Do Silent Treatments Work?
A silent treatment is when one party withholds communication from the other party to show dissatisfaction.
Do silent treatments work?
We have to first define what work means…
Often, silent treatments are not meant to solve the problem.
It’s meant to signal there is a problem at all!!
Imagine that you and your wife go to a party together.
All the friends gather in a circle and talk.
The topic of bad cooking comes up.
Without a second thought, you volunteer your wife’s name into the fire:
‘My wife’s cooking is as bad as my dancing!’
The crowd erupts in laughter.
You are pleased by your comedic timing.
Everyone’s laughing besides your wife.
If she’s non-confrontational, she’s not going to be blunt and say:
‘The joke that you made at my expense really bothered me.’
Instead, she is going to give you the silent treatment.
Her sudden withdrawal is meant to signal:
If silent treatments are meant to make another party aware that something is wrong, then silent treatments work very well.
There needs to be a pre-existing rapport with someone for silent treatments to be effective.
If I went to a new barber and he messed up my hair….and I gave him the silent treatment, he most likely wouldn’t notice.
But if I have a habit of going to the same barber for 2 years, and I don’t hit him up on the 2nd Monday of the month (like I usually do) then he’ll know something is wrong.
The silent treatment is a satisfying move to do.
Which makes it dangerous.
I like to call it the quicksand of social skills.
The more you wiggle your body to escape quicksand, the further you sink.
Each time you are quiet for a prolonged period of time and someone asks:
‘Is something wrong?’
The more you are going to want to do silent treatment in the future!
This move is passive, like waiting for someone to break the ice with you.
You just stand there, and someone comes up to you.
The brain operates through the path of least resistance.
‘If I just stand here long enough, and someone will approach me…. Then why the hell would I actively go up to someone and break the ice with them?’
When the brain successfully pulls off a few silent treatments, it thinks:
‘If I can always get the other person to ask me what’s wrong, why the heck would I ever bring up the bad news myself?’
So, you can hold onto your power.
The harder it is to do, the more reward there is.
Breaking the ice allows you to create opportunities on demand.
While standing in the corner like a wallflower do not give you the same opportunities.
Giving a silent treatment will work.
But it will make you the passive one in the relationship.
You’ll be the person who always waits for someone to notice that you’re being quiet.
Here’s the kicker…
Many times, they won’t even notice.