The Silent Treatment: Are They Ignoring Texts On Purpose?
Read receipts are one of the greatest inventions ever created; you send a text, see that it is delivered, and are promptly able to determine whether or not someone is willing or unwilling to acknowledge what you've said. Although this exists between two specific types of phones, it is a wonderful tool to use. Unfortunately, not all phones can accomplish this, and people do not actually offer real-life read receipts and do the exact opposite in many cases. In relationships, being ignored might be just as common as being given a response.
What Is the Silent Treatment?
At some time or another, most people felt angry with a partner, friend, or family member and withheld their time and attention as a consequence. This might even be advice offered from well-meaning loved ones, who urge people to "ignore him" in the hopes that it will help the person in question see your side or come to their senses. Although it is a commonplace to employ this kind of behavior, this is termed "the silent treatment" and is actually considered an extremely problematic way of communicating with others.
The silent treatment is, at its core, an unhealthy communication pattern and is often a symptom of abuse or a precedent for abuse. The silent treatment is a behavior that involves cutting off contact with someone as a form of punishment. You might stop speaking in a single argument and wait someone out for a few days. This is the silent treatment. You might refuse to text or call someone for a week or two. This is the silent treatment. You might seem to practically drop off the face of the earth for days, weeks, or months-this, too, is the silent treatment.
Why Do People Use the Silent Treatment?
When the term is applied correctly, silent treatment is most often used as a form of punishment or as a means of control. Individuals who use this type of punishment are usually hoping to trigger a response in a friend, family member, or partner that is akin to panic, which allows the perpetrator to maintain the majority of the control and power in a relationship while keeping the other person in the relationship small, dependent, and afraid.
Unfortunately, silent treatment is an effective method of controlling people as it uses the threat of withdrawing love or attention to shape and prime behavior, personality, and needs. As is the case with any psychological abuse, silent treatment reduces the self-esteem and well-being of the victim while transferring the bulk of the power to the person inflicting the abuse.
When Is the Silent Treatment Appropriate?
Although conventional wisdom suggests that ignoring a guy is a perfectly normal, sane thing to do, numerous psychologists and studies have demonstrated that this is, with certainty, not the case. Ignoring or excluding someone activates the same receptors in the brain that trigger a pain response, both to physical and emotional pain, and leave lasting psychological scars, disfiguring your mental state, your self-esteem, and your ability to recognize a healthy, open relationship.
Consequently, silent treatment is never appropriate. In any relationship, going completely silent and ignoring someone else is unkind, unhealthy, and unproductive and will not yield a positive result for anyone involved. Because strong communication is the core of any healthy, lasting relationship, a complete lack of communication is the literal antithesis to maintaining a true, trustworthy, and lasting connection and is a surefire recipe for resentment, pain, confusion, and ill-health.
Are They Ignoring Texts on Purpose?
Some people consider ignoring a guy's mercy or a necessary aspect of communication. Some psychologists consider this refusing to communicate a form of psychological abuse and warn against its use in any situation but the direst, such as abusive relationships, stalking, or similar concerns. Although there is no way to know for sure if someone is ignoring a text on purpose, there are some signs that the lack of communication is intentional and overt.
1) The Two of You Are Fighting
If the two of you have been fighting recently or are currently in the middle of a fight, and texting communication has halted, it is likely your paramour is giving you the silent treatment.
2) Your Relationship Has Seen Other Forms of Abuse
Most psychologists agree that silent treatment is a form of psychological abuse. If abusive behavior is present in your relationship in other ways, silent treatment is a tried-and-true way to punish a partner. If your partner or the person in whom you are interested exhibits controlling tendencies in other areas and either restricts their own communication or tries to restrict yours, they may be using the silent treatment.
3) Communication is Notoriously Scant
The silent treatment and a cooling-off period are two different things. However, this pattern is preceded by some sort of explanation, even as short as "I can't talk about this right now. I need some space." Silence, on the other hand, is total silence, without warning or explanation, or silence preceded by some derogatory statement about the other person, such as "I can't talk to you when you're so dramatic," or "I'm not stooping to your level, so we're done talking." Although these are both examples of communicating, the communication is not healthy, and any resulting silence likely falls under the silent treatment.
4) You Have to Offer the Mea Culpa
When you are being given the silent treatment, it will likely only end when you feel like you have to rush to apologize, amend your behavior, or otherwise change yourself, your habits, or your needs to accommodate your partner. When it is actually being used as a tool to manipulate, the silent treatment is employed as a means of altering someone's behavior and painting oneself in a positive or sympathetic light. For this reason, the person giving the silent treatment usually will not be the first to end the silence but will instead wait for you to plead or beg, or will make sure they are given the space and time they want, rather than space or time you might need.
