5 Highly Annoying Things That ‘Nice’ People Do

We all have some vicious, horrible people in our lives. But we also have some nice, well-meaning ones that grate even more on our nerves. So, if you’re a ‘nice’ and ‘sweet’ person who is wondering why all your calls go to voicemail and why all you see is a twitching curtain when you ring the doorbell,  perhaps you’re guilty of the sins below.

  1. You open requests with “It would be nice if you could…”

When did “Could you please” or “Just do it the fuck already” go out of fashion? It makes me want to spit when someone says it would be nice/good/great if I did something. It is the most sly and repugnant way to emotionally blackmail someone into doing your bidding. If you say no to such a request, you’re basically admitting to not being ‘nice’, to being a horrible person with no moral compass or human decency. How can you even say no? Sorry, but I don’t think I want to be nice? No thank you, I’m just going to carry on doing the not-nice thing I was doing? A direct request does not put the other person in this position of being nice or not being nice.

People who use “It would be nice…” think they’re being very tactful and open-ended, but really, they’re just being assholes and insulting your intelligence. Slap them down.

Example: “It would be nice if you could get the groceries on the way home.”

Answer: “It would be even nicer if you could.”

This normally causes the nice person to snap back to reality and say, “Just do it the fuck already.”

  1. You hound people to wish others on their birthdays and anniversaries.

Guess what? Facebook is the mega-aunty of the entire freaking world. Facebook’s job is to remind you that it’s your second cousin’s birthday or your ex’s wedding anniversary (screw you, Facebook). People who are not on Facebook are too cool and unconventional to care whether you wish them or not and in any case no one can be bothered to stay in touch with them.

Yet, despite these contemporary realities, some people continue take it upon themselves to call and tell you to greet a relative or family friend on their birthday. If you refuse, they might even try to steal your phone and change their voice to wish that person, who clearly will not be able to survive the day without your greetings. These are people who buy birthday presents and add your name in the gift tag even though you didn’t even remember the damn day.

I once had a relative who called to thank me for a giant bouquet of flowers that I DID NOT EVEN BUY (another relative did, on my behalf). It was disturbing, like a stalker movie in which you don’t mysteriously get flowers but mysteriously give them.

This behaviour is unacceptable because the “nice” person in her own sneaky way is trying to run your relationships for you. For some reason, they are invested in how well you get along with or please someone else, and they feel everything will collapse into a heap of regrets unless they pull the strings.

The point is, if you’re an adult, you’ll remember if something is important to you. If you forget, you will, like an adult, deal with the consequences. Either way, no one but you should try and determine whether your relationships live or die, or if there are some frosty silences at the next family gathering. A relationship built on reminders by a third party is a lie. Choose truth.

  1. You do everything for everyone, and you never complain

Lovely, right? No, manipulative and painful. You may be proud of never complaining, but your eyes always have the look of Jesus on his cross, and your tubercular cough is a persistent reminder of how you’re being taken advantage of. But try and help you and you’re outraged, you won’t allow it for a second, you stop coughing and insist on doing the washing up/childcare/filing. But when the dustpan is handed back to you, the tortured eyes and hack are back in five minutes. Guess what? You’re not helpful, you’re just addicted to being a martyr.

  1. You prefer maintaining a dignified silence to fighting

I’ve already written about this at some length.

  1. Your favourite saying is “to each their own”

Fool. It just shows you are too gutless and desperate to be liked to express an opinion. Now if you really did not have an opinion, it would be OK. It’s just a sign that you don’t think very much and that’s acceptable. However you DO have an opinion and guess what, it leaks. Your pained expressions, hurt sniffs, and sighs of disapproval don’t escape anyone. When you say “to each their own”, what you mean to say is “no better can be expected of these savages.”

 

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I ‘Got Over’ My Miscarriage Easily And It’s Freaking People Out

“It’s happening,” I whispered to my husband, smiling in the dark. It was 1am, our daughter was asleep, and what I was feeling were unmistakably contractions. Not long after, I felt an urge to push, but instead of racing to the hospital, I went and sat on the toilet and let the inevitable happen. I was having a miscarriage, and I felt nothing but relief in that moment.
Later in the day, once the goriest parts were over and I went about my routine as usual, I felt a certain discomfort. Wasn’t I supposed to cry, to grieve, to be miserable for days on end, especially considering this was a much wanted baby that I had just lost? What kind of person was I to be so self-congratulatory about what I boasted to my husband was a “perfect miscarriage” (natural, not much bleeding, a quick cessation of pain)?

