What to say instead of staying silent

Many of us use the silent treatment to avoid conflict, unintentionally creating more as we don’t realise how painful it can be to be ignored and feel dismissed.


That feeling of being ignored or not knowing what to say can be gut-wrenching and soul-crushing. Often, when we choose to remain silent, this is born out of a desire to not say the wrong thing or to hide our anger and frustration in the hopes that we won't say something we may live to regret. Sometimes, we’re simply so upset that we just can’t get the words out in that moment and so we choose to stay quiet instead.

However, this can cease communication and lead to a lot of guesswork in the relationship, causing the other person to wonder what they’ve done wrong which, before long can cause more anger, frustration and upset.

Sound familiar?

How to communicate more effectively in your relationship

It's a really good idea to explain to one another what your needs and wants are. Communication can be quite simple, but we often overcomplicate it by being too worried to say what we want and need.

If space is something you need, just letting your partner know this can go a long way because as much as they probably wish they could sometimes, they can’t read your mind, so we have to let people know what we’re thinking.

Try explaining to them that you don’t feel able to have a helpful conversation right now but that you do want to try later on when you are both in a calmer frame of mind. Letting them know that you want to rather than being met with a wall of silence can make a big difference, it lets them know that you care enough to calm down and come back to the conversation and find a way forward.

It's ok to take some time before responding to a message, we all have the right to process our emotions and figure out what's going on for us. However, it's important to communicate with our partners and let them know that we need some time to do so, rather than not responding at all. This can prevent unnecessary fear and frustration.

Some responses you can give instead of the silent treatment: 

  • I just need a minute.
  • I’m going to take some time before we come back to this conversation, but I would like us to talk about it soon if that’s ok with you.
  • I’m hurt/angry [insert emotion of choice] by what we’ve spoken about here and I need some time to process how I’m feeling before I respond, but I will come back and discuss this with you.
  • I’m not sure how I feel about this, and I need some time to think, can we talk tomorrow?

Silent treatment in a relationship is often a result of a lack of communication. If we take the time to understand why we are not communicating, we can work towards building a healthier and happier relationship where remaining silent is not the only solution.

If you can relate to anything I’ve shared and would like some support, you can contact me to work together.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Birmingham, West Midlands, B43
Written by Jodie McCormack, Integrative Counsellor MBACP
Birmingham, West Midlands, B43

Jodie McCormack is an integrative counsellor, she works with adults helping them to build happier and healthier relationships with themselves and the people in their lives. She's keen to encourage people to improve their boundaries, self-esteem and communication so they can live a life they can be comfortable with.

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