How to Deal With the Silent Treatment From a Sibling

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Rivalry, jealousy or differences of opinion when caring for elderly parents may cause tension between siblings. If your sibling's way of dealing with conflict is to punish you with silence, you're likely to be extremely frustrated. Heated arguments, accusations and harsh words aren't a whole lot of fun, but at least they give you some idea where you stand. When you're subjected to the silent treatment, you really don't have a clue what's going on in your sibling's head, making it impossible to resolve the issue.

Take Control

If your sibling isn't talking, you need to be the one to speak up. Both of you saying nothing is likely to make the situation worse. What may have started as a misunderstanding could develop into a major source of conflict if nothing is done to address the problem. Approach your sibling calmly and ask him what's wrong and what you can do to help. Don't assume that you know the reason for his behavior, advises the National Healthy Marriage Resource Center. Smile, make eye contact and keep it friendly. By making the first move, you are showing him you care about his feelings and value your relationship.

Be Patient

Don't expect an immediate response from your initial questioning. If your sibling is really angry, annoyed or upset about something, it may take a bit longer for her to stop the silent treatment. Patience is required in this situation. No matter how frustrated you are that she won't speak to you, don't try to force her to talk. Leave her to it, and try again in a few hours.

Promote Effective Communication

It's possible that your sibling uses silent treatment to deal with many people in his life, not just you. Accept that this is his problem, not yours, and do what you can to help him change this negative pattern. Raise the issue with him when he is talking to you again and seems relatively content and relaxed. Suggest alternative coping methods and talk to him about what good communication involves: sharing your feelings, listening to what the other person has to say, and working together to address any issues in a positive, productive manner. Silent treatment is nothing but an obstacle to effective communication, says psychologist John M. Grohol in the article, "9 Steps to Better Communication Today" for "Psych Central."

Be a Loving Sibling

However your sibling behaves, remember she is family and needs your help. Treat her with love and support, and she will be more likely to feel secure and confident enough to open up to you about what is really bothering her. Let her know that you won't judge her and are willing to help her meet the challenges she is faced with.