Silence and stonewalling in communication and relationships: Give ’em silence…or Not

Silence. It’s still a form of communication – whether we like it or not! Silence, if prolonged beyond the “norm”, sends a loud and clear message.

Clearly, there are times when we receive silence and it’s not an issue at all. We can rest with the notion and faith that the person is “just busy.” When a few days of silence turns into a week, a month or even a year, the silence has the high potential of becoming a loud and clear message. Especially, for the HSP or the anxiously attached person.

What could unusual, prolonged silence mean, if anything? Are we just overthinking it?

Everyone has their different view on “normal” response times. For me, when it comes to incoming text messages, I appreciate hearing back somewhere within the one-day to four-day range – four days being the limit. This might seem graceful. Your expectations might be quite different and that is okay. For email, my grace period increases, unless it’s urgent. Of course, this also depends on the person with whom I am communicating. Maybe they are having a hard time in life or are particularly busy.

In terms of my own outgoing communications to others, I have stricter standards. Although, I have failed at times, at which point I am happy to apologize and explain my failed communications as to assure the person they have value to me. Generally, I like to reply to text messages as soon as possible without letting it interfere with my MIT’s of the day (most important tasks). If someone continually takes more than four days to get back with me, I find that I will eventually start using their own standard on them.

I often schedule my times to reply to non-urgent messages. Usually, my day goes something like this:

Wake up, get kids off to school, work out, respond to urgent messages and urgent emails, get dressed in real daytime clothes and do hair (a lost art in the era of the current pandemic), accomplish my MIT’s (Most Important Tasks) for about two hours, eat, respond to non-urgent messages, then do my other tasks (like walk the dog, do administrative tasks, etc.).

I check my text messages again at about 6:30 pm. In fact, studies show that 6:30 pm is the best time to send out messages as this is when most people are in a relatively good state of mind to receive communications.

I have found that setting designated times to check messages is most productive, rather than responding immediately all day to incoming messages.

I learned this type of focus and structure with communications in an excellent book called 15 Secrets Successful People Know About Time Management by Kevin Kruse.

Silence can be used to help or to hurt. How are you using it? How are you allowing others to use it on you?

We give silence to those who are deeply grieving, showing them that we are careful to listen and humble enough to know that they don’t need our good advice. We don’t offer them advice because it would be counterproductive, even if it’s worthy advice with good intentions (sadly, I learned this the hard way, twice). The ministry of being present and silent is often what the grieving and traumatized person needs.

In the book of Job in the Bible, when Job lost everything, his friends tried to comfort him with many words. Job’s response was, “I have heard many such things; miserable comforters are you all” (Job 16:2). Isn’t it true that when we are hurting, the very best thing that our loved ones can do is to “insert-foot-in-mouth” and sit alongside of us? We might give silence – a listening ear – to those who just need to vent. These are ways in which silence can be golden.

Our silence can be a real blessing. It can also be a curse.

In relationships, we must always remember that prolonged silence says something. It can be very painful for a highly sensitive, empathic person especially…to receive continual, prolonged silence (i.e., stonewalling). Especially, when the silence is from an important friend, parent or caregiver. It can be painful for a child to receive continual, purposeful silence from a parent. Add one of those pesky read receipts and time stamps into the mix, and we’ve got trouble in paradise for the sensitive, empathic individual!

For the controlling types, silence is the preferred weapon of choice (Hey! Don’t get any ideas, my narc readers!)

What about you? Is there anyone you’ve been giving silence to who needs a response? Are you allowing someone to give you the silent treatment? As with most things in life, like money, silence can be used for good or evil.

Silence…a golden blessing in the right hands and a golden weapon in the wrong hands. Use it wisely.


#silenttreatment #psychology #mentalhealth #communication #silence #stonewalling #readreceipts #empathic #relationships #conflictresolution #narcissism #empaths

Rebecca A. Anne, BCMHC

Author, Researcher, Victim's Advocate and Certified Coach

Board Certifications: Human Rights Consultant (USIDHR); Health and Wellness Coach, Mental Health Coach, First Responder, Marriage and Family Coach, Life Coach and Mental and Behavioral Health Disorders Certification.

I specialize in providing trauma-sensitive emotional, spiritual, and narcissistic abuse support and education for individuals, groups and organizations.

You may also like...