Stonewalling is a technique used by people to deliberately delay having to respond or cooperate with others. A stonewaller stalls or refuses to discuss his or her motivations or to listen to another’s point of view.
People may want or need an answer: “My parents invited us for Thanksgiving, should we go?”, “I’d like to get that home entertainment center,” “I received a great job offer in Stonewall City, will you be willing to move?” Discussions are an essential part of a relationship.
Occasionally, stonewalling within reason can be a way of taking the time needed to contemplate a difficult situation. However, if stonewalling becomes common place when a difficult question arises, problems will compound and relationships will disintegrate into isolation and resentment.
If you tend to stonewall, it’s essential that you respond in some way right away even if it is just to buy yourself time. At least suggest a specific day when you’ll discuss the question or problem. Nothing is more important in a relationship than the ability to openly discuss differences of opinion or preferences.
If you are dealing with a stonewaller, ask for specific detail and a time-frame. To ease communication, you can say, “I’d like to know what you’d prefer to do or what the pros and cons are for you regarding this decision.”
A stonewaller is often afraid of conflict or is uncomfortable expressing his or her feelings and preferences. So, it’s important to be compassionate and avoid being reactive when he or she does communicate.
by Alison Poulsen, PhD