I’m not a heartless, emotionless person. The three weeks preceding the miscarriage were hell. I’d had a chemical pregnancy in May 2016 and two months later I was pregnant again. I was so anxious about it sticking; after wiping, every non-bloody piece of tissue was like a talisman as were the pregnancy tests I took every other day. I told my 2.5-year-old daughter that she could expect a sibling, took my vitamins, milked every twinge for sympathy and dismissal from childcare duties. It all went downhill at the reassurance scan I took at 6 weeks. There was just a wonky looking sac that measured behind by about 10 days. Progesterone pills were prescribed, another scan was scheduled. A week in limbo followed. Endless lurking on a website about misdiagnosed miscarriage, tears, hope, feelings of failure — I could barely function. The second scan revealed the presence of a foetus and that the sac had grown, but no heartbeat. Yet another follow-up scan was scheduled. Another week of being a shit parent, obsessive trawling of forums, tears, rage, grief. Misery all around.

 

Is dissolving into tears and sinking into a depression the only acceptable and “real” response to a miscarriage?

 

Then at the final scan, when I was about 9 weeks along, I was told there was no hope. The baby had probably died around 6.3 weeks. And that’s when the gloom started to lift. I was being released from limbo. There was nothing I could do, no amount of “research” on the internet could give me the hope I craved, I could get back to my life. I could stop grieving.
I told my husband we should go “celebrate” at a nearby restaurant, which we did. I tucked into cured meats with gusto and knocked back a few strong coffees. I felt quite cheerful. My spirits were further uplifted that very evening, when the bleeding started. No D&C, no misoprostol! This may have been a rubbish pregnancy but at least I could have a good miscarriage. My luck had not run out completely.

Once the fetus was out (I told my husband it felt like chunky vaginal diarrhoea while I was “evacuating” it, and he went grey in the face), I had no desire to look at it, to assign it a gender, to name it, to think of it as a potential person. I told myself all the clichés you’re not supposed to say to women going through miscarriage, and they helped me cope: it was just a ball of cells, everything happens for a reason, it was not meant to be, it was all for the best, at least it wasn’t ectopic/molar/late in the pregnancy, at least I had another child, I could try again. Every at least made me feel better because it reminded me that other people were worse off than me. I was still charmed dammit.

I did not take the day off at work and decided to go the doctor for the all-clear once the bleeding had subsided completely — I was not in much physical discomfort, I didn’t want manufactured sympathy or clinical prodding and the practice I go to plays Kenny G’s more plaintive saxophone renditions on loop, which I find unbearable.

Most people who knew what had happened made it a point to commend me on my “strength” but they were also a little appalled. I sometimes make jokes about it and that freaks people out too (I was quite proud of a little limerick I came up with: “My oven threw out my bun, so maybe now we are one and done.” Well, at least it rhymes). Some people think I’m faking it. Others say I’m not allowing myself to grieve. My husband actually told me to at least behave a little less clinical and cheerful about the whole thing because it makes me appear as if I am dissociated from reality.

But am I? Is dissolving into tears and sinking into a depression the only acceptable and “real” response to a miscarriage?

There’s almost a taboo around being able to “get over it.” It somehow makes you this insensitive, unfeeling person. Not woman enough.

There are so many articles about there being no one way to grieve or cope. I completely agree with that and feel great sympathy and empathy for everyone struggling in the aftermath of a miscarriage. I felt all of those emotions myself in the weeks before I physically lost the baby. But it should swing both ways. There’s almost a taboo around being able to “get over it.” It somehow makes you this insensitive, unfeeling person. Not woman enough. On occasion I found myself pretending to be sadder than I was because it was expected of me. That sucks. It’s not that I don’t regret what happened. Of course I do. I wanted that baby. But once I lost it, moving forward was the only way for me and I was grateful I was able to do it this time. It was a blessing to me that I could find that resilience, because that doesn’t always come easily to me. I definitely feel worried about ever being able to carry another pregnancy to term and sometimes I don’t want to even try again because the whole process causes so much anxiety.

