It’s one thing for someone to pick a fight. Fights are never fun, but at least you get to participate. It’s another to be shut out completely, as if you don’t exist.
Today’s Tricky Tuesday Ecard is the “Talk to Me” card. It’s the one to use when you’re being shut out by someone who’s using silence as a weapon, either to punish you, or to get you to do something you don’t want to do.
Not all silence qualifies as The Silent Treatment. And the “Talk to Me” card can be used for any kind. The fact is, we all get silent from time to time. And we all have times when we’re too mad, too hurt, or too emotional to talk. That kind of silence feels different from the kind I’m talking about. The Silent Treatment looks and feels like contempt. It’s a silence that says, “You disgust me.”
If that’s the kind of silence you’re dealing with, you have a couple good options. The first is to disengage by leaving the house (without slamming the door or stomping around), or by telling the person you’re open to talking when they’re ready, and then going to a part of the house where you feel safe. Whatever you do, don’t tiptoe around, cleaning the house, or doing the thing the other person is trying to bad-vibe you into doing. Unless, of course, you promised to do it and didn’t.
The other is to grab your iPhone or iPad and fill out a “Talk to Me” card. You can email it to the other person, or you can just use it to clarify your own thoughts and feelings. Sometimes, all we need when we’re upset is to write down what we’re feeling.
Have you ever wondered why reading and writing are soothing activities? It’s because these activities involve language, and language is a function of the prefrontal cortex, a relative newcomer on the evolutionary scene. The prefrontal cortex, our thinking brain is smart but relatively slow, compared to the older, more primitive structures in the brain involved with survival. Whenever we feel threatened—like when we feel shut out, silenced, or controlled–the older parts of the brain take over and our language center grows dark. That’s why so often we act now, and regret our actions later.
But enough about the brain, the point is, none of us thinks straight when we’re stressed out. And by forcing your brain to access the language center, the stress response begins to subside. That’s why reading and writing are soothing activities.
Here’s how a finished “Talk to Me” Ecard might look, followed by a screenshot I took of the beginning of the checklist I used to create it.
Since the goal of The Silent Treatment is to control someone else by making them feel invisible in your presence, it ended the moment Kim left the house. After all, you can’t make someone feel invisible if they’re not there. As you can see, Kim’s Ecard to Pat is respectful, direct, and personal. She doesn’t blast Pat for shutting her out, but does make it clear that will not participate in The Silent Treatment.
Photo credit: Guillaume Bolduc