How Narcissists Weaponize Silence to Punish You

If there is a narcissist in your life or anybody who displays traits of a narcissist, you are likely to have been stuck in the throes of the silent treatment. 

The silent treatment isn’t a moment for them to gather their thoughts or reflect. They won’t tell you, “I might be quiet for a day or two while I think over what’s been happening, but I hope we can work through this together.”

The silent treatment is a weapon.

They just run silent. They’re like a TV on mute, and as you watch them, you are left with feelings of uncertainty and anxiety. 

This is a deliberate tactic used to manipulate you!

What Exactly is the Silent Treatment?

Nothing is quite as emotionally draining as someone who stops interacting with you.

It is a type of passive-aggressive behavior that a narcissistic person exhibits when they want to express their disapproval with you. You’ve done something to offend them – but that doesn’t mean you’ve done anything wrong.

Anger doesn’t always have to be raging hissy fits, shouting and swearing matches, or physically abusive. It can be when everything stops, and not one cell in their body wil offer you a warm, reassuring nod or word until they feel satisfied they’ve made you unhappy or upset. 

The ignoring aspect of the silent treatment is intentional, and there’s no doubt the narcissist enjoys every second of it as they watch you squirm and tip-toe around them looking for ways to their heart (what heart, right?)

Public or Private – it Doesn’t Matter

The seediest part of the silent treatment is that it does not matter where you are. The narcissist won’t care, in fact, if they were to give you the silent treatment in public, they would lap up the discomfort oozing from you.

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Seeing your perplexed face in a room full of people laughing, joking and smiling will be exactly the call they’re looking for to let them know that what they’re doing is working. 

If you are in a private space, such as your home or out together alone, you will still be subjected to the silent treatment if the narcissist feels you deserve it.

As much as you wish for things to go back to normal, you might even voice this to the delight of the narcissist, who knows they’ve got you just where they want you. 

But they will stop when they are ready. 

Why is the Silent Treatment so Popular with the Narcissist?

Let’s have a run down of why the narcissist’s favorite weapon is the silent treatment. 

  1. It’s highly effective – it works every time for them, creating high levels of anticipatory anxiety in their victim.
  1. It’s flexible—it can be done anytime, anywhere, and out of the blue, making it a good way to throw a curveball into the nicest days.
  1. It can be used against anybody – family, friends, work colleagues, and even friends. If a narcissist wants to leave their silent mark – they can, and they will. 
  1. It initiates a self-reflection of the victim. “What have I done wrong?” This focuses much less, even nothing at all on “Why is this person giving me the silent treatment – it’s not right.
  1. You apologize for things you haven’t done. This delights the narcissist, who constantly feels as though they are owed something from you. 
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Seeing how the narcissist always wins when it comes to the silent treatment is the very reason it is so regularly used as a manipulative tool to get you to feel bad about yourself. Again.

Examples of the Silent Treatment

Example 1

The most common example of silent treatment is between a couple, where their spouse asks them if something is wrong or is okay. The narcissistic spouse may respond minimally and say everything’s fine, or remain silent. 

The partner asks more questions, but they lead nowhere, leaving them feeling confused and paranoid that they’ve done something wrong.

They immediately look inward, blaming themselves for something that hasn’t even happened or that they aren’t worthy of receiving a healthy, communicative response.

Example 2

You’re at a social event, chatting with people you know and perhaps met that night.

You’re with your spouse and want to make a good impression by being somebody who engages and seems happy and confident. You glance across the room at your spouse, and they are making it very obvious that there’s a problem. 

You reach them, and they start talking to the nearest person, who is avoiding you. Everybody greets you and makes you feel welcome, but your main concern is your wrongdoings.

This is another common tactic, and the silent treatment weapon is laid bare for you to sink into discomfort.

What Can YOU do About it?

Staying calm is the foundation of everything else that you will come to build upon. If you want to notice this weapon of defense, you can, but that doesn’t mean you have to draw your sword and fight back.

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Narcissists want you to feel on edge. They bask in your discomfort, knowing they are in control and enjoy watching you squirm through the entire process.

If the narcissist in your life is giving you the silent treatment – giving them, the space they need to be able to do so is what works best. Engaging in it is a reaction, and they are looking for any reaction from you to know that what they’re doing is working.

Prioritize yourself. 

What’s the Bottom Line?

It sounds so harmless – but we know it isn’t. The silent treatment is a far from fair way of handling emotions, but the narcissist knows no better.

The victim can feel as though they can’t talk about it, or will understand them, or believe what they say. 

This is the nature of the silent treatment – and why the narcissist deems it such a powerful weapon to leave you punished.

Nobody deserves to be treated this way – least of all, the person who has done nothing wrong, and that’s something you should remember if you are ever caught up in the mind games of the narcissist in your life. 

The silent treatment is unpredictable, and if you play into the game of apologizing just to keep the peace and create a happier ambiance, then you are playing into the role of victim, leaving the narcissist feeling like the cat that got the cream. 

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