Sta Hungry Stay Foolish

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

A blog by Leon Oudejans

The Silent Treatment (2)

Silence is golden, so they say. No doubt silence is a useful tactic in a discussion. It often causes bewilderment as people don’t expect or like deliberate silences. A silence also allows you to consider your next move and causes your previous remark to sink in. That’s the positive way of using the powerful art of silence. There’s also a shadow side towards using silence.

Communication is my preferred way of handling issues. However, sometimes arguments no longer suffice and another tool needs to be applied to stress a point. Sometimes people hurt you badly and only leave you the choice of revenge/retaliation, letting go & moving on, regret/remorse/reconnect, or another (4th) option: the silent treatment. Silence is a most powerful weapon and should not be applied lightly as the path towards reconnecting becomes more and more difficult following the duration of your silence.

Unfortunately, words are sometimes no longer able to convince people that their attitude is – or opinions are – inappropriate. Sometimes we just want to feel compassion and support. A lack of compassion or empathy feels like betrayal in those circumstances. Betrayal is probably the worst feeling to experience. Applying the ultimate weapon – silence – becomes a proportionate response.

When people hurt me – whether deliberate or unintentional – I go silent. Mostly, I use that silence to recover from that hurt. When people hurt me badly then I use my silence as punishment and as a weapon. My silence may last for hours, days, weeks, or even longer, depending on the importance of the “sorry” that I’m waiting for. No “sorry” means no communication. In rare cases, my silence is indefinite when I never ever want to meet these persons again in my life. Betrayal at its worst.

Silence is my ultimate weapon towards the people that hurt me the most. It works much better than arguments, fights, revenge or retaliation. My silence tells you that you no longer exist. I don’t use this weapon easily as I know its strength. I have been on the receiving end of such silence as well. My daughter is still using it against me following my ugly 2010 divorce. And if you still care for someone then his/her silence hurts. Nevertheless, its impact deteriorates over time.

Remarkably, even the youngest of children understand the powerful art of the sound of silence. It’s their way of punishing their parents for not listening to them. It must be intuition (a unknown known) and part of human firmware. And even these youngest of children already understand that it’s a last resort after all other communication options have failed.

From an evolutionary psychology point of view, social exclusion (“banning”) must indeed have been the ultimate punishment as the group would also no longer provide safety and security. However, sometimes silence may look like a “banning” to some people but actually is a reverse and self chosen action, also known as solitude.

Sorry indeed seems the hardest word to express for many people. And especially to people who lack empathy in the first place. These people will not even understand that the other person is waiting to hear a simple “Sorry”. These people may hear you but don’t listen to what you say. They’re too convinced of their own opinions. They’re too busy with themselves. Then silence becomes a proportionate response. Or as we say in Dutch: “wie niet wil luisteren, die moet maar voelen”.

Elton John – Sorry seems to be the hardest word (1976) – artist, lyrics, Wiki-1, Wiki-2

What have I got to do to make you love me

What have I got to do to make you care

What do I do when lightning strikes me

And I wake to find that you’re not there

What do I do to make you want me

What have I got to do to be heard

What do I say when it’s all over

And sorry seems to be the hardest word

It’s sad, so sad

It’s a sad, sad situation

And it’s getting more and more absurd

It’s sad, so sad

Why can’t we talk it over

Oh it seems to me

That sorry seems to be the hardest word

What do I do to make you love me

What have I got to do to be heard

What do I do when lightning strikes me

What have I got to do

What have I got to do

When sorry seems to be the hardest word


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