Silence is sometimes used as a punishment. Stopping talking to someone is a strategy many people use to “express” anger, disapproval, or to scold someone. How effective is this method for overcoming a problem or for a person to change? Why choose not to speak when the grudge burns inside you?
Establishing a dialogue with someone is not always easy, especially when there is a conflict involved, which seems to have no solution. However, if instead of addressing the subject directly, you choose not to speak to the other anymore, it only creates additional tension. To the unresolved controversy is added a limbo that can become a real incubator of poison.
Many, however, have no interest in resolving the conflict through dialogue. Basically, they want the other to submit to their point of view, so they use silence as a punishment, so that they give in. Ultimately, this is a childish attitude and the worst part is that it leads to nothing but mere selfish gratification.
Punishing with silence: the reasons
There are many arguments that defend the idea that it is okay to stop talking to someone. Ultimately, however, the aim is to punish the person and make them understand their disapproval without having to speak. But why not say it, instead of relying on silence? The main reasons given by those who opt for this tool are:
- I prefer to stop talking to a person than to get involved in a discussion where we exchange insults.
- This person does not listen to me. I’ve already asked her to change, but I didn’t get any results. So it is better not to say anything, also because … what is the use?
- He has to apologize for what he did to me (or told me, or didn’t do, or didn’t say). Until she does, I won’t talk to her.
- Why talk if we find ourselves at the starting point? Better stop the communication and see if he understands that I’m not going to give up.
In all cases it is stated that silence is the best option for conveying the conflict. For one reason or another, the word turned out to be ineffective. It is therefore decided to stop talking to someone so that this is understood as a punishment and , consequently, the other will reconsider his attitude.
Stopping talking to someone is aggressive
A silence can have a multitude of meanings, some of which are truly violent. Stopping talking to someone is equivalent to engaging in passive-aggressive behavior. This means that you are attacking the other, but implicitly. Most of the time, this attitude is just as or even more harmful than direct aggression, because silence represents a void susceptible to any interpretation.
For anyone who stops talking to someone, the reasons are clear. There is also a well-defined expectation of the epilogue to which this situation must lead.
But to all those who use such tricks we should ask: are you sure that the other really understands the meaning of your silence? Would you be willing to bet that the best way for him to change, or do what you want, is to attack him with a lack of dialogue?
Silence increases the distance. And distance is not usually a good ally for understanding or for restoring broken or damaged ties. Conversely, the gap widens further.
On the other hand, stopping talking to someone can work momentarily. The punishment is inflicted and the other reacts: he comes back to apologize, promise to change or do what we want. However, in the long run, it ends up incubating small grudges that can grow. It is rare that silence attenuates the underlying conflict or gives way to its resolution, rather it merely conceals it.
The positive uses of silence
It is also true that sometimes it is better to keep quiet. When we are very excited, for example. Anger leads to exaggerating and wanting to hurt the other, rather than inducing you to really express what you think or feel. Starting from these assumptions, there is nothing better than to stop talking to regain one’s attitude. In such circumstances, it is a smart decision.
Conversely, as we have already said, stopping talking to punish or for the other person to “give up” rarely brings good results. Sometimes we have to face the challenge of expressing our anger or anger without hurting the other. The solution is not to stop talking, but to seek and find the means to build bridges to understanding. The absence of words can make the other give up, but this does not mean that the conflict disappears. On the other hand, it can also happen that this does not happen and that what was initially a snowball leads to an avalanche.
Perhaps it would be enough to seek better conditions for dialogue, or a different way of expressing our disapproval. Making the routine environment warmer and more loving helps reinvigorate communication at times. Speaking from the heart, always sticking to one’s own feelings, to what we feel and not to what the other is believed to feel, is a formula that never hurts. Let’s try.