Silent Treatment

It was not easy for me to write about this topic. On one hand I was struggling whether I should open doors to write about this topic as it is not easy for someone to talk about their personal experiences yet on the other hand a part of me was getting filled with all the words and sentences eager to express themselves on paper. Being a writer at times has its pros and cons. A writer at times cannot hold themselves back when their mind and heart gets filled with words. Words will take form of poetry, story, paintings and in my case a blog post.

Up until few years back when the awareness around mental health was just taking a start the word silent treatment was also not known to many. Until today not many are familiar with this word. I must admit that I am one of those many who first learned about this word few years back through my own personal experiences.

Before I expand on this word, I wanted to make sure to state that I am not a psychologist. The purpose of this post is not to provide therapy or cure and one must seek a professional health care specialist or a psychologist for any mental health related issues.

Before I present the dictionary definition of silent treatment, I want to state my take on silent treatment. Silent treatment is a form of bullying that is not visible right away. It does not involve beating, cursing, mocking or any other type of traditional bullying trends. It is a slow, gradual, and steady process where the victim is treated in a different way which often and most importantly involves ignoring them in a group set up or in an individual set up where the observer would mistake it with accidentally forgetting about them.

Victims of silent treatment are often and many times left speech less and shaken as they couldn’t figure out what exactly is happening. Silent treatment is not easy to identify first. I want to make sure to clarify over here that occasionally in a group setting we all would forget to acknowledge our friend, a colleague, or a family member or ask them for food/ coffee or some times in a professional environment giving them credit for their work. Silent treatment differs from this in many ways. At times when the mistake is genuine and unexpected the person will apologize and will make sure not to repeat the same mistakes again. But if it takes a routine course where the victim gains consciousness that something doesn’t feel right and their instinct also guides them too, then we are possibly dealing with bullying with hidden motives.

According to the Wikipedia, “Silent treatment is the refusal to communicate verbally and electronically with someone who is willing to communicate.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silent_treatment).

Silent treatment is very painful when carried on for a very long time. Silent treatment is a form of bullying and when kept going comes under the umbrella of discrimination and harassment. Silent treatment lurks in every kind of relationship from personal to professional. The damage from silent treatment and bullying goes a long way in one’s life. At times and in many cases the effect of silent treatment hides themselves in our subconscious mind and then when presented in a similar situation or any memory that involved this painful event or even the mention of a specific person who was even indirectly associated with the bully will trigger some traumatic patterns in the life of a victim.

Silent treatment in professional life sprouts in a way that at times it becomes harder for one to gather evidence for, or to prove that it exists. It is very common to hear statements like “oh they must have forgotten to include him or her”, “I am sure they didn’t mean it”, “There is so much on their mind I am sure they didn’t mean any harm”, “Oh why didn’t you say something right there and then”, “oh just get included yourself”. As I mentioned earlier that is it is very easy to mistake silent treatment with regular daily forgetfulness of getting someone included in a conversation.

Silent treatment runs deeper than just ignoring a person. It involves refusing to make eye contact with them in the presence of others or alone, it involves teasing, it also involves not taking their name when talking to others, it involves not acknowledging their presence and talking above them to someone they are already having conversation with, at times it also involves making a reference about a victim as he or she rather than addressing them with their names thus giving a clear sign of not liking their presence around.

Silent treatment has damaging effect on the life of a victim for sure but many times people who are close to the victim also suffer because they are not equipped with proper training as how to be sensitive around one who has been a victim of silent treatment. In this type of situation if you have a friend or a family member who has been a victim of bullying or silent treatment, make sure not to accuse them that they have issues or that it was their fault. Keep in mind that their pain runs deeper than one can possibly imagine and at times just a mere mention of a name of a person directly or indirectly associated with a bully is enough to upset them. Whether it is our child, spouse, co-worker or friend a little comfort and assurance can go a long way which can eventually let them heal and attain peace.

We are all very occupied in our lives and at times don’t pay attention that the appearance of triggers for a victim of a silent treatment is not about us. They are not trying to gain control over us by asking questions or gaining a perspective. In fact, it is the opposite that they are trying to overcome their fear of losing their friend or family member because of a bully. They just need assurance and transparency to be able to trust again and heal.

If faced with silent treatment in a professional environment, one must approach the person in private and inform them what you have been noticing. Present them with a pattern of behavior and also explain to them how it makes you feel. Listen to them carefully if they have an explanation to offer. Observe their body language. If they offer you an apology, accept it but don’t forget the act for which they apologized. Give them the benefit of the doubt that it could be an honest mistake. Document this conversation and present it to them in a written email format. Make sure to monitor if the behavior continues. If the behavior gets worse or takes on the shape where the victim is isolated, cornered or above all ostracized reach out to the management and the human resource department. When faced with any kind of misconduct weather rude behavior, slamming of doors, no eye contact, send an email to a person responsible for doing this clearly explaining them how their behavior is creating unease. Seek out help from the organization Employee Assistance department and Internal Conflict resolution department to resolve the issue on hand.

In larger organizations and departments where groups of individuals already exist it gets very hard to stand up against the bully as often times they will use intimidating approaches and will move around in the group thus giving an impression that one is alone in this. Don’t give in to these trends and stand on your grounds if you truly enjoy and value your work. Always remember that it is not about you rather about them.

Views presented and article written by Noor Reflection

Author of a poetry book A Purple Handbag and The Rising.