How to Respond to Silent Treatment

Man gesturing to wife during a dispute
A woman is giving a man the silent treatment. (Image: 4774344sean/iStock/Getty Images)

If the person you love is giving you the silent treatment, you may feel at a loss about how to get her to respond to you. Perhaps you did something that genuinely hurt her feelings but have since apologized. Maybe you don't even know why she is ignoring you, but you feel the need to find out. The silent treatment is a type of passive-aggressive behavior, a form of non-verbal aggression that shows up in negative behavior, according to Andrea Harrn, counselor and psychotherapist. Learning how to deal with it will help you enjoy a more fulfilling relationship.

Step 1

Ask him what is wrong and if there is anything you can do to fix it. Most likely, he will continue to ignore you; however, by attempting to start conversation, you are showing him you care. The silent treatment is confusing, according to Jeremy Sherman, an evolutionary epistemologist. It is difficult to figure out your loved one's intentions when he has shut off communication completely. Be patient as you try to figure out the root cause of his behavior.

Step 2

Don't play the game. If you are sincerely asking her what is wrong and she does not respond, she is being somewhat manipulative. Instead of staying around and continually asking her to open up to you, simply walk away and let her know you will try again in a couple hours. Being open and honest with your partner is the only way to have successful communication, according to psychologist John M. Grohol. The silent treatment is not useful, and serves as a barrier to effective communication.

Step 3

Change the negative pattern. If your partner continues to give you the silent treatment time after time, help him work on redirecting the habit that has developed in his life. Wait until he begins speaking to you again, and then address the issue. Usually, the silent treatment has been ingrained in an individual's personality as a way to cope with difficult emotions, according to the staff at eHarmony. Discuss different coping methods with your partner, such as choosing good communication over emotional games, and vulnerability over manipulation.

Step 4

Express concern for your partner. Show her that you care for her and will be there for her through all of life's challenges. If you demonstrate your love and commitment to her, she may not be tempted to play games with you during a conflict. Since the silent treatment is the opposite of vulnerability, let her know that you would love for her to be open with you about what she is feeling. Explain that she does not have to be afraid of your reaction, and that you will try to work with her on whatever issues she is facing.

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