Relational Silence That Sabotages or Restores

As a psychologist and a peace-making advocate, I find that there are two important forms of silence that arise in conflict. One is highly dynamic, but the other is highly destructive.

We’ve all been interested in both forms. But for applying the dynamic type, we are not all yet characterized.

Silence of destruction leads to frustration, anger and despair.

Complex silence contributes to regeneration, healing and hope.

The destructive silence is what happens when conflict can not be resolved, and either the conflict is swept under the carpet, or in one or both people it produces passive aggressiveness. This latter form of destructive silence is particularly problematic, as one or both are involved in manipulating the other, and forming a pattern of abuse or toxic relationship is not unusual. While it is understandable and incredibly common to the family experience of so many, the former kind ensures that poorly negotiated conflict negates the opportunity presented by well-negotiated conflict.

If we insist that nothing is resolved, then we insist that at least one person remains frustrated, and that this can never be good, and it is certainly not proof of love.

The insisted-on silence of one person (their control silence) is never an act of love.

Many people need time to reflect and recover, but ideally they reinitiate without thinking that their partner has been abandoned.

Some people, indeed some couples, have no reference frame in the safe way to deal with conflict. Their original families gave them little to work on, and maybe they were either violent or denied when there was hot conflict around the home.

But there must be a commitment to work through conflict if partnerships have any hope-to accept that conflict is an opportunity. Yet dispute can only be an advantage when wise and caring minds follow each other’s submission by keeping the log out of their own hands. And I ask the husband to lead by example as a husband in an egalitarian marriage, advising marriage partners to apply egalitarian principles. I guess I’m doing it because I know that people are already doing things better in some cases. (I admit that’s not always the case.)

If the disruptive silence is angry, one or both of them involved in it doesn’t look like they’re affected by the confrontation, but it can cool down indefinitely for hours, days, weeks. It’s kids in the home who find it in general.

No one has any harmony when nothing is resolved.

A silence that does not resolve conflict tends only to provoke both concerned.

But I want the complex kind of silence to be concentrated on.

The sort of relational silence I want to concentrate on is that beloved moment when one or both of them cease to argue, where they both sit in the awkward silence and think about what might be out of it.

Initiating what both want takes one: silence.

There may be enough faith for those who believe in God, those who believe in the power of the Holy Spirit, to trust that more is not necessarily said better. A time must come when hostilities cease; a time when a soul’s spirit surrenders its strong desire for its own way (the desire that has become a demand). If one is happy to sit in silence, the other is happy, too.

Desires taken too far become demands, and the person judges the other person if demands are not met and then punishes them.

In these moments, a wise couple or good friends or co-workers or parents with their kids may feel the chance to look inward, inquire why their desires have become demands, and also become curious about what the realistic desires of the other person are.

The only hope in conflict that two will have to win is if both win.

If you win, you lose both.

This is, of course, the way negotiators see it.

This dynamic silence variety has God’s power over it. There is a much greater chance that from the safer ground of peace, real settlement and reconciliation will take place.

There is a time for silence, but it should never be armed with silence.

** This report does not include harassment cases. Peacemaking is not applicable in harassment cases.

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