But for now I am happy to have an empty womb.

A sloth’s guide to the fourth trimester

Find time for your interests, take the time to dress up, to exercise and eat healthy. Enjoy a date with your husband. Nap when the baby naps. Read inspirational books. Everywhere I looked I was confronted with this exhausting advice for already exhausted new moms. It’s not that I didn’t try out these things. I did. Each one. And they only made me feel worse during the baby’s first three months – the dreaded ‘fourth trimester’. That is when I accepted I’d have to do things differently and leave worthier goals for later. My only principle for lazy moms like me: be twice as lazy. Here is how extreme slothfulness helped me survive the first few months:

  1. Give fashion the finger: I spend most of my days in a nightgown. It was a decision I took when my pre-pregnancy jeans refused to go up my thighs and my maternity ones added an extra pooch to my belly. The nightgowns are comfy and airy, make me feel smaller and are ideal for nursing. I did not want to think about the shape of my body – only its function. I don’t bother with maternity bras at home – the lacy ones are the worst – and leave my teats hanging free for my little calf. Funbags are now feeding bags and that’s all they need to do. Does anyone tie pink ribbons around Daisy’s udders? Answer: no.
  2. Live while the baby sleeps: Are there really mothers out there who hit the sack the minute baby does through the day?  For one I don’t fancy being wrenched in and out of consciousness all day and two, I want there to be a little more fun to life than sleeping and babycare. I like to take my time to have a nice bath, watch a TV show and stuff my face in peace. My baby goes to bed at 11pm and I go to bed at 3am and it’s my favourite time of day.
  3. Make your husband PAY: I’ve decided to stay home for at least a year for the baby, but I do demand a monthly salary from my husband. My uterus was the soil for his seed, and my breasts her food and water. I have also gained a significant amount of weight and have lost a significant amount of brain function.  His weight is the same, he can work uninterrupted and his body is not fair game for a milk leech. His money, therefore, must feed my need for chocolates and trashy novels. The upside is that these keep me tranquilized enough to deal with being a full-time mother –  a hunger for achievement and enough energy and confidence for outdoor/social activities could ruin this gig.
  4. Stop hoping: I stuffed my size 10 jeans into the back of my closet and tucked away my half-written manuscript. The sight of them just depressed me more. For the first three months at least, my only real purpose in life was to feed and be fed.
  5. Watch TV: I watch back to back episodes of a fourth-rate true crime how while nursing. It’s dramatic, it’s predictable and I don’t have to use my atrophied brain. Am I turning my baby’s brain to mush by exposing her to this tawdry show? Probably not because she is too young to actually ‘consume’ this junk. I will mend my ways when she is older but this is how I cope with the numbing boredom of sitting on a chair all day. There’s only so much one can gaze lovingly into baby’s eyes. In any case, she is like the pervs who line Delhi’s streets and has eyes only for my chest.
  6. Get part-time help: I’d say full-time, but I personally can’t bear to have another human being hovering around me all day and being judgy about my dirty nightgown. Instead, I have a nice carer come in for a few hours every afternoon and baby gets her fill of energetic games and singing. I still have to spend at least eight waking hours with baby but there’s not so much pressure to be creative and lively. Plus it’s good for the kid to have a break from her boring mother too.
  7. Go easy on the cleaning: For scientific reasons, of course. See point 2 of this post.
  8. Screw dieting: I tried going low-carb but baby didn’t like it and I didn’t like it. Cookies make me happy and I am nursing. Enough explanation. 

Advice my daughter should ignore

Some monsters hide under beds and some lurk in closets. Others loiter near the playground, their fingers sticky with candy and nervous sweat. Then there are those that sit in the comfortable armchair near the window, wondering with gentle exasperation where the little woman disappeared with their afternoon tea.

As an Indian woman I am considered lucky because I got to have an education, didn’t have to give dowry and never feared that my daughter might be despatched along with the day’s trash. After all, what are rights for many women in the Western world are privileges for their South Asian sisters. This lucky and charmed life has spoiled me, some would say.