What To Do In the Midst of the Silent Treatment
Although you cannot control the actions of others and force the person ignoring you to acknowledge your presence, your ideas, and your needs, you can control your own behavior and your responses to the silent treatment. The best way to respond to the silent treatment include:
1) Create Space
If the person inflicting the silent treatment wants silence between the two of you, be it: create space between the two of you, and allow yourself some time and energy to process what is going on in your relationship. You might find that the silent treatment has been an infrequently-used tool in your relationship with this person and decide that a calm, open dialogue about it is the best course of action, or you might find that this is a pattern of behavior that has begun to escalate in your relationship, and warrants a more intensive discussion and the possibility of permanent space between the two of you.
2) Create Boundaries
Refuse to accept the silent treatment as a part of your relationship going forward. Tell your partner, friend, or family member, as the case may be, that you understand the need for space to process an argument, betrayal, or some other form of difficult relationship hurdle, but that going completely silent is not acceptable to you. If it continues to be a part of your relationship, you will have to detach yourself from it. While this might seem unkind, making sure that your mental health is kept a high priority is an absolute must for living a healthy, well-adjusted life.
3) Respect Yourself and Others
If you, yourself, feel that you need space to process something, let the other person know what you need and permit yourself to hold fast to that commitment. Although people are often quick to urge respecting others in relationships, it is equally important to respect yourself, make way for your needs, and keep yourself in a strong, healthy headspace.
Ignoring On Purpose
It is easy-and often even celebrated to ignore, exclude, or otherwise ostracize people in all types of relationships. While this may be an easy route to take, it is not a healthy, effective, or useful one. It can end up doing a lot of damage to all of the parties involved, including destroying self-esteem, creating anxiety and depression, and permanently damaging someone's perception of themselves and the world around them.
If you have found yourself in a relationship filled with silent treatment or any other form of abuse, give yourself the freedom to take action, and reach out to a mental health professional to create stronger, healthier boundaries and to work toward healing any psychological wounds that may have been created and sustained. The professionals from ReGain.Us can work with individuals or couples to create habits, boundaries, and routines that optimize mental health and set you on the road to recovery.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
- What does silent treatment do to a person?
When used in relationships, silent treatment is a form of emotional abuse. Being ignored stimulates the part of the brain that detects physical pain, so the silent treatment is very emotionally and physically painful. It can lead to negative emotions, like distress and anger. In addition, people who are often ignored tend to have lower self-esteem and feel that their lives have less meaning.
When people use silent treatment, it can have huge psychological consequences for the person they are ignoring. These psychological consequences can even lead to physical symptoms such as bowel problems, erectile dysfunction, and headaches. The silent treatment reduces relationship satisfaction for both partners and cuts back on the capacity to communicate effectively and lovingly. It is not an effective method of conflict resolution, even if the person giving the silent treatment is doing so to avoid an argument with a person they care about. Regardless of intent, the silent treatment causes harm to those on the receiving end of it.
- Is the silent treatment manipulation?
Giving someone silent treatment is a form of manipulation. The silent treatment can be used to modify behavior. Being ignored has a huge effect on a person’s mental state, so they’re willing to do nearly anything to regain the manipulator’s attention. This provides the person giving the silent treatment with a lot of power over the person they’re ignoring. It allows them to modify the other person’s behaviors by putting them through emotional turmoil.
- Why is the silent treatment so painful?
When a person is giving someone the silent treatment, they’re usually doing so to know that they are causing the other person pain. It’s painful because it’s a form of punishment. When you give someone the silent treatment, you’re punishing them by withdrawing your presence and support. The silent treatment can cause emotional turmoil, but it can also cause physical symptoms like an upset stomach or a headache. In addition, being ostracized in general targets the same part of the brain that feels pain, so it only makes sense that the silent treatment is very painful to endure.
- Why do guys give the silent treatment?
Research shows that both men and women use silent treatment as a tactic in relationships, especially during times of conflict. There are a few reasons that people generally choose to give someone the silent treatment. First, they may have a desire to control or otherwise manipulate the other person. Next, they intend to inflict emotional pain. They may also engage in the silent treatment for less volatile reasons, such as not knowing a better way to communicate or being afraid that they won’t be able to control their anger if they speak.
Other common reasons people give the silent treatment to others are that they are simply desperate for attention or don’t want to look like the “bad guy” for yelling or arguing. Finally, sometimes an argument seems unwinnable, so people decide not to participate by giving the other person the silent treatment.
- Do narcissists give the silent treatment?
Narcissists often give the silent treatment. They will stay silent to put themselves in control and make the person on the other end of the silent treatment feel that they are wrong. Another reason narcissists tend to employ silent treatment is that it helps them avoid compromising with others. Generally, the silent treatment makes people question their worth, which is the narcissist’s goal. This way, they can mold and manipulate the other person.
- Who uses silent treatment?
The silent treatment can be used by anyone--any gender, any age. It is not limited to one specific type of person. However, silent treatment is often used by narcissists and those who wish to exert control over others. It’s also used by those who lack effective communication skills. The choice to stay silent rather than communicate can be a damaging one for both the person giving and the person receiving the silent treatment.
Suggest a time shortly for the two of you to talk as well. But remember, you cannot control the other person; you can only control yourself. Be sure to take care of yourself physically and mentally if you’re dealing with someone giving you the silent treatment.
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