The silent treatment

This is one of the things that irks me most in life.

The silent treatment. UGH!!

The other thing that irks me most is poor communication, so obviously I’ve got a theme going here. 😜

Now, I’m not saying I get all bent out of shape when someone doesn’t return my Facebook message, even if there’s a QUESTION in my message. I understand that people, like me, are simply busy and have the best of intentions of replying to me later. I also understand that silence in a case like this can simply be a result of not knowing how to answer my question.

I easily let that kind of silence go.

The kind of silence I’m talking about here is INTENTIONAL and OBVIOUS silence.

It’s TOXIC, on purpose, and meant to belittle you.

How might you determine whether or not silence is intentional, obvious, and therefore toxic? There’s a few things you can pay attention to:

1. The frequency of the silence. Does this person have a pattern of not replying to you in a timely manner?
2. Is this person someone who is expected to communicate with you? (Think: spouse, family member, close friend, or co-parent of your children.)
3. The length of the silence: Does it go on for days on end, even when your message is urgent?
4. Do you have a negative history with this person?
5. Is this person aware of your desire for healthy, respectful communication?
6. Does this person expect an immediate reply from YOU but doesn’t give you the same in return?

If yes, then you’re dealing with the silent treatment, and it’s toxic.

It’s maddening to deal with someone like this, especially if you are a person who values respect and communication and therefore gives that to others above that desire to give them a taste of their own medicine. 😜

Why do they do this?!

Here’s the short and sweet of it:

CONTROL. People who do this don’t feel good about themselves. It’s easy to take their silence personally, and in many cases it is indeed personal towards you, but the bottom line is they want to maintain some sort of control in the relationship, and this is an easy way they can give themselves a false belief that they have it.

The silent treatment can also be used as a way for them to “forget” important info you sent them or to dodge responsibility by letting you know their answer last-minute.

The silent treatment is made to make you think “I’m not important”.

The silent treatment is used to frustrate you and keep you wondering.

It’s a game, and it’s a toxic one at that.

So, what can you do about it?

Here’s what I do with my ex, the person who is the king of the silent treatment, checks all six boxes above, most often replying three days after a somewhat urgent message and a day after an urgent one:

If it’s urgent, I send a final message letting him know my plan.

If it’s somewhat urgent, I wait two or three days and then inform him of my plan. (Ex: “If I don’t hear back from you by the end of the day, I am going to assume you are indeed okay with me picking up the kids an hour earlier/later on this date”.)

Usually I get a reply shortly after. 🤣

When I don’t, I follow through with my plan, and at times I shoot myself in the foot when I get a last-minute “That won’t work” response.

What I try my best NOT to do is react or point out the poor communication. Why? Because it doesn’t change anything, and doing so feeds into their entire game. You react? You’ve played their game.

At the end of the day, you’ve got bigger fish to fry. Keep your chin up. And concentrate on your healthy relationships.

No one can make you feel unimportant without your consent.