Sometimes when you’re arguing with someone, the best thing for you to do is hold your tongue. But when you’re ignoring someone as a form of punishment, it becomes toxic.
Silence is golden, at least that’s what they say, but sometimes, you need to communicate your feelings and emotions during an argument. You might need some time to process them, and that’s okay.
However, people do tend to use the silent treatment to get their point across, and it’s been shown to be a form of toxicity and abuse. You might think it effective, but in the end, it’s not a valid form of communication.
How is the silent treatment used?
When you’re arguing, you might be stumped for words. It gets difficult to respond especially when you’re trying to maintain your cool and not hurt the other person’s feelings.
So you hold your tongue and think it over. It’s not a bad thing; just make sure that your partner is aware that you’re using your silence to mull over things and will readdress it momentarily.
Sometimes in a toxic setting, it gets used for a completely different purpose. It can be used as a form of punishment or even as a way to exercise authority over someone.
You might think that it’s effective in getting your point across. But it actually leaves the other person scrambling for the verbal cues you’re not giving them.
The person using the silent treatment will also make it evident that they’ve closed the lines of communication. They’ll either tell you, and it becomes their means of punishment or a reaction to things they don’t approve of.
They’ll especially use the silent treatment when things don’t go their way. And they might fall back on it when given the opportunity to accept responsibility for their actions.
How to respond
When someone is exercising their silence as a means of power over you, it can leave you scrambling to make amends. That is why communicating is important because you can’t always be responsible for the way someone else feels.
You can discuss ways to address the problem while still respecting that they need some time to think it through. When you do discuss it, you can open up about how their silence or refusal to communicate makes you feel.
Try to compromise on the way to communicate. Always make sure everyone is responsible for their own actions and words and apologizes where necessary.
If your partner refuses to listen to reason, you could arrange a meeting with a therapist. Your own feelings should be your priority, and you should make decisions that are helpful for your well-being.
Dr Saadiqah Hajat