The silent treatment

Someone’s giving me the silent treatment. I should be able to laugh it off, but I can’t. The silent treatment is my Achilles… er… treatment. I am powerless against it!

And because it is so effective against me, nothing enrages me more than the silent treatment. It’s cowardly and childish and I hates it.

And yet it works.

Your thoughts on the silent treatment are welcome, including opinions on the ethics thereof and strategies for dealing with it.


I hate the silent treatment, too. It just hangs a pall of misery over everything.

Most of the time I tackle it head-on: “Are you angry with me about something?” If I get a ‘no,’ then I try to pursue it further – “You don’t seem to have much to say to me. Are you giving me the silent treatment? Why?” style of thing.

If the person still won’t talk, or gives obviously angry “No! There’s nothing wrong!” style of answers, I usually say something along the lines of “Well, if you won’t tell me what’s wrong, then fine; I guess you don’t really want to resolve it. I do think the silent treatment is a childish way to handle things. If you just need to go away to be mad at me for a while, then I wish you’d just say that rather than denying you’re angry at all.” I will say that this doesn’t always do the trick – ie, get the person talking – but at least I feel I’ve done most of what I can to resolve it. If the above does fail, I tend to leave the person alone for a while and see if they’re willing to talk later.

If a kid is giving me the treatment, I’m usually way more direct: “What you’re doing is called ‘the silent treatment.’ It’s a silly way of handling your anger because nothing gets resolved. I respect your right to be angry with me, but if you want to fix what’s wrong, then we’d better talk about it.”

So obviously I feel like the silent treatment is the wrong way to go, although sometimes I use it to some extent, too. It’s not the full treatment – I will respond civilly when addressed – but I don’t initiate conversation and sometimes avoid the questioner if I can. I don’t do this with family members or even friends. Typically, it’s an acquaintance who’s done something pretty offensive who gets this treatment, and I’ve decided basically that I’m not interested in a further relationship with them.

In friends and family members, it’s worth resolving. No matter what, the behavior is childish and counterproductive.

Mrs. Furthur

When someone is giving me the silent treatment, I ask them why. I like being direct and honest, but some people don’t care for that approach. I ask nicely and sincerely listen to their concerns. It almost always eases any tension. Most people in these situations want to work out the problem with the other, so they might actually be relieved that you noticed and asked.

If that doesn’t work, then talk their freakin’ ear off.

I asked this person if he was upset with me and he refused to speak. I guess that’s a yes.

If anyone has ever given me the silent treatment, I’ve been blissfully unaware of it. If a person is so immature that they’d stoop to that kind of behavior over some perceived injury, they can be that way all by themselves. If they don’t want to talk to me, fine. If they think they’re hurting me by not talking to me, well excuse me while I laugh up my sleeve. There are some things up with which I will not put. Adults acting like babies is one of them.

The silent treatment just annoys the hell out of me. It’s basically a temper tantrum. The person is blackmailing you by refusing to speak until you apologize for some action or words spoken perhaps hastily.
How are you supposed to react to that? Either a. you’re not sorry you said or did it, in which case your apology is useless and a lie, and who wants that? or b. you don’t know what you did or said, and you cannot possibly apologize for this offense until you know what you did! Either way, the only way to resolve it is to discuss it!
Tell him when he’s ready to discuss it, to let you know (in essence: Grow up, buddy!). Leave him alone. Ignore him for a while, read a book, go to the movies, whatever. *
*That is just what I would do. But only because it strikes me as emotional blackmail, and I don’t react well to that kind of head game.

Is this somebody in your house? In your office? It’s easier to ignore someone being silent at you if you don’t have to interact.

My parents in the last years of their marriage brought the silent treatment to whole new levels of wonder. They could go for days at a time without talking, the entire apartment just seething with this unresolved anger. Every non verbal gesture was angry. It was absolutely appalling to see.

