We’ve all been there – a disagreement with a friend or partner that leads to a cold shoulder, leaving us wondering what we did wrong. However, when this behaviour becomes a pattern, it could be a sign of the narcissist’s silent treatment.
The narcissist’s silent treatment is a tactic used by individuals with narcissistic personality disorder to manipulate and control their partners or friends. It involves ignoring or avoiding a person, refusing to speak or communicate with them in any way. This can last for hours, days, or even weeks.
Why do narcissists fall silent? Here are five possible explanations:
- They’re bored: Narcissists thrive on attention and admiration, so if they’re not getting enough of it, they may lose interest in the conversation and go silent.
- They’re angry: When narcissists feel like they’re not getting their way or that their ego is being challenged, they may retreat into silence as a way of punishing the person they’re talking to.
- They’re calculating: Narcissists are often manipulative and calculating, and going silent can be a way for them to gather more information or figure out how to best get what they want from the conversation.
- They’re avoiding responsibility: If a narcissist is caught in a lie or made a mistake, they may go silent as a way to avoid admitting fault or taking responsibility for their actions.
- They’re devaluing you: Narcissists often engage in a tactic called “devaluing,” where they try to make the other person feel inferior or unimportant. Going silent can be a way to accomplish this, as it can make the other person feel ignored and dismissed.
While narcissists are known for their love of talking, there are times when they may fall silent. Understanding why this might happen can help you navigate these interactions and protect your own emotional wellbeing.
The narcissist’s silent treatment is not to be confused with simply needing space or time alone to process emotions. It is a deliberate strategy to punish and manipulate the victim into compliance or submission. By withholding communication, the narcissist is trying to exert control over the relationship, leaving the victim feeling confused, helpless, and desperate for their attention.
It’s important to note that the narcissist’s silent treatment is a form of emotional abuse, and it can have serious long-term effects on the victim’s mental health and self-esteem. Victims of the silent treatment may experience anxiety, depression, and feelings of isolation and rejection.
Here are Twelve different silent treatment tactics narcissists may use and what you can do about it.
- Stonewalling: This is when a narcissist shuts down in the middle of a conversation and becomes completely unresponsive. They may avoid eye contact, cross their arms, or give one-word answers if they respond at all. Stonewalling is a form of emotional manipulation that leaves the other person feeling confused, frustrated, and powerless. Narcissists often use stonewalling as a way to gain control of the conversation or situation and to avoid taking responsibility for their actions.
- Ghosting. You’ve probably heard this term before, as it’s become increasingly common in the age of online dating and social media. Ghosting is when a narcissist abruptly cuts off all communication with someone without explanation or warning. They may stop responding to messages, calls, or emails, leaving the other person completely in the dark. This is a cruel and cowardly as it leaves the victim feeling rejected, hurt, and confused.
- Withdrawing. Withdrawal is similar to stonewalling in that the narcissist becomes unresponsive to the other person. However, instead of shutting down completely, they may simply withdraw from the conversation or situation. They may appear distracted or disinterested, and may even physically distance themselves from the other person. Narcissists use this tactic to avoid accountability and to maintain control over the conversation or situation.
- Punishment – One of the most common reasons narcissists give you the silent treatment is to punish you. They may see it as a way to show you how upset they are with something you did or said. This can be a very powerful way for them to control your behaviour.
- Control – Another reason narcissists may use the silent treatment is to control your behaviour. They may use it to make you feel anxious or nervous, wondering what you did wrong, and what you can do to fix the situation.
- Manipulation – Narcissists may use the silent treatment as a way to manipulate you into doing what they want. By refusing to speak to you, they may be trying to get you to apologise or to admit that you were wrong.
- Avoidance – Sometimes, the silent treatment is used by narcissists as a way to avoid dealing with a situation. They may use it to avoid conflict or to avoid having to take responsibility for their actions.