It is true that I have evolved parents, a wonderful husband and very modern in-laws. But despite my protected life, I have observed in friends and extended family how the insidious poison of patriarchy seeps into everything from domestic communication patterns to gendered ideals of behaviour. You don’t have to have third degree burns from dowry torture to feel angered by it.

Like me, no daughter of mine shall be dandled on the lap of the demonic force known as patriarchy. It has recruited uncountable foot soldiers and hand maidens through the generations not just by brute force but through the transmission of ‘values’ and platitudinous advice that are as lethal as they seem bland.

Here are some classics (might add more later) that I want my daughter to beware of:

1)      Be selfless: In other words, eat leftover scraps, abandon your own interests and priorities, become an unpaid servant at worst and a beloved pet at best. Selflessness is greatly valued in wives and daughters-in-law because it allows men and others further up the hierarchy to be selfish. In so many Indian households, you see the men enjoy festivals and other events while the women scurry about waiting on them, their pain a badge of honour.  I have noticed that many Indian men love the joint family system. Why is that? Because they have to do none of the work. Status quoists express great pain over the takeover of Western values, often introduced by rebellious daughters in law. The old days were so great, these men say. All of us were smiling and laughing and lived together happily. Nonsense. The women were voiceless slaves and you enjoyed their service. If India had such a great culture it wouldn’t still be ranked 101 in the 2013 global gender gap index. It’s still better than Pakistan or Yemen, right? The payoff for the selfless woman is that she gets to play martyr and at a later date perpetuate the cycle by using her list of sacrifices to get others to do her bidding. The whole charade creates an atmosphere of oppression and repression. If you are indeed without a ‘self’ then what about self-respect? Self esteem? Autonomy? It is important to teach values such as kindness and consideration but selflessness belongs in the dustbin.

 

2)      Obey your elders: Age and experience may count for something, but you are not necessarily wiser if you are older. You may have experienced a great many more situations and picked up a big bag of tricks but your values could be completely retrograde. In the traditional Indian family system, it is considered almost sacrilegious to question the patriarch and, to a lesser extent, the matriarch. If they told you drink gallons of ghee for better lubrication during childbirth, you did it, never mind how obese it made you. If they told you you were polluted when you had your period, you segregated yourself, perhaps thinking of it as a break – after all, you certainly didn’t warrant one if you simply wanted it. I will certainly expect my child to follow my house rules and learn certain values from me but I will never try to stop her from questioning me. I need to be accountable too – the things I ask her to do or not to do have to make logical sense. It is logical for me to stop her from sticking her finger in an electrical socket but it is not logical for me to throw a hissy fit if she wants to cut her hair short. She must conduct herself in a respectful and polite way to EVERYONE, but this does not amount to deference or blind obedience.

 

3)      Silence is golden: To which I counter, tell the truth and shame the devil. Using silence to conceal problems or punish others makes issues worse, perpetuates injustices and kills any chance of a meaningful, honest relationship. Indian women should be seen, not heard is a common expectation. Rendered voiceless, many victims often learn to employ their enforced silence as a weapon and make a bad situation even worse. My daughter must always speak her mind or at least not fear doing so. See this post.

 

4)      Always adjust: This is one of the sneakier ones. There is nothing wrong with being adaptable and accommodating. But ‘adjusting’ in Indian society is usually a one-way street. I will tell my daughter to be very wary if her in-laws tell her to ‘adjust’ to their way of life. It is simply a euphemism for obedience. She has to make it very clear that they will have to adjust to her as well. If she is not comfortable doing something, she should not to it and not have to face censure for it. Coercers know how distressing social rejection, pained sighs and huffy facial expressions are and you can have your arm twisted without even knowing it. Watch out and stand your ground.  Mutual respect is possible only with proper boundaries and with an acknowledgment and acceptance of differences. It goes both ways and with open communication it is sometimes even possible to find a middle ground. Live and let live is a far better cliché.

