Silence Ain't Golden
Let’s get real loud about giving the silent treatment.
The silent treatment. What a great way to tell someone you love you’re mad at them.
My grandparents were the reigning monarchs of icing people when they were angry. My dad inherited the trait. But not me. I cannot abide putting someone you love on ice. I’ve talked before about the end of friendships. This is different. This is when your conflict style is the silent treatment.
Friend, if this is you, please explain to me how that’s helping anything. I do not get it.
We only ever have right now. We are so busy, and life’s seasons go so fast. Why would you spend time not speaking to someone you love?
For clarity, I support taking a beat. Conflict can be difficult to process. Anger is tongue-tying. It’s normal if you require a bit of reflective space before resolving a disagreement. Indeed, it’s often best to consider your feelings and the root of the issue. It’s a good way of avoiding impassioned statements that you wish you could take back.
But taking a beat is forthright. Removing yourself in a moment is not the same as refusing to speak to someone. It also implies that you will have the emotional maturity to return to the conversation instead of leaving the other person wondering how long they have to wait to resolve the disagreement. It requires you to have said maturity.
My grandparents were wonderful people. So fun. So loving. But so judgemental. And when they didn’t approve, they let it be known via loud silence. Literally months passed in my childhood where we didn’t hear from them or see them because they were in a tiff with my dad. Then, eventually, the glacier would thaw, and all would be fine again. No more conversation.
My dad can do this, too. I remember a few years ago, he and I had a falling out over something unimportant. Politics, maybe. But I was in my hard-as-nails era, and he’s a Taurus. The argument wasn’t important to me, but Dad decided this was a thing to go silent over. (To note: we don’t live in the same state and don’t see each other a lot.)
A couple weeks went by. The fact that we weren’t on speaking terms bothered me daily. Finally, I thought, Nope. Not doing this. I called him and said, “Look. We don’t talk a lot as it is, and we see each other even less. I don’t want to spend another day on this silent treatment stuff. It’s a waste of life.”
And just like that, he was over it.
We haven’t played the silent game again, thankfully. And, oh, have we had some fun in the past year! (But that’s another post.)
I dated someone who was a vanisher. Not the same, but related. Leaving me hanging, wondering if we were good. Wondering if something was wrong. (It was.) I allowed it. It’s not all his fault. I granted that kind of energy access to me. I learned a lesson in the process.
On the other hand, my ex husband accused me of withdrawing when I was unhappy. Pulling away, only to come back and explain what was bothering me. My perspective was that I was “protecting” him from my disorganized emotions. That I withdrew in order to remove the unpleasantness that was my dissatisfaction. Through my evolution, I see how I could’ve shown up better for that. But saying that I have a problem that needs addressing is a skill that my child self didn’t learn well. I’m learning that lesson now, too.
If you love someone and want to keep them in your life, why would you refuse to talk to them just because you disagree?
It’s hard to be vulnerable and enter an uncomfortable conversation. It’s hard to say, “I’m upset with you. Please hear my side of this.” It’s also hard to hear their side, and understand that they have a right to their POV as well.
But isn’t it much, much worse to look back on your life and find gaps in joy? Isn’t it cringy to think that a phase/phases will be marked with the endnote: *Wasn’t speaking to __. If you love someone–in any capacity–why would you mark time that way? What a blemish on a day/week/month. How exhausting, to drag a fight on for so long.
I am thankful for supportive people who are willing to talk out discomfort and disagreement. I am thankful that, though it’s not my family’s nature to do so, they are more inclined to participate in the hard talks nowadays.
How about you? Can you push through a disagreement, or do you go the cold shoulder route?