If you’re getting in a conflict and you’re experiencing the other person to shut down, not respond anymore or you get the rolling eyes, chances are you’re dealing with a stonewaller. Stonewalling completely stops the flow of information and with that blocks all possibilities of a constructive outcome of the conflict.

John Gottmann did years of research into failing marriages, and he titled stonewalling as the final one of the Four Apocalyptic Horses. It is a really destructive (anti)communication style (the bad thing is that I do this sometimes. Really bad stuff, I’m trying to fix that).

How can you effectively deal with a stonewaller?

  • Definitely don’t shout, make threats or focus on the stonewalling (WHY DON’T YOU SAY SOMETHING).
  • Initiate a time out to allow your emotions to settle and regain new energy to approach the conflict from a fresh angle.
  • Try to see the conflict from the perspective of the stonewaller: what is he or she trying to protect? What is he or she afraid of?
  • Explain how the situation feels for you. It’s not (just) about the person that is shutting down, his or her behavior is affecting you as well.