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SILENCE- The bad and the good

white knight
Community Champion
Community Champion

There is not many more effective tools of trade for a nasty person than- silence. I’m an expert, not of using silence as a weapon, but of being the victim. My ex wife was raised by a mother that did cruel things, stole her pocket money, elbowed her as she walked along the hallway, read her diary etc to the extent that one day as a teenager she decided that her mother could do anything to her but she would never be able to penetrate her mind.

This determination and toleration led to my ex wife to develop the perfect defence mechanism which over time she ended up using as part of our daily lives in our marriage. Any objection, raising of the voice, disapproval, disagreeing…anything- led to silence. After 7 years of such behaviour I realised, after our many counselling sessions, that this would not abate. It was me that had to change, change by not having any anger, showing disappointment, etc. Sadly as divorced parents the same problem continued when trying to discuss our childrens needs. Any discussion was decided upon on her terms.

There are positives in everything if we look hard enough. Silence means no arguments! One day my eldest daughter at 16yo was distressed about something. She didn’t like a restriction I put in place. She ran off towards a creek. I followed about 50 metres away. She sat at waters edge and cried for about 2 hours. She kept glancing at me as I sat and waited, not a word. Finally she walked up to me and said “why are you here”. I opened my arms. Job done, all good. Love needs no words.

In my many jobs I’ve found silence is an art form. In the workplace you often get the ladder climbers, seeking promotion or just bosses approval by mentioning their achievements. Yet, when I finally became a supervisor I preferred the worker that solved issues themselves without mentioning them. The silent achiever was more preferable than the boaster. As I was the talkative type I had to constantly remind myself that rapid and continuous talking wasn’t ideal in a populated workplace. It just doesn’t fit in with the complex array of personalities. A talker finds chatting natural so its not easy being "quiet" but it can be beneficial.

Silence can be cruel. Sometimes it is necessary in order to move on from a toxic relationship. But as adults we should not use it as a means to hurt others only used to distance oneself from others or from topics of controversy. Even then, it is right to communicate firmly and concisely….in a humane way.

Tony WK

9 Replies 9

Blue Voices Member
Blue Voices Member

Hi Tony,

I am one of those people and was about to unload here and realised those are my issues so I will consider posting on my own thread.

I just want to say, that sometimes silence is because you yell so much and get ignored that you give up yelling. You give up. I realise (from your post) that I have used this to my advantage. I learnt not to ask for help, not to care and I have used this SILENCE to my advantage.

Thank you!



When silence is used for long periods eg "Any objection, raising of the voice, disapproval, disagreeing…anything- led to silence" then it isnt always from bullying.

I am silent to my mother due to her abuse of us three kids. Im silent for defence purposes not passive aggressiveness, revenge etc.

So indeed there are examples of using silence as justification. Absolutely but in 2500 characters it isnt always possible to list them, its subjective depending on the story. Your story is such a story of justification (my brother bullied me)

When a couple marries, communication is vital. If a spouse goes silent and wont even tell you what you've done wrong thats tormenting. "Did I forget to buy the bread, the nappies or hung out the clothes wrong"? Days go by, no answer. Two weeks, finally "yes you washed the colours with the whites". OMG! So punished over something I'm unaware of. That fuels more hurt when one has an eager spouse to please her.

That is using silence as a tool not as a defence.

Your attitude towards your sisters is justified and their attitude is dismissive as it suit them to be so. But I wouldnt dismiss all mechanics like the one that ripped me off. I.e in your post in your thread "I wont take that chance". We'll disagree agreeably.

Feel free to google

Topic: so what are their mental illnesses- beyondblue

So, to me it is clearer now, and its a good topic, that silence can be used for several reasons, some justified for toxic behaviours (bullying) or personal recovery from trauma. Sometimes less justified when used as punishment for misdemeanors not under the umbrella of abuse. And never imo acceptable when used as "tool of torment". My views..

The latter, tools of torment are another form of bullying no better, no worse.

