Refusing to communicate, or giving the "silent treatment," is the easiest way to shut someone out and avoid confrontation. There are ways to try to break through to a person giving the silent treatment without resorting to confrontation.
In the early stages of the silent treatment, it is easy to get frustrated and say things that you don't mean. It's important to keep a level head when talking to your partner about issues, especially when you're not receiving feedback. If you've been in a long-term relationship, keep in mind that your partner cares about you. Silence does not indicate a lack of affection but a way to quiet the discomfort of confrontation.
Try to change your approach. If you're in a confrontational mood, calm down before attempting to speak with your partner. Don't rush the issue; take as much time as necessary to compile your thoughts. Take a walk, clear your head, and rethink the issue.
Ask your partner to sit down with you in an intimate setting, such as your home or in a quiet area of a park. Avoid going to public places such as restaurants as it may be hard to openly discuss the topic without creating a scene. Be willing to start with a more innocuous topic or discuss whatever is on your partner's mind first.
If you feel that you were wrong in the conflict that caused the silent treatment, sincerely apologize. If you feel that your partner was in the wrong, be ready to forgive before talking it over. Holding grudges will only prolong the silence, and acting out of spite will hold over long after the argument has been resolved.
Don't dredge up the past; try to think for the future. Saying, "I understand. How can we address this in the future?" will steer the conversation towards a more helpful theme. Be open to suggestions.
Be sure to let your partner know that the silence upset you. Tell her this in a helpful manner. Saying, "I appreciate that I upset you, but silence is a barrier in our communication. Can you try to take a different approach next time?" may enhance your communication in future disagreements.
If you dislike the silent treatment, don't engage in it yourself. The best way to show that you're above being stonewalled is to be a good example.
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- If the silent treatment is common in your relationship, or it happens over an extended period of time, see a counselor.
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