I have a friend who holds a Phd — in sulking. No, seriously. Every second day, she makes a face and goes silent. You can clearly tell something’s bothering her. Ask her what’s wrong and she replies, “nothing”. I’m sure we’ve all come across chronic sulks in our lives. Some of us live with one, and those who do, deserve the country’s highest civil honour. I mean, what is with people getting upset and trying to bestow ‘silent torture’ on those around them?
Sulking, as a behavioural phenomenon, is utterly common and strikes people across age groups, gender or geographical boundaries. Some even term it a psychological epidemic as it is a source of immense stress. And mind you, it’s stressful not just for the one who has to endure a sulk. The one who is sullen and has gone into a shell is equally troubled.
On days that my friend is ‘friendly’, I’ve tried to ask her why she behaves like this when upset and her reply, almost always, is that she feels no one understands her. Psychologists back this argument and explain that those who sulk are normally passively resentful by nature. They are either scared or tired of confrontation and use silent means to convey that they are upset, and that no one understands them.
But with all due sympathies to the passive aggressive souls in the world, I, for the life of me, can’t understand what purpose does it serve to say ‘I’m fine’ when you actually are not. And then if you persist in asking them to share what’s bothering them, they will, sooner or later, throw the most annoying sentence in the world your way — ‘if you really cared for me, you would have known what’s upset me’. Oh c’mon, grow up.
So, here are my five calmness tips for those who have to deal with childish, pouty souls who sulk their way through life.
1 Stop asking again and again:If you continue to ask the what’s bothering a sulk, you are likely to get only frustration in return, not an answer. Some people who withdraw into a shell when upset, need time and not nagging, to overcome their negative thoughts .
2 Approach the situation with maturity, and without shedding tears (this is especially for girlfriends or wives of those who sulk), tell the other person that you are aware something’s bothering them. And that it would make things better if they would share the reason with you. If at this, they tell you what’s bothering them, it would solve the problem. But if they continue to insist everything’s fine and their long face is just in your imagination, leave it at that. Period.
3 Once you’ve done this, act normal. Absolutely normal. As if nothing has happened. You have every right to act normal if the other person has clearly told you that there is nothing wrong. But remember, don’t go overboard in your enthusiasm of trying to act all normal. As in, don’t turn all giggly or seem happier than you normally are. An over-attempt at trying to show an ‘indifferent’ facade may just backfire, making it worse.
4 Keep up with the normalcy till your tormentor decides to either open up or come back to their usual behaviour.
5 Finally, when the moment is right and the sulking session is over, ask them what you can do to make sure they don’t feel like withdrawing from you like this again.
As I write this, Neha and Aakriti, two wise and level-headed pillars in my team, are shouting out their advice to deal with friends who torture you by sulking. It’s got three words — ignore, ignore, ignore.
Sonal Kalra, actually, is a big sulk herself. She enjoys the attention when friends pamper her by asking her what’s wrong. She secretly hopes people do one thing with Neha and Aakriti’s advice — ignore.
Mail your calmness tricks at firstname.lastname@example.org