5 traits of people who resort to giving the silent treatment during conflict

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It’s got to be one of the most puzzling things in human interaction:

You’re in the middle of an argument, a disagreement or a full-blown conflict, and suddenly, the other person just… stops talking. It’s as if they’ve suddenly transformed into a statue.

You’ve tried to coax them out of their shell, tried to restart the conversation, but it’s like talking to a brick wall.

Sometimes it’s not even very dramatic.

They just simply stop responding, leaving you with this gnawing feeling that you’re talking to thin air. Even though your instincts might be screaming at you to keep trying, deep down, you know it’s futile.

Here’s how to recognize the telltale signs that you’re dealing with someone who resorts to the silent treatment during conflict. These are the 5 traits that are common among them, regardless of how baffling it may seem.

All set for this journey into understanding this baffling yet common behavioral trait? Let’s dive in.

1) They crave control

Control is a significant element in the silent treatment.

When someone resorts to silence during a conflict, they’re often trying to regain a sense of control. Whether it’s because they feel cornered, threatened or simply out of their depth, silence becomes their shield.

It’s not just about refusing to engage or communicate. It’s about controlling the pace and direction of the conversation. If they can’t dictate the terms, they’d rather not participate at all.

When you’re on the receiving end, it can feel like you’re being held hostage in the conversation. Their silence dictates your actions, forcing you to either drop the issue or keep circling around it in hopes of a response.

So if you notice this trait in someone, understand that it’s not a mere tendency to clam up when things get heated. It’s a deliberate choice aimed at maintaining control over the situation and, by extension, over you.

2) They avoid vulnerability

Now, this is a tough one to admit.

I’ve been there, caught in the cycle of giving the silent treatment because I was afraid to open up. It’s a defense mechanism, but it’s also a form of self-sabotage.

When someone resorts to silence during a conflict, they might be trying to protect themselves from feeling exposed or vulnerable. Arguments often bring up raw emotions and deep-seated insecurities, and for some, it can feel safer to shut down than to confront these feelings head-on.

I remember times when I’d clam up in the middle of an argument, not because I didn’t care or didn’t have anything to say, but because I was scared. Scared of saying too much, scared of revealing parts of myself that I wasn’t ready to share.

If you notice this trait in someone you’re dealing with, understand that it might not be about you at all. It’s about them and their struggle with vulnerability.

3) They might have a fear of conflict

This might not be immediately apparent, but a fear of conflict often lurks beneath the surface of those who resort to the silent treatment.

According to psychologists, some people perceive conflict as a threat to their personal well-being or their relationships. Instead of engaging in a healthy debate, they would rather withdraw or disengage completely. It’s their way of protecting themselves from the perceived danger.

I’ve seen this in action. A friend, who would always fall eerily silent whenever we had a disagreement, later confessed that she was terrified of arguments. She grew up in a household where conflicts were often volatile and hurtful, so silence became her safety net.

If you notice someone habitually shy away during disputes or disagreements, it could be that they’re trying to navigate their fear of conflict. It’s not so much about winning or losing for them; it’s about surviving the altercation without getting emotionally wounded.

4) They prefer to process things internally

Have you ever been in the middle of a heated debate and thought, “I need a moment to think”? Some people need that moment to extend a bit longer.

Those who resort to the silent treatment often do so because they need time to process their thoughts and feelings. They seek solitude to reflect on the situation, analyze their emotions, and come up with a response they feel comfortable with.

I can relate to this. I recall being in the middle of an argument and feeling an overwhelming need to retreat, not out of spite or fear, but simply because I needed time to gather my thoughts.

5) They have a passive-aggressive nature

You know that feeling when you’re so frustrated, but you don’t want to lash out? Some people internalize that frustration and it manifests as the silent treatment.

This trait can be linked to a passive-aggressive nature. Instead of openly expressing their disappointment or anger, these individuals choose to convey it through non-verbal cues. Their silence speaks volumes about their discontent.

I’ve experienced this firsthand. I had a colleague who would stop talking to me whenever we had a disagreement at work. It wasn’t until much later that I understood her silence was her way of showing displeasure without having to confront the issue directly.

When you encounter someone who consistently resorts to silence during conflict, they might be expressing their passive-aggressive tendencies. It’s their way of showing frustration or dissatisfaction without having to engage in open confrontation.

The final reflection

Handling the silent treatment can be tough, but understanding the motivations behind it can offer valuable insights. It’s not about excusing the behavior, but rather about gaining a deeper understanding to handle such situations better.

When you’re on the receiving end, remember that their silence often reflects their own issues and ways of handling conflict, shaped by their past and emotional capacity.

If you notice you often resort to silence, recognize that change is achievable. By becoming aware of the reasons behind your silence—whether it’s a need for control, fear of vulnerability, or avoidance of conflict—you can start to shift towards healthier ways of communicating.

Focus on understanding why you choose silence and actively decide to respond differently. Progress may be gradual, but each step towards open, genuine communication is a step towards better relationships.

This journey isn’t about winning arguments, but about improving mutual understanding and dealing with conflicts constructively. Patience with yourself and others is key as you grow.

Challenging the silent treatment could help you find a more authentic and considerate voice, benefiting both you and those around you. Isn’t that a goal worth pursuing?

Isabella Chase

Isabella Chase, a New York City native, writes about the complexities of modern life and relationships. Her articles draw from her experiences navigating the vibrant and diverse social landscape of the city. Isabella’s insights are about finding harmony in the chaos and building strong, authentic connections in a fast-paced world.

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