- Attention seeking – Narcissists may use the silent treatment as a way to get attention from others. By refusing to speak to you, they may be trying to get you to chase after them and to show them that you care.
- Testing boundaries – Narcissists may use the silent treatment as a way to test your boundaries. They may use it to see how much you are willing to put up with and how far they can push you before you break.
- Intimidation – The silent treatment can also be used as a form of intimidation. Narcissists may use it to make you feel small or insignificant and show you they have the power in the relationship.
- Guilt-tripping – Narcissists may use the silent treatment as a way to make you feel guilty. By refusing to speak to you, they may make you feel like you’ve done something wrong and that you need to make it right.
- Devaluation – Finally, the silent treatment can be used as a form of devaluation. Narcissists may use it as a way to show you that you are not important to them or that they do not care about you.
So, how can you tell if someone is using the silent treatment as a way to assert their power and control over you? Here are some signs to look out for:
- They suddenly stop talking to you: If the person you’re in a relationship with suddenly stops talking to you without explanation, it might be a sign that they are using the silent treatment.
- They avoid eye contact and physical touch: Another sign of the narcissist using the silent treatment is avoiding eye contact and physical touch. They might turn away when you try to talk to them or stiffen up when you touch them.
- They become passive-aggressive: Narcissists are known for their passive-aggressive behaviour, and this is especially true when they’re using the silent treatment. They might leave notes around the house, send you cryptic messages, or make sarcastic comments.
- They act as if everything is fine: Some narcissists might act as if everything is fine and normal when they’re giving you the silent treatment. They might go about their day as usual, ignoring your presence and acting as if nothing has changed.
- They make you feel guilty: Narcissists are masters at making their victims feel guilty. If they’re using the silent treatment, they might try to pin the blame on you and make you feel like you’re the one who caused the issue.
If you’ve ever experienced the silent treatment from a narcissist, you know just how painful it can be.
The psychological effects of the narcissist’s silent treatment on their victims can be far-reaching and deeply damaging. Here are just a few ways that it can impact their mental health and well-being.
First and foremost, the silent treatment can lead to profound feelings of isolation and abandonment. Being ignored or shut out by someone you care about can trigger all sorts of primal fears and anxieties, causing you to question your worth and desirability. Victims of the narcissist’s silent treatment may start to feel like they’re walking on eggshells around the narcissist, constantly worrying about what they might do to provoke another episode of withdrawal.
This leads to a second major effect: the erosion of self-esteem and self-confidence. The longer the silent treatment drags on, the more vulnerable the victim becomes to feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt. They may start to question their own value as a person, feeling like they must not be worth talking to or acknowledging. Over time, this can lead to a spiral of negative self-talk and self-blame, making it harder and harder to break free from the narcissist’s grip.
Another effect of the narcissist’s silent treatment is the way it can disrupt and distort the victim’s perception of reality. Because the narcissist is so focused on their own needs and desires, they often twist the truth or manipulate situations to suit their own agenda. This can leave the victim feeling confused and disoriented, unsure of what to believe or what’s really going on. They may start to question their own memories and perceptions, feeling like they can’t trust their own judgment.
Finally, the prolonged stress and trauma of the narcissist’s silent treatment can take a toll on the victim’s physical health as well. Chronic stress can lead to a host of physical symptoms, including headaches, digestive issues, muscle tension, and more. Victims may find themselves struggling with issues like anxiety and depression, which can further exacerbate their physical symptoms and disrupt their overall well-being.
All in all, the psychological effects of the narcissist’s silent treatment can be devastating and long-lasting.
Dealing with a narcissistic person can be a challenging and frustrating experience. Narcissists demand attention, admiration, and validation, and will often lash out when they don’t get it. If you’ve decided to respect their silence and no longer talk to them, you might be wondering how they’ll react. Here are nine possible responses to watch out for:
- Ignoring you: A narcissist might simply move on to their next target, pretending like you never even existed, trying to provoke jealousy and gain negative reactions from you, so the narcissist feels important.
