We’ve talked a lot about gaslighting on this site; today, let’s talk about stonewalling – another communication tactic many of us have a problem with when other people use it. Stonewalling is not exclusive to narcissists; it is often present wherever there are communication problems.
What is Stonewalling?
First, let’s define stonewalling. Stonewalling is a situation where someone refuses to engage in dialogue, answer your questions, or address a problem – nothing at all! While stonewalling is often just a coping mechanism some people use in difficult situations, it can have a very negative effect on relationships, and that is precisely why you want to address it immediately.
How is Stonewalling Different from Avoidance and Withdrawal?
Stonewalling is different from avoidance and disengagement. Avoidance is when an individual avoids a person or situation altogether, while disengagement is when an individual withdraws from a conversation that is already taking place. Stonewalling specifically refers to a situation where an individual refuses to communicate, even when someone attempts to initiate a conversation.
The Emotional Effects of Stonewalling
Stonewalling doesn’t feel very good on the receiving end. When someone stonewalls you, it doesn’t take long to realize that it has many consequences:
- You might stop trusting the other person.
- You might feel angry and frustrated.
- You may be wondering what they have to hide.
- You may be wondering why they don’t want to resolve issues.
- You may begin to feel disconnected emotionally.
- You may begin to feel like the other person doesn’t care.
- Your entire communication may break down.
- You may begin to feel alone.
It’s important to address stonewalling and resolve any original issues in order to have a healthy and satisfying relationship.
Why Do People Stonewall?
Now let’s look at the reasons why someone may want to stonewall you. There are many different reasons – not all of them are intentionally malicious, although some are. Here are some of them:
1. Stonewalling can result from a learned behavior that an individual learned by observing others in the past. In this case, they may be using it as a way to avoid conflict.
2. Stonewalling may be used by individuals who have difficulty processing their emotions. They resort to stonewalling because they feel overwhelmed with emotions and don’t know how to deal with them.
3. Stonewalling could be a coping mechanism an individual uses in difficult situations when they aren’t sure how to respond. This allows them to win some extra time, step back, think about it, and regain control.
4. Stonewalling can be another tool narcissists use to abuse and control their victims.
How to Respond to Stonewalling
Stonewalling can be a shocking tactic. If you are on the receiving end of stonewalling, you may not know how to deal with it and how to react. Consider the following strategies:
1. Tell the other person why it’s important to you to resolve the issue. Explain to them how stonewalling makes you feel. Even if they aren’t reacting, they can still hear you.
2. Unless there is a reason to believe that they are using stonewalling for malicious purposes, assume that they may be overwhelmed or just trying to win some time to think about the issue.
3. Be patient, and don’t get discouraged by their silence. You still need to say everything that has to be said, and the rest is up to them.
4. Make sure to stay calm and avoid accusations. Express your feelings in a non-confrontational way. Try to suggest potential solutions. Show your resolve to improve things.
5. Finally, practice self-care. It’s important to take breaks from the situation to take care of your physical and emotional needs. Eat well, make sure to get enough sleep, exercise, and try your best to do other things besides just worrying about the problem. It can be very helpful to process your emotions by journaling or, if possible, to work through your feelings with a therapist.
Stonewalling is sometimes used by narcissists as a form of manipulation and abuse. It is also a way to avoid taking responsibility for their actions or, sometimes, simply to exert power and control over their victims.
If you are being stonewalled by a narcissist, it can be difficult to know how to respond. A lot depends on the situation and whether there is a possibility that your reply will trigger something even worse.
The general advice above still applies; however, if you are dealing with narcissistic stonewalling, it is particularly important to work with a therapist or counselor who has experience in dealing with narcissists.
Try your best not to let the narcissist’s behavior get under your skin. Take breaks. Take care of yourself. Talk to trusted friends and family members. Journal. Seek professional support. Keep safe.
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