Love & Family

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The effectiveness of the silent treatment

The silent treatment works depending on your goal.

If you're trying to show that you're upset and aren't really pushing for a meaningful change in the relationship, then yes. It will get the other person's attention but it more often creates more frustration than fix underlying problems.

When the silent treatment becomes a pattern it becomes detrimental to the mental health of both parties involved.

@maxwellc12

Love & Family

The silent treatment in relationships

Many studies have been conducted about the silent treatment in familial relationships and romantic relationships and the outcome showed that those who used the silent treatment against their parents had self-esteem issues and the parents who used it on their children reported that the children felt like they had no control within the relationship.

Moreover, in romantic relationships, the partners who used the silent treatment were less committed to their relationship than those who don't.

A healthier alternative to the silent treatment
  1. Admit that something is wrong.
  2. Openly address conflict without yelling or chastising the other person.
  3. Work on your listening skills and actively listen to each side.
  4. Collaborate to solve problems. It's you and them vs the problem, not you vs them.
  5. Learn to accept rifts that would never go away.
The silent treatment

Silent treatment comes in many forms: social isolation, stonewalling, ghosting. Research suggests two in three individuals have used the silent treatment against someone else.

A father stopped talking to his teenage son and couldn't start again, changing his son from a happy boy to a spineless jellyfish. A wife whose husband stopped communicating after a minor disagreement eventually ended when her husband died 40 years later.

Ostracism is not new. Ancient Greeks expelled threats to democracy for ten years. Religions push individuals aside: Catholics call it ex-communication, Judaism calls it herem, the Amish practice Meidung.

Ostracism can also show up in lesser ways: someone walking out of the room in the middle of a conversation, a friend looking the other way when you wave, a person addressing comments from everyone in a message thread except you.

People use silent treatment because they get away with it without looking abusive to others. It is very effective in making a specific person feel bad. It is controlling and prevents both sides from weighing in.

Passive personality types may use it to avoid conflict, while strong personality types use it to punish or control. Some people unconsciously use it because they can't put their feelings into words, so they shut down. However, the silent treatment causes stress. In the long run, the stress can be considered abuse.

Humans are wired to reciprocate social cues. Ignoring someone goes against our nature, and the perpetrator feels forced to justify their actions to keep on doing it. They end up in a continual state of anger and negativity.

The silent treatment can become addictive. It can carry on far longer than initially intended. Many find themselves unable to stop.

Say out loud the exact amount of time you'll be taking a break from the conflict, with a timeline for when you'll pick the conversation back up.

If you are on the receiving end of the silent treatment, voice your pain of being ignored. It may cause a change and open up communication. However, if the perpetrator still refuses to acknowledge your existence for long periods, it might be right to leave the relationship.

Estranged: Rifts In The Family

Estranged relationships are common in families, with feuds being especially brutal among siblings. There have been stories throughout history, from Cleopatra to Genghis Khan, of the unheard of ruthlessness by which family members with whom there is a clash have been disposed of.

Various modern studies show a sizable percentage of families are fractured, with estranged family members and disputes going on for at least four years. An estimate shows that as much as 20 percent of American adults are in a state of ‘estrangement’ among their family members.

Admittedly, many family situations are dangerous and abusive. If a situation in an estranged relationship is not entirely intractable, one can try reconciliation, which can help in healing, growth, exploration and change.

If it's possible, resist the urge to recreate the past and build a new future. Try to find common ground, be in the present moment, and move ahead from there.

While faced with a young adult who has walked away from your life, understand that you may be a problem, and the adult child has to be seen with empathy and understanding.

The formative years are bound to be problematic and it is in the nature of young adults to commit certain mistakes, which becomes a part of their personal growth. There is no need to ridicule them for their mistakes.

A simple sorry and an acceptance of your not being able to realize your actions, your prejudice and your own blindspots may help them move towards reconciliation. Do not use any toxic words or actions that can easily backfire.

Often the aggrieved young adult does not want a specific apology about a particular mistake, but is generally aggrieved about their entire childhood, or how their parents related to them. An apology then becomes a first step towards making tangible, impactful change.