- Seeking attention from others: If a narcissist can’t get attention from you, they’ll look for it elsewhere. Impressing strangers. They may try to win over new friends or admirers to fill the void.
- Lashing out: Narcissists can be prone to angry outbursts when they feel rejected or ignored. They may lash out at you verbally or try to sabotage you in some way.
- Guilt-tripping: Some narcissists will try to guilt-trip you into coming back to them. They might make you feel like you’re abandoning them or that you owe them something.
- Gaslighting: Gaslighting is a tactic that narcissists often use to make you question your own sanity. They might try to make you feel like you’re overreacting or that you’re the one who’s being unreasonable.
- Playing the victim: A narcissist might try to make you feel sorry for them by playing the victim. They might exaggerate their suffering or try to make you feel like you’re the one who’s hurting them.
- Love-bombing: Love-bombing is a tactic that narcissists use to get you back under their control. They might shower you with attention and affection in an attempt to win you back.
- Act like nothing happened: A narcissist might suddenly start talking to you like nothing ever happened. This is usually when they want something from you.
- Moving on: In some cases, a narcissist might actually move on and find a new target. They may feel like they don’t need you anymore and will simply replace you with someone else.
Remember, dealing with a narcissist can be a complicated and emotionally draining experience. If you’ve decided that you need to cut them out of your life, it’s important to stay firm and not let their behaviour affect you. Above all, take care of yourself and focus on building healthy relationships with people who will respect and value you.
In summary, dealing with a silent narcissist can be a frustrating and draining experience. Their lack of communication can leave you feeling ignored, confused, and unsure of what to do next. Fortunately, there are strategies you can use to cope with the narcissist’s silence and protect your own emotional well-being.
- Set healthy boundaries
One of the most effective ways to cope with a silent narcissist is to set clear and healthy boundaries. Let them know what behaviours you will and will not tolerate, and be prepared to enforce those boundaries if necessary. Remember, you deserve to be treated with respect and dignity, so don’t be afraid to speak up for yourself.
- Maintain your independence
When dealing with a narcissist, it’s important to maintain your independence and avoid becoming too dependent on them for validation or emotional support. This means cultivating a strong sense of self-worth and being able to find happiness and fulfilment in other areas of your life.
- Focus on your own needs
Rather than obsessing over the narcissist’s silence, focus on your own needs and priorities. Spend time doing things you enjoy, pursue your passions and hobbies, and make time for the people in your life who support and uplift you. By focusing on your own well-being, you can reduce the impact of the narcissist’s behaviour on your life.
- Seek support
Dealing with a silent narcissist can be incredibly isolating, so it’s important to seek support from friends, family members, or a therapist. Having someone to talk to about your experiences can help you process your emotions and develop healthy coping strategies.
- Don’t take it personally
It’s important to remember that the narcissist’s silence is not a reflection of your worth or value as a person. Their behaviour is a reflection of their own insecurities and issues, so try not to take it personally. Keep reminding yourself that you deserve love, respect, and kindness, regardless of what the narcissist may think or say.
- Consider ending the relationship
If the narcissist’s behaviour is consistently toxic and detrimental to your mental health and well-being, it may be time to consider ending the relationship. This can be a difficult decision, but ultimately, your own happiness and well-being should be your top priority.
Stay safe around those who lack empathy.
Dealing with a silent narcissist can be challenging. Still, by setting healthy boundaries, maintaining your independence, focusing on your own needs, seeking support, not taking it personally, and considering ending the relationship if necessary, you can protect your own emotional well-being and find peace and happiness in your life.
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Elizabeth Shaw is not a Doctor or a therapist. She is a mother of five, a blogger, a survivor of narcissistic abuse, and a life coach, She always recommends you get the support you feel comfortable and happy with. Finding the right support for you. Elizabeth has partnered with BetterHelp (Sponsored.) where you will be matched with a licensed councillor, who specialises in recovery from this kind of abuse.