There is nothing louder than the silent treatment; nothing more uncomfortable, or abusive (other than physical abuse). The silent treatment is an attack on your psyche—a withdrawal of approval and affection—a form of punishment in an attempt to control you into doing what he/she wants you to do. If you’re a vulnerable person, this can cause a great deal of angst, and fear.

When prisoners are severely punished, they are often put into isolation—one of the harshest types of punishments. Studies have shown that children prefer to be yelled at rather than ignored. The silent treatment might as well be a gun with a “silencer.”

Typically it is narcissists who use the silent treatment as their chastisement of choice. They use it to:

• Control
• Punish
• Test Boundaries
• Avoid issues, and/or responsibilities

The silent treatment is a very aggressive form of emotional abuse. It is used to make you feel guilty and unworthy about something or other. The issue is rarely clarified, so you don’t quite know why you’re being ignored. You feel isolated (not much like the prisoner mentioned above), intimidated, insignificant, and depressed. If tried enough, you can also become very resentful, angry, and vengeful.

Here are some steps that you can take to combat the silent treatment:

1) Don’t allow yourself to appear upset by the fact you’re being ignored. Act as if nothing is wrong. The people who use the silent treatment thrive in seeing you feel down and upset. If you do show your emotions, it will only feed their desire to control you even more.

2) Act upbeat, as though you don’t have a care in the world.

3) When you talk to the person, do so in a normal tone of voice. Whatever you do, don’t play their game; it is childish, and vindictive.

4) Don’t attempt to engage in conversation with them. Let them come around on their own. If you do have to address them for some reason, do so matter-of-factly.

5) Don’t give them the satisfaction of seeing you’re hurt. Act just the opposite.

Let me note here that if you’ve had an argument with a loved one and need time to process, it’s fine to say, “Hey, I need a little time to process; let’s talk a little later.”

That’s very different than just shutting down, and pretending the person doesn’t exist.

The silent treatment is an immature way to handle any situation, but a common way to try and control another person. No one deserves to be ignored. So don’t let it happen to you. Ignore the childish behavior, and go about your business as though you are happy and free.

Next time the silent treatment is aimed at you, don’t take it personally, or give it any power. It’s not your problem.

Author's Bio: 

Submitted by Rossana Snee, MFT. Follow her on Twitter @askjoshsmom,, and She is available in a therapeutic capacity, and also for speaking engagements. Ask about An Afternoon with Josh's Mom!