Narcissist Silent Treatment (A Comprehensive Guide)

Emotional abuse in the form of passive-aggressive where disapproval, displeasure, and contempt are shown through the nonverbal gestures while keeping verbal silence all the time about things is the basic definition of the silent treatment. 

Technically speaking, the silent treatment can also be termed as the passive-aggressive behavior which can be used to communicate a sort of negative message by the abuser to the intended victim, this message is only recognized by the victim and the perpetrator through the nonverbal communications.

This can be subtle or explicit, in public or private, can be recognizable by others or not and it usually can exist with other forms of verbal or nonverbal abuse.

In this article we will discuss Narcissist silent treatment. 

Silent Treatment vs. Time-Out

Most of the time silent treatment is confused with another healthier activity that is time-out.

Time-outs are used in a time-bound, constructive, neutral, or reassuring, agreed upon and mutually understood time periods which are basically taken to help find solutions to the problems in the end.

Time-out basically means to take time out from a certain situation or to take a break to clear up your thoughts and deal with the overwhelming emotions.

Whereas, on the other hand silent treatment is destructive in nature, it is contemptuous, indefinite, unilateral, and is meant to alleviate the sense of responsibility of the abuser and fall all of the blame on to the victim.

It can be considered as one of the manipulation tactics to blame others for every fault.

If you are not talking just so you can communicate clearly after cooling down or want to gather your thoughts so things can be communicated clearly sometime afterward or just want to sit alone to sort them out is not termed as silent treatment and should not be taken as one.

As you are neither manipulating or intending to manipulate or cause problems or distress during this period nor are you trying to withhold conversation during the period to coerce or control another person.

Instead time-out is used for individuals to clear up their minds and gather their thoughts so that they can calm their emotions and can see if their approach is good or not and can work on their approach towards others so that they can have a healthy and loving connection with one another.

The time-out is basically meant to cause calmness and clarity between individuals whereas the silent treatment ends up causing distress, confusion, and ambiguity.

Narcissist Silent Treatment (A Comprehensive Guide)

Who Uses Silent Treatment?

The passive-aggressive attitude that is the basis of the silent treatment makes this treatment more flexible and highly effective, making it one of the perfect tools for abusers to use.

In fact, the silent treatment can be used by anyone on anyone, including significant others, coworkers, family members, friends, or even on the people you have just met.

You might even be more surprised to know about the people who are using it in normal routine life: like your elderly aunt, a person you considered as your best friend, a salesperson who is present at the shop and so on.

Similarly, anyone can find himself on the other half of this treatment, being the victim in their case.

The main point of this treatment is to make the victim more focused on their behavior and themselves rather than on the abuser and his behavior.

Their abuser might shift focus away from themselves or shifts blame away from them resulting in the victim to dive into great emotional distress which can reach to such a point where they will start taking responsibility even for the things that they are literally not responsible for and will take the blame for everything which will leave them confused and in the state of cognitive dissonance.

There have been instances where people have even apologized for the things that they have not done or even under extreme pressure they have apologized for the things that were done against them just so that the abuser can talk with them again.

There is no mistake about it, but this behavior is highly damaging and should be taken care of on a serious note.

The Purpose of the Narcissist Silent Treatment

Essentially, the main purpose of doing the Narcissist Silent Treatment is to make the victim feel stressed, ashamed, confused, guilty, unstable, not good enough so that they would do anything or everything that the manipulator wants them to do.

It is to make the victim scramble down or self erases their presence such that it meets the needs of their abuser no matter how damaging or unhealthy those things are. 

Moreover, this can also be taken as a form of intermittent reinforcement that can result in the victim walking on an eggshell.

More than often the victim will eventually try to avoid all kinds of conflicts and silent treatment of the abuser and will fall into a perpetual state of distress and anxiety.

This will become more and more normalized and unpredictable with time if it is not already in that state.

Would you like to learn how to shut down the narcissist during the Narcissist Silent Treatment There is a chance that you might have been through multiple times of the crippling type of punishments and no matter how many times the process is repeated, you are left with a traumatized and defeated feeling, like there is no other way to get out of this hell or cycle.

