It drives me absolutely nuts (probably why people have done it to me) when someone decides that the best way to solve a problem is to not talk about it. When has this ever worked?
Look, I get it if someone needs a half hour or even a few hours to calm down during a heated argument. That’s fine. There is nothing wrong with calling time-out until rational discussion is again possible. Very little if anything is solved by shouting names, throwing things, and losing your cool in general, but deciding to go days on end not talking to someone just adds fuel to the fire. I’m not sure why anyone would think it could solve anything.
If you’re one of those people who use this ‘technique’, you might be shaking your head in denial. You might be thinking I’m completely wrong and it’s a legitimate form of arguing, but sorry to burst your bubble – the research backs me up.
Although researchers say the cold shoulder is the most common way people deal with marital conflict, an analysis of 74 studies, based on more than 14,000 participants, shows that when one partner withdraws in silence or shuts down emotionally because of perceived demands by the other, the harm is both emotional and physical.
“The more this pattern emerges within your relationship, the greater the chances one or both partners experience heightened levels of anxiety or may use more aggressive forms of behavior,” says Paul Schrodt, a professor of communication studies at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, who led the study published this spring in the journalCommunication Monographs.
Of course they’re going to use more aggressive forms of behavior or experience higher anxiety. Who wants to fight for days? It’s emotionally and physically draining. The person administering the silent treatment is sending the message (although they might not be meaning to) that the other person isn’t worth their time or energy. The person on the receiving end is getting more frustrated as time goes by.
Why not just sit down like rational adults and talk about it?