I try very, very hard not to use anything like that. I had problems in the first couple of years of my marriage when I was too angry to be able to speak without saying something horrible and not knowing how to convey that I just needed a time-out, but I wasn’t deliberately pulling the silent treatment.

I don’t know how I’d deal with that level of hostility being waged against me. Not well, I should think.

Nothing drives me more crazy. My mother used to do this to me, and I hated it, yet I found myself doing it in the early years of my relationship.

I stopped myself, though. Never do it anymore.

Oh man, I hate the silent treatment. Drives me insane. A girl that I was pretty close with (prior to “the treatment”) pulled that crap on me during mid-terms. She’d stomped out of study group a couple of times without saying a word over really stupid stuff so she wasn’t earning any maturity prizes before the treatment. Then she just stopped speaking to me. A bit awkward considering we sat next to each other in class and were in the same study group.

I just ignored her. It takes a lot of energy to do the silent treatment and if you’re not getting any reaction, it’s horrible. I know from experience. So I ignored her at school (not silent treatment ignore, but be super cheery and happy and pretend nothing’s up kind of ignore) and ranted and raved about her to my poor S.O. when I got home every night.

I sent her an email over break basically looking to resolve it and got no reponse. After break, she came back to school and attempted to act as if nothing happened.

Oh, hell no.

I took her outside and told her in no uncertain terms that her behavior was ridiculous and totally disprespectful and pretending nothing happened did nothing but add insult to injury and on top of that, she made everyone in our study group uncomforatable. If you can believe it, she still was trying to act like she had done nothing wrong and was merely trying to avoid confrontation. I guess she wasn’t smart enough to realize that in her attempt to avoid confrontation, she created an enormous silent confrontation that affected a whole lot of people.

Needless to say, I’m polite to her now but no longer consider her a friend. The silent treatment is freaking stupid. If I wanted to deal with children, I’d have some. I refuse to make efforts to maintain a friendship with someone who would do that. If they can’t make the effort to resolve issues in the friendship and would prefer to act like a child, then screw 'em.

My ex would do the whole silent treatment thing. Not like a sitcom, either, none of that “Ask your mother to pass the salt” stuff. With him, it was either silence accompanied by withering looks, or token silence punctuated with venomous comments.
There were times when I wished he’d just shut up and ignore me and let me get on with life.
Eventually it was one of the issues that led to our divorce. During his last Six Day Silence, I made the decision to split up. By the time he decided to talk again, I’d had several days to decide that I was doing the right thing.
If it’s an aquaintance, I’d attempt to be blissfully ignorant of the whole thing. (Usually this isn’t difficult for me, as I tend to be blissfully ignorant of many insults.) I figure if someone wants to insult me, they’re going to have to TRY.
But…if it’s an SO, it’s a component of emotional abuse.

Good luck.

Is this a chick thing? I’ve had three women attempt the silent treatment on me in my life – never ONCE a guy. Two of 'em had it coming and silence was bliss. I began mocking it after awhile. Whenever they slipped up, I’d say, “Oh, so we’re finally talking now?” The longer they kept it up, the stupider they looked. In both instances, they ended up caving.

The third one happened because I did something that was absolutely my fault and so her silent treatment did bother me for about three days. After that I began to stop feeling ashamed and apologetic and moved rapidly to “deeply pissed and vindictive.” I returned the silent treatment tenfold. Like-- if I was talking to a group of people and she appeared in the room, I’d stop talking abruptly and not say anything or look in her direction until she left the room, at which point I’d start talking right where I left off as if nothing happened. I wouldn’t say why, and when people would go to her they’d say, “What did you do to make Askia act so mad at you?” I outlasted her by three months before she admiited she overracted and accepted my apology. Not exactly mature, but I got my point across.

There is absolutely no less effective way to work out differences adult to adult than walking around refusing to talk things out.


Note the “he”.

Roughly 50% of parents are male.

Another “him”.