There might be some ways for you to get out of this cycle or to shut down this silent treatment, next time they make you the target of one so that you can be the victor in this game and walk away with your self-respect and dignity intact.

How to control the Narcissist Silent Treatment

1 – Don’t believe it’s your fault for Narcissist Silent Treatment

This is the basic step of stopping the Narcissist Silent Treatment, as whenever we are facing the silent treatment in our life even if we know that the abuser is in the wrong and is just doing to get to us we still end up in taking responsibility for the things they are going silent for on us which is exactly what they want.

So here is the main idea that normal people might need some time alone to clear up their thoughts and reset and think about them but they will never try to use abusive behavior or silent treatment as a form of punishment towards another individual.

Someone who loves you and cares about you will always come back towards you and will like to have a healthy conversation about the things in between you and how they can be made better.

They will not try to make you feel guilty or at fault just because they are the ones who lied or cheated.

In case you are dealing with someone who has a narcissistic personality disorder then their main goal is not to work things out between you and themselves but it is to find a way so that they can maintain power and control over you in your relationship.

Therefore, if there is a period where you go for days without having even a phone call from them, you can be sure it is not because you tried to rectify a situation but it is because they just want you to shut up about it.

2 – Disengage for Narcissist Silent Treatment

The worst and the last thing you wanna do if someone is giving you the Narcissist Silent Treatment is to try engaging with them when they are hoovering.

In case you do not know about hoovering, hoovering is kind of a technique that is employed by the narcissistic con artists to get the victims to come back into a relationship with them by showing desirable or improved behavior on their end.

This technique is mainly named after the hoover vacuum cleaner because they will not only suck you back into a relationship with them but later on will end up treating you like dirt. 

Hoovers usually does not occur after a discard as most of the discards by a narcissist are not even real, even if the narcissist discards you it is all a show to make you feel desirable and trigger the wounds so you can accept them with all of their awful behavior and will ultimately allow them to have their own way so that you can keep them present in your life.

So, if the narcissist reaches out to you during their Narcissist Silent Treatment, do not respond back so that it does not enforce their sense of entitlement or even show a little understanding of why they went full dark on you.

Rather than responding back to them, it is better to show them that they were not right in any shape, form or way.

When they reach back to you just treat them in the same way with complete silence and indifference so that they know they two can play the same game and it did not work out this time and will not work out the next time either.

3 – Turn the Narcissistic Silent Treatment into your victory cry for Narcissist Silent Treatment

Another way to shut down narcissists who are giving you a silent treatment and are trying to abuse you is to end your relationship with them on this point and keep no contact with them whatsoever.

This will give them a shock and will remind them that it can be done from both sides.

It is not better to be on the receiving end of the Narcissist Silent Treatment again and again and to go through that same pain over and over it is best to put a stop to it once and for all.

Do not give any hints of your behavior beforehand and do it at once.

If there is a chance that it will go on forever, one example might be to find your own place in the meantime and put down the money for it.

So next time when you are being treated to the Narcissist Silent Treatment just move out and give this as your own victory cry rather than going through the painful cycle one more time.

So that when he comes back, he will find an empty apartment with nothing inside it and this will bite him back good.

FAQ about narcissist silent treatment 

How do you respond to silent treatment?

Emphasize on the importance of resolving things even if it is not your fault, try to convince them to come to the table and discuss things out rather than staying with the silent treatment and if it is your fault then apologize and if they are not receptive, give them some time to clear up their thoughts.

What does the silent treatment do to someone?

The silent treatment can be termed as a way to manipulate or punish others so that the abuser can gain control of the other individual.

It might feel good in start while ignoring your partner but this will hinder you from finding a solid solution to the problem.


 Darius Cikanavicius (2020): How Narcissists Use Silent Treatment for Manipulation

Kim Saeed (n.d.): How to Shut Down the Narcissist During the Silent Treatment