apologize sincerely and try to make amends. There is no harm in saying sorry if you did something wrong, even if their response of silent treatment is also wrong. In fact, an apology is all that is expected from you in most cases. When you say sorry, they would only be happy to accept your apology and that will be the end of all the trouble.
However, if you haven’t done anything wrong, don’t say sorry only to placate the person. Of course, they will be happy to hear you apologize, but that would be taking the wrong path to finding peace. In the long run, this will come back to bite you. This person will use the silent treatment manipulation as a weapon to bring you to your knees and get what they want from you.
Final thoughts on responding to the silent treatment
Before you consider responding to the person, you need to figure out the reason for their behavior. While at it, try to look at the bigger picture instead of focusing on the problem at hand. Once you know why they are angry, you can frame your response accordingly. You also need to set clear boundaries and communicate the same to this person.
If you find the silent treatment manipulation hard to handle and feel that it is affecting your mental health, talk to someone you trust. You can also consider seeking professional help.
Remember, the goal is to maintain your composure and communicate effectively while showing respect and understanding toward the other person’s feelings. If you handle the silent treatment with dignity and grace, it can help to resolve conflicts and improve relationships.