It can be hurtful to be at the receiving end of the silent treatment.
It can mess with your mind, make you feel confused, and leave you wondering if you are even worth being with in the first place.
Otherwise, why would someone who claims to love you refuse to talk to you for hours, days, or weeks?
I know this because a partner has given me the silent treatment, and to say that I felt like I was going insane will be an understatement.
I was confused because I didn’t know what I had done wrong, what had caused the silence between us, and how to win the silent treatment.
All I knew was that he wasn’t talking to me, which was unpleasant and uncomfortable.
If you are reading this, chances are that at one time or another, you have been given the silent treatment.
But it’s also possible that you have given someone else the silent treatment.
The silent treatment can happen in romantic relationships or any type of relationship, including parent-child, friends, and co-workers.
Sometimes, it is a reaction to a situation in which one person feels so angry, frustrated, or overwhelmed to deal with a problem.
In these cases, once the heat of the moment passes, so does the silence.
Going silent may also be the best way to avoid saying things you would later regret, and many people resort to it in moments when they don’t know how to express themselves or feel overwhelmed.
But when the silent treatment is used as a tool for exerting power and control over someone or creating emotional distance just to punish someone or as a way of getting someone to give in to a demand, it becomes abusive.
Here are a few signs you are being abused with the silent treatment:
- It happens frequently and at the slightest mistake or refusal to do something.
- The silent treatment lasts for longer and longer periods.
- It’s coming from a place of punishment or coercion not a need to cool off or feel less overwhelmed.
- It only ends when you apologize, plead or accept what you initially refused.
- You’ve changed your behavior to avoid getting the silent treatment.
When you notice one or more of these signs, it becomes clear that you are being emotionally abused and if you don’t take the time to address it, it is capable of affecting your sense of belonging in that relationship.
How To Win The Silent Treatment
Let’s explore the different ways you can handle the silent treatment and win.
1. Reach out to them.
If this isn’t something the other person does to you on a regular basis, reach out to them gently and start a conversation.
They may lack communication skills, or they may be hurting deeply and looking for a way to express themselves.
Let the person that you’ve noticed they’re not talking and responding to you and you want to understand why.
While this method may be counterintuitive, it’s not necessarily a bad idea if you’re looking for how to win the silent treatment.
When you reach out to them, they know they still have a chance of winning you back.
2. Emphasize that you want to resolve things.
It’s not your fault that they chose to be silent and however they handle their feelings isn’t something you can control, but you have a responsibility to apologize if you’ve done something wrong or hurt them in any way.
If they don’t appear ready to talk with you, let them know you understand they may need some time alone and that you would give them the time they need.
3. Let them know how you feel.
Tell the person how confused, hurt, and frustrated you feel when they treat you with silence and that you feel like you don’t matter to them in any way.
Let the person know that the silent treatment isn’t the best way to resolve issues that come up in your relationship and if it’s a deal breaker for you, let the person know too.
If there are other things you need the person to know, state them plainly and be assertive about your needs.
4. Create a safe environment for the person to talk to you.
Some people recoil from talking about issues and resort to keeping silent because they have been misunderstood and their vulnerability was taken advantage of.
If this is the case, their hesitation in talking about issues is understandable and the only thing you need to do is to let them know you understand how they feel.
Validate their feelings and let them know it’s okay to feel the way they felt.
This will help them to feel safe and at ease to open up to you and decrease the chances of giving you the silent treatment when future problems arise.
4. Ignore them.
If you have tried to talk calmly to the person and your effort is met with more silent treatment, or if the silent treatment is a ploy to get you under their control, or give into their demands, the best thing to do is to let them be and ignore them.
If it’s a tool of control, it means they want you to feel bad and confused enough to turn to them and grovel.
Don’t give them that pleasure.
Instead, go about your business and let them know you are not bothered.
It’s not easy but then, they can’t keep abusing you and trying to get you under their control.
You are human and your feelings deserve to be respected.
5. Stand up for yourself.
Whenever they decide to talk, let them know that silent treatment isn’t the way to get what they want from you or get you to submit to them.
Be firm and assertive with your boundaries, and let them know the consequences of crossing them.
In addition to these tips, if you are trying to win in a silent treatment, here are a few things to avoid:
- Don’t respond in anger. It can bring you down to their level and make things worse.
- Don’t beg or plead to be spoken to. It encourages their behavior and it shows they have you under their control.
- Don’t apologize when you did nothing wrong, just to end the silent treatment. It encourages them to treat you that way when the next issue arises.
- If you’ve tried to reason with the person, don’t continue reaching out to them.
- Don’t blame yourself or tell yourself you deserve the silent treatment. You are not to blame for however way someone chooses to treat you.
Silent treatment isn’t always an indication of emotional abuse or a weapon of control, but it isn’t also the best way to handle issues that arise in a relationship.
If it is used frequently in a relationship you’re involved in and the other person deliberately chooses not to work on his emotions or communication skills, or when it becomes clear that it is a weapon of control, consider leaving the relationship or changing how you show up in that relationship.
It will help to preserve your mental and emotional health.