 

5. It’s up to you to keep your family together: We’ve all seen the sugary facebook forwards about how a woman gives all of herself to being a daughter, wife, mother. There’s always something in there about how no one notices the tears in her eyes or how everyone kicks her in the spleen while she’s having chemotherapy etc etc. This kind of advice tells women that they are defined by their relationships. The job description for a wife includes playing people pleaser, peacekeeper and punching bag. Just so that everyone can sit in strained, murder-plotting silence around a dinner table. My contention is that not every family is best served by staying together. Divorce is an example of eroded family values in the West, right? Then tolerating domestic violence and abuse is the Indian way. My second point is that everyone in the family needs to work on relationships. It is not the woman’s prerogative.

Go out there my daughter, and be a selfish ‘bitch’! You’ll be happier for it.

 

 

5 Reasons to be a lazy housewife

It’s been about six months since I was paid to work. The last four have been a whirl of poopy diapers, endless nursing and crash courses in Incy Wincy Spider and Patty Cake. So, is the sacrifice of a job and social llife worth it? Desperate to convince myself that indeed it is, I compiled this list in one of my anonymous Twitter accounts. Now, since I have someone to watch the infant for a few hours, I shall expound on the advantages of being a lazy housewife and stay-at-home mother.

 

  1. Cleaning shit is better than eating it: Success at work is often contingent on how eagerly one can lap up the boss’s frothy diarrhoea straight from the source. Office politics stink way more than any number of dirty diapers. I feel my life is cleaner now than it has ever been before.

 

  1. Housework is bad for your baby: Domestic drudgery is no longer necessary. All the latest studies say that a spotless home can keep your baby from developing a robust immune system. And if you have a dirty dog, you’ll be doing your child an even greater favour.

 

  1. Dirty laundry means dirty laundry: And there are unholy piles of it, nothing metaphorical about it – but all you need is a washing machine, not a PR campaign or social media clean-up operation. No one can drag your name through the mud, partly because you aren’t really meeting anybody to do nefarious things with. And since you’re no longer part of professional power struggles, no one cares enough to gossip or dig up incriminating things about you.

 

  1. Spreadsheet isn’t a single word: It’s two words on my calendar, done every Tuesday. Could never quite figure out those fucking Excel sheets. Spreading out the 100% Egyptian ones is so much easier.

 

  1. Baby talk means more than small talk: A heartfelt goo-goo sometimes makes more sense than the meaningless noise that small talk often is. This really hit home a few weeks ago when someone asked me how my father was. I paused – at that point of time he was grappling with an interesting dilemma and I was wondering if I should mention it. I started to, but seeing my hesitation, my guest stopped me, ‘Oh don’t bother, I am just making conversation.’ Now, in a way this was nice. She gave me an out and I appreciate it. But at the same time I felt a rush of irritation – what is the point of ‘conversation’ if it is purely dramaturgical in nature? Small talk is a way of filling in silence and a polite way to make listening unnecessary. It is a fundamentally dishonest mode of interaction. When a baby coos and gurgles, he or she is communicating love and a sense of connection. There is nothing false about it. My baby never talks about the weather. Yet, anyway.

 

What not to say to a woman in labour

Four months ago, I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. And I am still surprised that she isn’t hiding in my uterus because of the unspeakable, scary things that were said to her mother during labour.

Oh, this pain is just 20 percent of what you’ll be feeling a few hours later’ 

Why, thank you doctor for that uplifting assurance, given while I was practically rolling about the floor in agony. I don’t know why some practitioners seem to relish freaking out patients in pain – another woman I know was even told that ‘if this pain is Kanyakumari, just you wait till you get to Kashmir’. Guess what? Such statements are NOT helpful. I was fairly stoic up to the point that I met this doctor, but I completely broke down after her cheery reminder. Instead of getting through each moment, I started seeing labour as this huge mountain of pain that I wasn’t even halfway through.  She also did not take my reported pain seriously, which meant that I went through several hours alone in my room rather than in the labour area where there were tools that could have helped me cope. In the end I was taken to the delivery room when I was almost fully dilated. I should have used her face as a stress-busting ball.

‘You do not need an epidural’ 

NOT your call to make, doctor. There is no excuse for disrespecting the reasonable desires of a patient. In the end I had to kick up a huge fuss and was given pain relief only when I was 7cm dilated and it was removed (against my wishes) when I was at 10cm. The anaesthesiologist was quite annoyed when she was sticking in the needle because my hard and fast contractions kept interrupting the process. But wait, she was a bitch too. See my next point.

