Guess who decided to guest-blog and provide some male perspective on Page33ish this weekend?? My retired twin (find him here). He does it with a "RE" to the Silent Treatment article too and I liked it, but of course I am biased; you read first and let's see how you like his voice.
By the way, I turned on the 'anonymous' feature in the comment section so at least those of you who don't "like to comment on blogs" could please leave him a kind feedback, pretty please...please? I mean, who knows, a comment or two might just make him pick on a few other articles to spin off on. But enjoy this one first!
"Defendant, how do you plead?"
I am GUILTY.
Since this is my article, I am going to play the devil's advocate for a bit here and try to get you to see things from a different perspective. This is not in any way a justification for people using the art of silence in relationships as a means of control and punishment, it is to get you to think 'it could be that; it could be worse than that; it could be deeper than that" and I am going to offer myself up as the proverbial lab rat in this surgical analysis.
First, people who tend to automatically shut down during confrontations did not wake up one day and decide "this is how it's going to be from now on, I'm shutting down all day every day on these people," nope. It doesn't work that way, a lot of experiences and happenings go into that locked-in mental state, and I will be the first to admit, it is actually more mental than it is physical.
Now this is me, Kevin Wendell Crumb (my chosen pseudonym, obviously), a once-upon-a-time chronic stutterer, a now rarely-but-totally-noticeable-when-I'm-upset stutterer, I mastered the art of silence as early as 7. Now I'm in my 30s. Why is the fact that I'm a stutterer important? Because it shaped who I am today. One funny and strange thing about my kind is, we are really chatty when in a good mood, to an irritating extent and when the tide changes, we change with it.
Remember how I offered myself up as a lab rat? Yes, here we go: growing up, I was an introvert; nature made sure of that. If I spoke a sentence to you, best believe I'd been thinking about that sentence for nothing less than 30minutes. I would ruminate on it, try to eliminate words that would trigger my stammer (all in my head) and just blurt it out. Arguments were the worst, despite being on the debate team, I could only function as the man behind the mirror whose only duty was to make his teammates look good. Now imagine the profound impact of that on self esteem, on communication, on maintaining relationships. The best option was silence. This is why I don't like talking during confrontations. First, In the words of my favorite comedian "I like to let things hover in the air, then dissipate." And if you are patient enough, they always dissipate. I'm of the school of thought that people who make it a habit to talk about every awkward issue in a relationship always tend to talk themselves out of the relationship in the long run. I forgive just as quick as I am to realize my mess-ups. If you can read me well, you'll know a simple "I'm sorry about that" just does it for me. That's all it takes to bring the air back in the room. And when I'm at fault, I might not tell you I'm sorry, (because I'm inhibited and a bit of an asshole) but I'll do shit to make you realize that I know it was my fuck up and I'm sorry. See? Doing >>>> talking.
Secondly, I know some bad words, and I know just how to hit anyone with them, way below the belt. On the rare occasions I argue, I let it fly and if you bring me to that point, you better be ready for it because it is a fight, and my name is not Kevin, my name is still Babe and there is no "I think we should take a break" after it, we are still going to eat together, watch movies together, joke about the things we said to each other together. You are not allowed to take it personally. Now, that's me, that is how I see things and I can count on one hand how many times I've been brought to that situation in my entire life, because I avoid confrontations with a passion. I don't like to argue, I don't like the back and forth that comes with talking about issues, I do that to earn a living, I'd rather not do it for free. Can we just let it hover in the air and dissipate?
But frankly, it can be frustrating to the other person who has no idea what is going on in your head and here you are, just in your own sunken place, unable to grasp reality. You are looking at them but you are not seeing them, you are not seeing anything, the expression on your face is not that of anger, nor is it of resentment, you just aren't aware of anything, it is blank.
Now a few pointers if you're lucky enough to be stuck in a relationship with someone who unwittingly activates silence when things get awkward:
* Do not trying to badger them into talking. Nah, this is a no-no. They are in a place of "peace." It is more like an escape route. The more you nudge them into getting out, the deeper they sink.
* Take time to cool off. During a time of silence, both partners should pause to reflect on what led up to the silent treatment episode, especially if it was preceded by an argument, fight, or emotional outburst. If you're on the receiving end you may feel frustrated and angry, so take a cooling-off period to get a breath and calm down.
* Give your partner space to think. Avoid trying to figure out what your silent partner is thinking. You're not a mind-reader. The silent treatment is a passive-aggressive form of communication. If you do their thinking for them, they won't learn how to be direct when sharing their thoughts and feelings.
* Don't apologize unless you're truly sorry. Never apologize for something when you don't believe you did it. How can you have an authentic, connected relationship by being false? Instead, try to empathize with your partner by saying you understand that they're upset or angry and that you would like to bridge the gap that has come between you.
* Apologize if you're truly sorry. Think about whether you really may have done or said something to hurt your silent partner or make them angry. Admit and acknowledge any wrongs that may have caused offense and apologize sincerely.
* Ask yourself whether it's just a personality difference. Is your partner an introvert while you are more of an extrovert? Introverts need more time to process their emotions, especially when things get intense or they feel that they've been attacked or insulted in some way. If this is the case for you, tell your partner that you'll give them a certain amount of time to themselves and that you'll be back after the time is up to talk. Of course it's best if they agree to this plan.
* Set rules for healthy communication. When communication is difficult it can help to create some rules. Give your partner (and yourself) permission to calm down. Sometimes when we feel waves of anxiety, panic, or rage, our bodies become saturated with adrenaline. This is called "flooding," and it happens when intense feelings, thoughts, or sensations are just too much to integrate in the moment. According to Dr. Wyatt Fisher, a marriage counselor in Boulder, CO,
"In a conflict, when one person gets flooded, they usually choose either fight of flight. In this case, flight would the silent treatment or stonewalling. Regular stonewalling is toxic to a healthy relationship."Fisher recommends that couples recognize that one or both partner is flooded and then separate for a period of time to calm down. Then they should come back together at an agreed-upon time when they are relaxed to talk through the conflict.