How Do You Deal with Silent Treatment from Narcissists?

One  pattern of pain comes from the hearts of those on the receiving end of narcissistic abuse.

One truly heartbreaking act that defies all logic to the healthy mind.

Moment after moment of searing frustration and uncertainty that ignites anxiety, confusion and sadness.

The silent treatment. 

I am asked daily how to deal with silent treatment when the narcissist decides to serve it, and I always have these five answers up my sleeve.

Knowing how to handle the situation gives just enough power back to you to remind you who’s really in control.

Let’s dive in.

What is the Silent Treatment?

The silent treatment is a technique involving the narcissist purposefully withdrawing or disengaging with you. You may notice this during conversations, or through text messages. It can even happen at work, through correspondence, or with friends. 

There is no limit to where it can happen to you, but if a narcissist is involved – it’ll happen at some point. 

Why is it Used?

The silent treatment is used by people with a narcissistic personality in order to control, coerce and manipulate you. 

They want you to walk on eggshells. They want to make the ground you walk on with them unsteady. Narcissists can go silent until you give in to their desires.

They enjoy seeing you pay them extra attention due to their silence, which is the very reason they do it.

Narcissists want to punish you. Maybe you have done something they didn’t like. 

Maybe they’re trying to isolate your seemingly bad behavior. 

They walk away, so you do the chasing, and it’s cruel.

All because they enjoy it. 

Signs of Silent Treatment and How it Makes You Feel

Ignoring your needs – This can leave you wondering why your values don’t match. You might question why you feel so alone in the relationship or friendship. 

Physically distancing themselves after conflict – This is a ploy to get you to ruminate and overthink what happened, and how it could have been different. The silent treatment like this can feel punishing. It usually only ends when the person on the receiving end makes some kind of apology, even if they weren’t to blame. 

Avoiding eye contact – This can make people feel alone, and is a clear indication the narcissist sees them as somebody who doesn’t matter. It only reignites low feelings of self-worth in whoever is tolerating it.

Disengaging from you – Of course – the questions begin. What did I do wrong? Are you okay? How can I make it up to you? This is exactly what the narcissist wants – you begging at their front door for forgiveness. This is about control and guilt tripping. 

Giving one or two word answers – Left wide open for interpretation, the narcissist will breadcrumb you a few mumbles or words here and there. You are then left wondering what you did that was so wrong. You try to extract more from them, but this only resorts in their anger growing. You then apologize for that too.

How To Deal With the Silent Treatment 

So – here comes where you really take your power back.

Five effective ways to deal with the silent treatment.

Keep Your Boundaries Healthy

I cannot tell you how important it is to check your boundaries are strong and firmly in place. 

Knowing what you will and won’t put up with is going to get you out of the quicksand quicker than you fell into it.

Learn to say no. When conflict (they) knock at your door, learn to pull back and not give them what they want all the time. The demands of a narcissist are rarely fair or justified. Knowing your boundaries will protect you from them is key. 

Ascertain How You Feel – “Check in”

The unpredictability of anybody with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is going to leave most people feeling like they’re present for a constant earthquake. They walk with uncertainty, waiting for the next time the ground tosses them side to side. 

Checking in with yourself regularly is going to keep you from feeling as though you’re losing yourself entirely to this situation. 

It’s also okay to remind yourself that being sad, frustrated, angry, hurt or confused are all emotions you’re entitled to feel when under the spell or control of any narcissist. 

After all they put you through – it’s no surprise these emotions are rising to the surface. 

Wait – Then Respond

The silent treatment ignites insecurity in people who may already be unsure of themselves and who struggle with confidence. 

Pausing before you dive in and ask what’s wrong is so helpful. It will give you the opportunity to check in with your own feelings, and acknowledge them.

Finding the familiarity behind somebody who does this a lot can sometimes breathe a new light into the matter.

Self-soothe if you have to, tell yourself that you’re okay and safe. The narcissist is doing what they do, and know, works with you.

It’s time now to stop buying what they’re selling. 

Time For Re-evaluation

When the silent treatment becomes a habitual way for the narcissist to draw you in and leave all your priorities aside for them – it’s time. 

Time to ask yourself if this relationship or friendship is two-way. Ask yourself is respect and kindness is frequently given by both parties.

Ask yourself if you feel secure in this, and if they make you feel better or worse about yourself. 

If you are unable to communicate your needs or thoughts – ask yourself why it’s so difficult. Do you feel not listened to? Are you worried you may invoke rage or anger? Are their problems always bigger than yours?

Give yourself this time – because it’s crucial to know what’s going on.

Find a Support System

I always, always throw this in – no matter what the concern is. Support systems are like the organs to your life – they serve a purpose and are crucial to your development. 

Now, I’m not asking you to go and make 50 new friends. I am asking you to find trusting people in your life who you can depend on. 

If that’s tricky in itself – there are professionals you can seek help from. They will really help you unpack what’s been going on and how you feel. 

Narcissistic abuse locks the other person’s feelings up in a cage and throws away the key. Over time, you can forget the cage exists as the narcissist lives their emotions through the both of you. 

The real pleasure comes from discovering you have your own copy of the key in your pocket. 

Open the cage – get talking. 

Related Articles