‘Wow, you really piled on the kilos’

OK, I admit it. There was no need for me to have used my pregnancy to have inhaled huge slabs of steak (for the iron, of course) or those tall, icy chocolate milkshakes (for the calcium of course), but the delivery table was not the place to chastise me for my lack of discipline. The anaesthesiologist kept whining about how my back fat was making it more difficult for her to give me the epidural and wasn’t it a shame that pregnant women used their condition as an excuse to overeat. It wasn’t enough that I was bare assed and in excruciating pain. I had to feel shame over my body too, which despite the unsightly flab was actually doing something pretty cool – giving birth! I finally snapped and told the doctor ‘If I apologize for eating too much, will you do your job?’ Luckily, she did, but though my physical pain eased I was left with an uncomfortable and unnecessary feeling of embarrassment.

‘Do potty! Do potty!’ 

I am a modest sort of person when it comes to my body. Changing rooms are like torture chambers to me and when I am in a stranger’s house, I leave water running when I take a piss. One of my top fears in the run-up to giving birth was pooping on the delivery table. I know it isn’t rational to worry about such things when a little human being is shooting out of your uterus and tearing its way out of your vagina, but that’s me. It was one indignity I didn’t want to go through. One of the nurses, unfortunately, did not know this, so when the time came to push, her advice was to ‘push like when you go potty’. I froze immediately and told her that I’d rather let the baby calcify inside me than do potty. She just chuckled, pretty much climbed on top of me and screamed even harder, ‘push push push. Potty karo potty karo. Do potty do potty’. At that moment I gave up and the poor baby had to be suctioned out with a vacuum! Advice: LISTEN to what a patient is telling you.

Silent but deadly

I’ve been thinking about the silent treatment recently, having just been on its receiving end. Wallowing is boring so I thought I’d think about it with a little more detachment.

Some background: I lost my temper not so long ago. One moment my anger was a hard little knot in my stomach and the next there were entrails and shit and blood spattering everything in sight. The issue itself was not very major, but it was a matter of principle. I felt sidelined by some relatives and, deeply hurt, lashed out in a way that I am not proud of. Words were shrieked over both ends of the phone. My cat cowered under the sofa and my baby, as a side benefit, was stunned into silence.

We didn’t intend to make you feel this way, they screamed. But you DID make me feel bad, I yelled back. You did you did you did. You were secretive, you excluded us, you who always insisted on acting as one big happy family.  No no no, they said. You wouldn’t have been able to participate anyway, so we didn’t tell you. You are disingenuous, I spat, hypocritical. And then the phone went dead.

Well, the said event was a family vacation. Truth be told,  I have a small baby and going on a whirlwind international tour was hardly possible. Still, I was enraged that my small family was not even told about this plan. I was constantly in touch with this trip’s organisers but they didn’t breathe a word of this to me until their tickets were in their hands. To add insult to injury, one of them rued in an email that it was too bad I couldn’t join. I hadn’t even been asked! Did they think I might spoil their plans if I was told? Show up uninvited to blemish their holiday photographs with my postpartum lard? Did they not know me at all? Their behaviour breached a familial code of conduct. The secrecy seemed deliberate and I could not understand why.  They were nice people, I thought we were genuinely fond of each other, our relationship was generally smooth, so why this and why now? These were people who expected and were given frequent updates on our lives and emphasised how important it was to be a close family. I breached a code too. Instead of staying quiet, I unleashed my hurt in a less than ideal way.

So, should I have stayed quiet? Silence is golden, isn’t it? I beg to differ. In relationships, if silence is golden then dog shit should be selling for $1000 an ounce. After the fight, my husband and I both sent out emails explaining our feelings to our relatives. I even apologised for the discussion becoming too heated. The hope was that we could resolve our differences and come to a better understanding. After all, hadn’t they also professed their deep and abiding love for us and our child? If a relationship is worthwhile to all concerned then open and honest dialogue can solve most problems. Communication is key, we all know. Psychology 101.

