The Surprising Truth About The Silent Treatment - Hey Sigmund
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Research has shown that the act of ignoring or excluding activates the same area of the brain that is activated by physical pain.
The best predictor of divorce isn’t whether a couple fights – arguments are inevitable – but how a couple fights.
The key to being closer in the good times lies in the way a couple treats each other during the bad.
The silent treatment can tend to present itself as a response more fitting of the ‘high road’, one of grace and dignity, but research has shown it is anything but.
‘Excluding and ignoring people, such as giving them the cold shoulder or silent treatment, are used to punish or manipulate, and people may not realise the emotional or physical harm that is being done.’
The silent treatment, even if it’s brief, activates the anterior cingulate cortex – the part of the brain that detects physical pain.
The initial pain is the same, regardless of whether the exclusion is by strangers, close friends or enemies.
The ability to detect ostracism is hardwired in us – it doesn’t matter if you’re being ignored by a group or a person you can’t stand, the pain still registers.
The silent treatment happens when one partner pressures the other with requests, criticism or complaints and the other responds with silence and emotional distance.
Paul Schrodt, PhD, Professor of Communication Studies reviewed 74 relationship studies which involved more than 14,000 participants.
Findings from his in-depth analysis revealed that the silent treatment is ‘tremendously’ damaging to a relationship.
It decreases relationship satisfaction for both partners, diminishes feelings of intimacy, and reduces the capacity to communicate in a way that’s healthy and meaningful.
‘It’s the most common pattern of conflict in marriage or any committed, established romantic relationship. And it does tremendous damage.’
It doesn’t matter which partner demands or which one withdraws, the damage to the relationship is the same. It’s the pattern itself that’s the problem, not the specific partner.
The silent treatment should not be confused with taking time to cool down after heated or difficult exchange. Williams suggests that instead of reverting to the silent treatment, try ‘I can’t talk to you right now, but we can talk about it later.’
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The silent treatment is a way to inflict pain without visible bruising – literally.
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