• Lynn Catalano

How should you respond when your narcissist gives you the silent treatment?

Updated: Oct 9


*This is the 3rd blog post in the Silent Treatment series


The Silent Treatment is a form of emotional abuse used by narcissists to hurt, control, and punish their victim. For the victim, there’s no way to resolve their issue or argument when the narcissist cuts off all communication. They’re the target of cruelty and subsequent abandonment. You could’ve received the Silent Treatment from your boss, your parent, your sibling, a friend, or a romantic love. It could come from anyone.


In my book Wrecking Ball Relationships: How to Identify, Live with or Leave the Narcissist in Your Life,” I explored ways to cope and what to do when you are on the receiving end of the Silent Treatment.


Strategies to Cope with a Narcissist Giving the Silent Treatment


Once you recognize or acknowledge you’re suffering from the Silent Treatment by your narcissist, you have several options in how you respond. Unquestionably, one option is to walk away from the relationship. That may be the right answer for you. Nonetheless, there are other strategies you can employ. They include:


1. Listen Reflectively

Try not to react. The primary goal of the Silent Treatment is to provoke a reaction from you. Maintain your calm and control. Listening will provide you with information and necessary clues as to the triggers and underlying causes for a narcissist acting out in this way.


2. Don’t try to win – it’s not a competition

There’s no winning with a narcissist. Even when you’re 100 percent right, you’ll never win with a narcissist. Retaliation will only escalate the situation. Yet don’t excuse their behavior. The Silent Treatment is unacceptable, and you deserve an explanation. Focus on the goal of resolving the issue. Remember, the Silent Treatment prevents any resolution. This is your opportunity to address the issue. Try to validate the narcissist’s perspective and experience. This is the path to building trust.


3. Protect yourself

Be aware of your feelings and don’t undermine them. You’re smart and capable. You have value. Don’t let a narcissist run over you. It’s important to set boundaries and limitations. Surround yourself with people who love and support you. Talk about what’s happening and how the narcissist treats you. Don’t let a narcissist isolate you from your support network. Receiving the Silent Treatment for long periods of time can lead to depression. Keep healthy, exercise, and meditate.


4. Seek professional help

Remember, the Silent Treatment is a form of emotional abuse. Talking about it will help. Sometimes, the best person to talk to is one you don’t know who has no personal bias. This will help you work through the stress and anxiety caused by the Silent Treatment. This is for you. A therapist will help you understand what you’ve been through and how to prepare for other challenges.


5. Leave

Yes, I mentioned it above, but it bears repeating. After exhausting all other options, if your situation hasn’t changed, perhaps it’s time to say goodbye. Don’t let the emotional abuse affect your mental health. Whether the relationship is a professional one, romantic, with a sibling, or even a parent, address the situation. Set healthy boundaries and limits. The Silent Treatment is one of the cruelest forms of abuse. Develop a plan and set yourself free.


You can find my book “Wrecking Ball Relationships” on Amazon and BarnesandNoble.com.

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