Instead, we got the silent treatment. That’s power play 101 for you. They replied to none of our honest, heartfelt missives . We do not know their position, we do not know their reaction to our position, and now there doesn’t seem to be any way of bridging the gap.  A problem that could have been solved with apologies and an open dialogue from both sides will now forever fester like the aforementioned dog shit. Yelling at people is immature and aggressive, but silence is even more so. It is fine to take some time out to cool down, but this is distinct from ignoring an argument altogether. Here is why using the ‘silent treatment’  as a way to avoid or react to conflicts is so futile and indeed, toxic:

 

1)      It halts communication: Without honest communication, relationships may as well not exist. Sometimes, communication means dealing with conflicts. Relationships do not always play out according to a script in which everyone sticks to their roles. We might as well sit around the family table with talking dolls for company. Yes, sometimes silence can help keep appearances up, but it takes its toll.  Silence can be the death of a wife who never raises a voice of protest against an abusive husband. In less extreme situations, it can result in living a lie just because the truth is uncomfortable. We all know the scenario: parents and children, husbands and wives who are virtual strangers to each other even if they are living under the same roof. It creates a culture of secrecy and resentment. Sometimes, you need to fight to make things right.

2)      It is a damaging display of power: In giving someone the ‘silent treatment’ you are asserting power by taking complete control of a discussion. You shut people out, with the implicit message that they are not worth your while. By abandoning an issue that is important, you abandon the people who have the issue. You take away their power vis-à-vis their relationship with you. You put them in their place – and that place is always going to be very far away from you. Silence destroys relationships. This paper on the use of Silence in Discourse describes the result beautifully: This form of power is detrimental, as it not only is a form of ignoring a specific issue that possibly needs to be further discussed, but it is also a form of disempowerment to the other individuals of such conversations. The use of silence as an impediment of conversation or dispute weakens the quality of interaction, as well as the relationship between the disputers, which as a whole is a form of destruction.” 

3)      Silence is a form of emotional abuse: The silent treatment messes with your brain, seriously. Most people who dole it out don’t exactly rub their hands and say ‘let’s scramble  xyz’s anterior cingulate cortex today’, but what they do know is the power of disengagement to seriously hurt those close to them.  This neuroimaging study, among others, explains how ‘the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) was more active during exclusion than during inclusion and correlated positively with self-reported distress. ‘ This disruption actually causes pain to people. It’s that crushed feeling you get when you’re not invited to a friend’s birthday party or when your lover no longer takes your calls. Some people understand this very well and are adept at using silence as a tool of low-grade torture.

4)      Giving the silent treatment gives you a forked tongue and horns: Seriously, when you’re the one doling out the silent treatment, your targets aren’t thinking of you as the silently suffering martyr. If they don’t think you’re just indifferent, they think you’re the devil. By presenting a blank canvas, you’re inviting people to paint you in the most unflattering light. After all, you’re not making yourself present to paint a clearer picture of the actual situation. Your intentions will not matter. Even though giving the silent treatment is an act of passive aggression and egotism, your behaviour may also be the result of a serious feeling of hurt as well as a fear of overt conflict. But unless you say so, no one will ever know. You will forever be misunderstood and will forever misunderstand those you once held dear. Ask yourself: Is it worth it? Rejection begets rejection.

5)      Sage advice: The next question, of course, is, how should one deal with the silent treatment? The obvious first step of course is to initiate a conversation but if multiple attempts do not lead anywhere, you need to withdraw too. Silence does not truly indicate detachment or indifference. It is a tool that is designed to get a response out of you, be it guilt, grovelling or something in between. It is also usually a game of chicken. Don’t give in if your own convictions are at stake. If you are a people-pleaser like me, this can be hard, but it is worth the effort. And if there is no end to the silence?  Use the enforced meditative space to evaluate your relationship and the motivations of the people in it. What if the silence ends but the original issue is not discussed? Not acceptable: conflict has a purpose and it can result in the growth of understanding. By understanding, I do not mean ‘agreement’ – I mean an authentic insight into and acceptance of another person. Pretending something didn’t happen is futile because the seeds of conflict are still there.  No feedback? Just paint on the forked tongue and red demon eyes and get on with your life as happily as you can.