March 20, 2010

On My Soapbox: Sounds of Silence

Every once in a while I get a bug in me and it grows... and I end up on my soapbox.  I spouted about Splenda prevously.  Well, it occurred to me recently that in an argument, there is one thing I cannot cope with: The Silent Treatment. Over my lifespan, this seems to be the method that people in my life utilize when angry… with me, with each other, with life. It isn’t just a romantic relationship thing. I have this used on me by people I have called friends as well as other family members. I don’t understand this. To me, the silent treatment (aka the cold shoulder) is a form of abuse. It is painful and it is immature. It is a control device.

Is it just me, or should the silent treatment be banished from existence? I think it is worse than an all-out, knock-down, drag-out, hair-pulling, blood-letting fight. I would rather be punched in the face then given the silent treatment; at least then I would know for sure that what I did or said was offensive. When I receive the silent treatment, I am left wondering what exactly I said or did to cause this person in my life to stop speaking to me. In many cases, I know; in others, I really, really don’t.

“To me, this is a form of torture. Nothing positive comes from this type of behavior. What makes more sense…blowing up about something, cooling off a little and then talking about how to resolve it OR not blowing up about something, staying completely pissed and not doing anything to help resolve the situation? If you said the latter… you’re a dick. When someone is administering the silent treatment they are trying to show that they are dominant over you. The silent treatment (when it becomes a mutual one) is a power struggle in pain tolerance…whoever the winner is, cares less.” source

Whoever the winner is, cares less. That resonates loudly within me. The Hubs used to utilize the silent treatment on me for long periods of time, earlier on in our relationship… a minimum of 2-3 days. It was, at the time, the only way he knew how to “end” (avoid) a fight. I detest this. When you’re “done” being angry (and I’m open to a short cooling off period), please let’s talk about it and clear the air. All a silent treatment does is create tension and fester the wounds. There is no resolution. There is no opportunity for growth or release. It’s horrible and hurtful and stressful and overall emotionally abusive.

My daughter is/was another user of this. She gave me the silent treatment for a full week once. And she bullied her brother and sister into joining her in giving me the silent treatment, when they weren’t involved in the original situation. When I told people of this, I remember one friend saying how immature that was. Yes… and it doesn’t matter how old you are (she was 18-ish at the time)… it is immature, whether you are 18 or 25 or 40. When this particular silent treatment was over, she told her dad that she didn’t even remember why she was angry. What the *&^!@#:???!!! On top of that, she told her dad that she wasn’t angry any more… TWO full days before she came and talked to me. I was FURIOUS (for the silent treatment) and let her know it.  Apparently, as you may be able to tell, I am still wounded by this.

This was the very beginning of the end of my tolerance for silent treatments. I told my husband (remember, I said he used to be a silent treatment giver) that should he decide that was the solution to a fight, that I would not partake of it. I would not beg him to talk to me, I would not apologize for as long as he was silent, and I would not forgive him for it when he knew how much it hurt me. I would give him an appropriate cooling off period, and then I expected and hoped that he would be mature enough to come to me to discuss the problem further – in an appropriate time frame less than 24 hours. Since the week-long silent treatment from my daughter, I am thrilled to say that I haven’t had any from The Hubs. Not very long ones anyway. I think he finally saw the ridiculousness of it when he was an outsider looking in.  It really has strengthened my love for him that he was able to change this piece of his behavior.

“If you are being given the silent treatment, you are being punished for something, but you are not actually being told what that something is and how you can make up for it. […] It is not your job to fix something for someone who isn’t using their words. Give yourself permission to stop trying.” Source

This is the year of Release for me… that is my One Little Word. And I carry a lot of emotional baggage over friends and loved ones who have treated me with such little dignity. I agonize over it. As you saw above, I'm still carrying wounds from the cold shoulder my daughter gave to me for so long.  I’m like that… I have such a hard time letting things go (hence my one little word for this year). And today, I’m letting it all go. I’m releasing it. Silent treatments will affect me no more. I give myself permission to stop trying to fix something for someone who isn’t using their words. If they care so little about me that they choose to start a silent treatment, then they will be participating in it alone. Starting today, the only Sounds of Silence that I will listen to will be by Simon and Garfunkel… and I will enjoy it.

Okay, off my soapbox.  Back to our regularly scheduled programming.


  1. I am guilty of using a mild form of the silent treatment (which is my defense mechanism - when I am in an argument that is getting nowhere, I just shut down). I've never done the silent treatment for more than 24 hours - and sometimes it has taken me that long to "Release" whatever was bugging me. I found your position enlightening and will try to keep that in mind when I'm on the verge of shutting down in the future. Hope you are feeling a little better having gotten that off your chest and let it go!

  2. I linked back to your post about the junk journal on my blog. Hope you don't mind.

    Also, like Cheri, I am guilty of using the silent treatment occasionally. I usually don't last more than two "what's wrong"s or 20 minutes. Which is usually how long it takes me to realize that silence is getting me no-where and I'd better let DH know what's bothering me.

  3. I zip my lip until I'm calm and the other person is calm. I do it because I tend to have explosive anger. My father uses this to this day...its the not talking but slamming and stomping treatment when he does it! I'm try really hard not to explode in gets very little accomplished and I say things i don't mean. So...I wait. Sometimes the opportunity to talk doesn't come for a long time. However, I'm still CIVIL. Meaning we have "small talk." while I'm woking rhought my own anger. I have very rarely used the full silent treatment. I believe the last time I didn't talk at all, I was told to "SHUT UP!" and so...I did. Turns out "shut up" may not mean exactly what it says....hmmmmm....


I love hearing what you have to say. Thank you for sharing yourself with me!


Related Posts with Thumbnails