A Manipulation Tactic: Silent Treatment
In my previous article, I mentioned how deeply we could get affected by the things our loved ones say. When words are mixed together and served as a word salad, they can leave us quite hopeless and drained. Criticism, arguments and chaos can hurt, anger or frighten us. Still, it’s easier for us to turn around and walk away once we’re able to see that we’ve been manipulated. But silence doesn’t work like that. When someone attacks you with silence, you may not even understand that you’re at war.
Sometimes, silence can be pretty effective. Sometimes we just feel the need to distance ourselves from certain people and observe the situation from the outside. Besides, taking a step back in order to calm down after a feverish argument can prevent us from giving unnecessary and exaggerated reactions.
But what we’re discussing here is not the naturally calm, shy or introverted people. Everyone has different types of personalities and preferences. That much is quite natural. But in this article, we will focus on those (especially the narcissists) who use silence as a weapon.
For narcissists, power and control are the most important things in life. Sometimes they try to acquire these through violence, but sometimes they do that in a passive aggressive way, such as giving the silent treatment. The silent treatment is a method commonly used by those who fear being too vulnerable against others.
It isn’t too different from a child going mute and sulking in a corner for hours after being told no. Children are naturally self-directed. Their empathy skills develop in time through experience and observing others. Therefore, they’re not that great at putting themselves in someone else’s shoes at the beginning of their lives. That’s why they feel like when they want something, they must get it immediately. And when they can’t, they can get quite aggressive and stubborn. An adult narcissist is just like a child in this aspect no matter how smart, successful or experienced they may be.
Alright, but how does this silent manipulation technique work?
- The person you’re trying to talk to can ignore you. They can pretend like they don’t hear you or simply don’t care about what you’re saying even if you’re speaking loud and clear.
- They can give you one-word answers when you’re asking something.
- They can sulk for hours or even days.
- Someone who used to call you all the time can start drifting away for no reason. They can stop calling or worrying about you. They either answer your texts really late or ignore them all together. Still, they don’t exactly disappear either. Because they’re not actually trying to leave you.
The real reason why a narcissist is giving you the silent treatment, is because they’re trying to punish you. For example, perhaps you didn’t agree with something they said in public and even supported an opposing idea. A conflict such as this wouldn’t effect a mentally healthy person much, but it can tear a narcissist apart. It can fuel their suppressed lack of self-confidence and shame. They can feel the need to dump this shame on you. A narcissist’s victim tends to blame themselves for everything anyway, so they can easily shoulder this emotional burden on the narcissist’s behalf.
Perhaps you just wanted to have some more time for yourself or those around you. And your narcissistic partner has taken this as a rejection and their fear of abandonment was triggered. As a response, they try to punish you with silent treatment. In this way, they can reflect their own fear of abandonment on you. After seeing that the person you love is drifting away, you can experience the same fear. Since you don’t want to lose them, you can eventually turn into a meek and self-compromising person.
Perhaps you just turned down a request of theirs and told them ‘no!’ Narcissists don’t like this word. This word reminds them of the fact they’re not superior and that they don’t have a divine right. If you try to sabotage their own fantasies and the illusions they’ve created to conceal who they really are, you deserve to be punished with silent treatment.
When someone you love starts treating you like this for no apparent reason at all, you naturally question things. You try to find the source of the problem and find out the truth. Especially if you’re a sympathetic person, you try to find out if you accidentally hurt them or not. You question why they’re acting like this, why they refuse to talk to you and why they’re constantly sulking around you. But it seems like these questions have no significance to them. After giving you the silent treatment for days, they can eventually start acting like nothing happened. It’s quite understandable for you to get upset or angry over this. But your reaction is going to make you look and feel bad, not them.
If you’ve ever been in a long-term relationship with someone who did this to you (or if you’re currently in a relationship with them), your heart can be filled with anger and pain. Confused by all these negative feelings; you can direct them at yourself. My advice is, always try to look at things through the eyes of an outsider. Emotional abuse isn’t always loud and visible, people can treat you poorly through more passive aggressive ways and you have the right to feel upset all the same.
Don’t direct your anger and pain at yourself, but instead focus on your own needs. Take the first step at realizing your own value by distancing yourself from those who use and abuse you. You deserve to be in a healthy relationship in which you’re respected and loved like everyone else.
You can also find the articles on https://medium.com/@narsistsiz:
The Minds Journal. “The Silent Treatment: A Narcissist’s Trick of the Trade of Emotional Abuse”. Access 6 November, 2016. https://themindsjournal.com/silent-treatment-emotional-abuse/.
Melanie Tonia Evans. “Why Narcissists Use Silent Treatment”. Access 26 November, 2017. https://blog.melanietoniaevans.com/the-narcissists-silent-treatment-what-to-do-when-you-are-treated-like-you-dont-exist/.
You can also check out my other articles on manipulation tactics:
A Manipulation Tactic: Mirroring
A Manipulation Tactic: Gaslighting
A Manipulation Tactic: Word Salad
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