Tony WK

Silence can be a useful tool or a toxic tool as you have pointed out. One example when used as a useful tool is to allow tempers to cool & allow time to think. A very useful skill to cultivate is being able to say I'm too upset, angry, tired..... to talk now but lets talk later. This allows both of you time to get into a position to talk properly provided you do make sure you both discuss the issue later even if it is just to apologise. As Tony mentioned if you don't the other party (partner, child etc) know what is wrong you can't fix it. I had an experience with a work colleague who avoided speaking to me. I had no idea what the problem was & I ended up avoiding her because I was so afraid of upsetting her further. Other people noticed but didn't know what was wrong until things came to a head & I complained to my supervisor. It was extremely uncomfortable because she was clearly very angry about my action. Eventually my supervisor pressured her into admitting what the problem was. While we were never going to be friends at least by understanding what was triggering her behaviour I could cope with it & she became more reasonable. (It turned out I looked like someone who had mistreated her in the past so I triggered painful memories)

Community Champion
Community Champion

Hi agony, Elizabeth, Sad monkey,

My experience with silence came from hubby, He would get angry with some trivial little incident and total ignored me for weeks on end, totally not look at me, not answer me, no acknowledgement what so ever. When I cooked for him or made a coffee for him they also were invisible, It made me feel, there is no way to explain it. It's the worse experience of my life, nothing compares to it.


white knight
Community Champion
Community Champion

Hi Elizabeth

I agree. In fact just on the short session of silence between a couple I wrote this thread a long time ago. It was an agreement my wife and I had made years ago. We had both been mistreated by our ex's (in fact both ex's were brother and sister hence they had the same traits)

Topic: relationship strife- the peace pipe- beyondblue


When one is a devoted spouse and tries to have a reasonable communication level but it doesn't work, I question the love returned...and respect. How can someone ignore us for so long knowing we are hurting.?

That's my take on it. If it aint obvious and they don't talk about it to let you know what the problem is, then the silence is being used to have more impact.

Tony WK

Hi all,

Thanks Tony and everyone else for the extra details and I now have to admit I'm a bullier with my silence. I had never really thought about it much because to be honest I just don't "care" enough about others feelings.

I'm not a person who would sit with someone (a friend or partner) and describe how I am feeling. I won't hand over those parts of myself for fear it will be used against me at a later date.

I'll give an example. When I first began dating my (deceased) partner he would always make dinner plans then cancel at the last minute. All week he'd keep talking about going to dinner on Friday. He'd talk about what we should eat, wear and do afterwards (movie, walk etc) I'd be dressed and ready, waiting and about 20 minutes before pick up time he'd ring with some excuse. This happened a few times and I never said a word. Then each time he'd talk about going to dinner I would just say 'no thanks'. He would ask why and try telling me about great new restaurants and I would ignore him. He knew there was a problem but if he couldn't work it out, then that was his issue, not mine. I simply did not care. If he bugged me about it and kept going on about it I would go home and ignore his phone calls. Eventually, he asked my kids and they explained what the problem was.

Mind you, during that time, we still talked about other things and were still a couple. I just refused to go out to dinner and refused to explain why. The going out to dinner thing was his idea and something he wanted to do. I never really wanted to go and was agreeing to go, to keep him happy. Then he kept cancelling.

Now, thinking about it, I think that if I would have said anything to him I probably would have lost control and not spoken rationally or nicely. It annoyed me and hurt me that he kept cancelling but there was no way I was going to let him know that he'd hurt me (my feelings). It's not hurt as in crying hurt, it's hurt like he'd been making an idiot out of me. I think if I would have spoken to him about it I would have tried to hurt him back.



Fair enough. You have your views based on your experiences. We all do.

If my wife had said "you washed the whites with the colours" 7 words, it would have dawned on me, as it was I went days not knowing- sometimes weeks. I'm not into guessing games. The fact is, I did so many chores around and inside the home that it could have been any number of activities I got wrong in her eyes.. One cant assume that another person sees what is obvious to them. The punishment outweighed the original sin. The -they should know, - if it isn't obvious to him/her then its their problem", isn't communication level I'd say as ideal.

Communication is at the heart of problems sufferers of MI can have....or lack thereof.

Hence the thread.

Tony WK

Hi Tony,

I agree. I never even realised until reading this thread that what I was doing, the SILENCE had such an impact on others. To me it was simple, he needed closure on the subject and I didn't.

Now I'm wondering if he (or others) ever gave me the silent treatment. I know there would be times when I wouldn't hear from him for a few days. As I never tried to call or contact him I would have no idea now, whether he was ignoring me or giving me the old silent treatment.

In the 12 months before he died, I would have only called him or contacted him about 3 times. I'm not a contacty person. I don't reach out to others. I've probably been given the silent treatment and never noticed.

Big thoughts going on in my head..Thank you! I'm learning.



that reply was brave. Thankyou. Yes we are all learning.

Its highly likely others around you have been silent, its not like it isnt common. Its why its a good topic.

Perhaps just promoting to say a few words can bteaak yhat chain of thought like this "tony you ran the colours in the wash, but it was nice to try and wash them....best leave it to me from now on"

Like anything, the answer lies in the centre.

Kind regards

Tony WK