The Silent/Unresponsive

By Laura Benjamin

These people limit risk and seek safety by refusing to respond, and are often non-committal despite the fact that something is definitely wrong. They use this form of calculated aggression to avoid facing their fears.

Coping Strategies:

  • Get them to talk by asking open-ended questions beginning with "how" and "what."
  • Apply a friendly, silent stare toward the person and hold it. Don't be tempted to fill the space with words to ease your own discomfort. Comment on the fact you find it interesting they're refusing to communicate, then ask:
  • Are you concerned about my reaction? How do you think I'll react?
  • You look distressed/worried/concerned. Am I misinterpreting?
  • Am I wrong that you're feeling uncomfortable, annoyed, angry, or impatient?
  • Set time limits and be prepared for an "I don't know" response. You may either assume it's genuine or it's a stalling tactic and reply, "It appears our meeting is at an impasse." Return to the friendly, silent stare and wait for a response.
  • If the clam opens up, be attentive, demonstrate active listening, and allow them be vague (it may lead to their main issue). If they don't respond, avoid a polite ending by stating you intend to revisit the issue again. State you assume their lack of response means X to you, and list the actions you will take if effective communication doesn't occur.

Other personality types:

Laura Benjamin is the owner of "Laura Benjamin International," an international speaking, training, coaching and consulting firm specializing in workplace relations and professional development issues. Her programs include, "Got STRESS? Balancing Work & Life," "Call of the Wild…Dealing with Difficult People," and "A Manager's Guide to Developing Your People." Contact her by phone: 719-266-8088, email:, or visit her website at