Every couple has arguments, and everyone says things they don’t mean in the heat of the moment. That’s why sometimes it’s better to say nothing at all and wait for cooler heads to prevail. Sheri Gaskins and Tony A. Gaskins Jr., authors of A WOMAN’S INFLUENCE, share their advice (based on their own relationship experience) on how and when to use silence to get past disagreements.
Sometimes being silent is the best way to handle things, in my opinion. When you are angry, if you respond right away, you can say things you didn’t mean and cause more issues than what you started with. Very early on in our relationship, when Tony would get snappy or respond in a way I didn’t appreciate, I would give him my version of the silent treatment. It was definitely based on the behavior psychology techniques we learned while working in a group home. While in the group home, I was promoted to behavior specialist, so I was writing behavior plans for developmentally disabled men, and I got to see the data on how the techniques worked in different situations. Some of the techniques stuck, and the “ignore—redirect” technique was and is still one of my favorites.
This is for situations that are just attention seeking and don’t require a real conversation. It’s usually when one of us is getting an attitude for no reason or really snappy in a way that the other doesn’t appreciate. So, for example, if Tony is in a bad mood and kind of snappy about things that don’t really matter, I see that as attention-seeking behavior and I don’t reinforce it. Anything you reinforce will continue. It doesn’t necessarily require me addressing it with him, because most times he already knows he is being snappy. I ignore the behavior, but I don’t engage with him about it because that attention just reinforces the behavior. People don’t realize that even negative attention is attention. I continue with the day as if nothing has happened. I am not engaging in frivolous conversation with him, but I am still talking to him, and I continue to be happy and content as if nothing is bothering me. I will ask him if he is ready for dinner or questions like that but nothing extra. The goal is for him to feel that I don’t appreciate the behavior and also realize that it’s not going to get the result he expected. His attitude isn’t going to affect my attitude. Once a person realizes that you aren’t going to be affected by their behavior, you will start to see less and less of that behavior from them. …
A lot of the time, we don’t realize we are reinforcing negative behaviors in our relationship by snapping back or giving the behavior the attention the other person is looking for. Sometimes we can accomplish more with silence than we can with words. It takes a lot of maturity to handle things this way, but I promise you, it’s very effective. It’s much easier to snap back and get into an argument, but if you can learn to recognize the behavior as attention seeking and nothing personal against you, it’s easier to have no visible response to it. Of course, different situations that require different approaches; this is just for the small and petty things that can build up and cause bigger arguments when not handled properly. So next time you feel like something is a little off, try ignoring the behavior, and that will help redirect the behavior both in the moment and in the future.
How and When to Use Silence
- Silence is a great way to address attention-seeking behavior.
- Examples of attention-seeking behavior include a bad attitude and snappy responses.
- Don’t respond with the same behavior.
- Recognize the other person’s behavior and ignore it.
- Continue in the same positive way as if nothing the other person has said or done has bothered you.
- When negative behavior isn’t reinforced (given attention), its frequency tends to decrease.
For 18 time-tested truths about how a woman’s influence can shift a relationship for the better, pick up a copy of A WOMAN’S INFLUENCE by Tony A. Gaskins and Sheri Gaskins.
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Excerpted from A Woman’s Influence by Tony A. Gaskins Jr. and Sheri Gaskins. Copyright © 2020 by Soul Writers, LLC. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.
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