So no, I’d have to wager a guess that this is not a chick thing. :slight_smile:

The silent treatment bugs me, too. I like to talk about things, get 'em out of the way and resolved so we can get back to our regular lives. If I am too enraged to talk right away, I’ll say so, and request a cooling-off period where I can organise what I want to say. What do two silent-treatment-inclined individuals do in a relationship? Do they each ignore the other’s presence every time there is a disagreement?

My ex-boyfriend - first serious boyfriend ever, from age 15 to 17 - was huge on this. He didn’t like me going out with friends. I had stupidly blown off my friends for over a year to please him, and it happened so gradually I didn’t realise it. (Yes, stupid, I know.) But one day I discovered I missed them, and wanted to see them again. I made plans, this one day while he was hunting with his dad and his cousin.

So my friends and I went to a buffet while he was out hunting, and when I got home, I went to his house. I got home later than he did, so he had to wait an hour or so before I could go over, the poor baby. Well, he took me into his room as usual, then proceeded to lie down on his stomach, facing away from me, in the pitch-dark and not talk to me. Wouldn’t let me turn on the TV and when I tried to leave he grabbed me and threw me back on the bed and proceeded to ignore me again.

So I will never do that to anyone, and I am now fortunate enough to have a boyfriend who will never do it to me. :slight_smile:

My view on the silent treatment has always been this: Your ability to screw with them actively will always trum their ability to screw with you by not saying anything.

“Hey, I’m just going to borrow this for a moment. Do you mind? Good.”

“Hey did you hear [Insert evil story about them here]?”

Simply sit down somewhere in their personal space, and begin chattering about a topic you know they find inane. Sprinkle in a few “Just let me know if you have work to do.” or the like.

Three months?? Christ, that’s a long time to hold a grudge. Out of curiosity, what’s the longest she gave you the silent treatment?

I’ve never given anyone the silent treatment unless I was kidding. I sometimes do that to my husband because it makes him kiss me or tickle me out of it. I’ll do it with a fake little “hmph” and stick my nose in the air. It cracks him up. But, doing it seriously? I couldn’t imagine it - it’s a hell of a lot more satisfying to get openly pissed than to hold it in. :smiley:

You know, if someone gives me the silent treatment I’m really likely to return the favor by never seeing them again.

It always feels like I’m supposed to keep talking and cherish the person truly in finding the right words to express my reformed serial killer remorse. (We all know that the silent treatment is only used in truly horrendous circumstances. :eek: )

Too much work. Not enough sleep. I don’t have the patience anymore. You can keep quiet for the rest of your life, okay? Mum IS the word!! :dubious: :dubious: :wally

silent treatment a strictly-chick thing? oh Hell no. my ex-stepfather the alcoholic was an absolute king at this.

since there were just the three of us, he had to time it carefully, so he could top off the immature “I’m not talking to you” level with the SUPER-childish “make the one left I’m still talking to act as messanger when I’m standing right next to the one I’m not talking to.” there just aren’t enough :rolleyes: in all known and hypothesized universes to cover this.

and the really, really sad part of this? my mom and i looked forward to it being our turn to be shunned. at least this meant that whoever wasn’t being addressed was ALSO not being nagged, harangued, endlessly reminded of our supposed faults and failings… i think you get the picture. mom and i would practically grin to each other whenever the recipient realized that the Mantle of Silence had now been thrown over whichever of us was the current target.

so when, in the earlier days of our marriage, my husband occasionally got into a pout and tried the silent treatment, i practically laughed at him. he doesn’t do that anymore – i’ve learned to ignore it at the Master’s level.

It’s your own fault for teaming up with Teller in the first place.

The only way to “resolve” silent treatment situations are to call them what they are. Tell the person, “I see you’re giving me the silent treatment,” or, “I see you’re going all passive-aggressive on me.” Repeat as necessary. The behaviour might continue even so, but at least you’ve named it, putting the responsibility for change in the other person’s lap. Silent treatment is supposed to make you feel helpless and flustered. Don’t be.