  1. Do a cost-benefit analysis if you are thinking of reconciliation, weighing the pros and cons of making contact again.
  2. Understand that any clash has two people who play a role, just like it takes two hands to clap.
  3. Do not try to align the past, which is futile exercise.
  4. Be careful in setting up the terms of engagement.
  5. Therapy often delves into the parental actions of the past, and is not a good option during reconciliation which has to focus on one’s future personal growth.
  6. A successful reconciliation is not easy, and is a true achievement.
  1. Understand that one in five persons are affected by family estrangement.
  2. If you are accused of something you didn’t even do, accept that you cannot change anything about it and feel what you are feeling.
  3. Time and acceptance are great healers.
  4. Leave the doors open, not shutting yourself down completely.
  5. Do not rehash the past, but focus on the future.
The Great Friendship Myth

We all have been told that we make all or most of our lifetime friends during the school or college years, which is bizarre as we barely know how to intentionally make friends in that age when things just happen haphazardly and suddenly two people start being friends.

Real friends can be made in our adulthood if we choose to. We should realize that having a good friend is probably the best thing in the world. A lifetime friend can make us happier, smarter and kinder. Friendships make good times better, and bad times not that bad.

Most childhood friends are made accidentally. Adults can act maturely and find out certain acquaintances that they would want to be friends with. Once they identify a ‘friend’ candidate, they would need to do something called a ‘small leap’.

A small leap is a step where we ask an acquaintance to join us for a small activity, which may be a common interest. It could be a morning jog or just going to the market for some impulsive shopping. This small step is a tiny risk and carries an awkwardness(on both sides), so not many people are comfortable with it.

If we take small leaps on a regular basis, we can kick start a compounding effect where each new friend can push other acquaintances who are highly-qualified friend candidates, as they already have good references.

The small risk of asking to do something carries with it an aversion (due to the uncertainty) resulting in avoidance. If it is practised on a regular basis, no one will remain a stranger to us, and one can enrich their world with beautiful friendships.

We all know at least one chronic complainer

Chronic complainers genuinely believe the world is out to get them and feel they have to voice every disappointment in their life.

In reality, many chronic complainers are unaware that they complain so much or that they have a reputation for constant negativity. They may even feel they have a duty to alert others to potential hardships.

An optimist sees a glass half full of water. A negative person sees the glass as half empty. The chronic complainer sees water that isn't cold enough, sees the smudge on the rim, which means the glass wasn't cleaned properly and wonder if they will end up with some kind of virus.

Chronic complainers may not have a negative outlook on life but they want everyone to know that nothing is ever good enough. In their mind, the world is what's negative, and they are only aware of one way to respond to it. They don't know how to express themselves in a positive light.

Validation is the key to shutting down a complainer initially.

Do not roll your eyes or check your email. Rather say things like "I hear you." Complainers can wear themselves out in five minutes unless you ignorantly add fuel to the fire by suggesting a solution. Then the complaining will last much longer.

  • Validate: Now that you've shown them you're listening, you can deploy the ultimate weapons for shutting chronic complainers down.
  • Next, it's time to sympathize. Try to make it as authentic as possible. Avoid all sarcasm as they will notice it, and it will cause more problems.
  • Validation and sympathy are usually enough, but for the really tough cases, respond with deflection without shutting them down or telling them they're wrong. For example, if they're complaining about a person, say "It sounds like you two have something to talk about."
  • Redirect is similar to deflect. You're changing the subject of the conversation without making it obvious. For example, "The printer jammed on you again? That's so annoying! I know it's hard to shrug off these things, but I hope you can be a trooper because we have to get back to ...."

Many chronic complainers are not looking for advice even though they want to share their problems.

If they ask for advice, it's best to keep it short and on point. They may reject your help after they ask for it, saying it is useless or irrelevant. As annoying as it can be, recognize that they want to complain. Ask them how they intend to fix their problem?

If it is essential that if you have to disagree with a chronic complainer, you can ask this simple question: "Do you want my opinion?"

The complainer then has to give you permission to share a different perspective, but don't try to convince them. Say "I hear what you're saying, but I see it differently." This way, you won't feed the fire. Once they know how you feel, they'll move on to complaining to someone else.

You can't change somebody's behaviour, but you can control how you handle them over time.

  • Don't ever tell them that things "aren't so bad" as this gives the message that you're not taking their pain seriously.
  • Don't ever complain about the complainers (or with them). If they find out that you complain about them, you'll have a chronic complainer that also dislikes you - indeed not a good combination. If you join in and complain along with them, it increases the likeliness that their problem will never be solved.
  • If it gets too much, draw the line. Tell the person that you like them, care for them and want to support them, but that you will no longer listen to how bad things are. Be sure to reward a change of behaviour by thanking and appreciating them.

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