What Is Stonewalling and How to Get Rid of It?

man sitting alone

Stonewalling is a defence mechanism concept that you are probably familiar with. It happens when one of the two arguing people at the peak of their heated arguments suddenly stops and appears not to listen at all. The person stonewalling seems out of it, and they make the other person seem like they are speaking with a stone wall. They do not seem to listen or respond, and they just zone out. 

Stonewalling individuals are not victims of the scenario, but they are not heroes either. Both parties are victims who suffer from such emotional issues. This defence mechanism is often unintentional, and it’s a dyadic nervous system mismatch that naturally occurs when one feels overwhelmed. 

Rather than letting these actions go and allowing the stonewalling to become part of the unhealthy norm, you have to address the issue directly and promptly. 

Here are some of the best practices you can do to deal with this kind of treatment:

  • Be mindful of how you start your conversation. If you want to discuss arguments, it is always better to start it the way you want it to end. Stay calm and focus on the discussion, not on the anger. 
  • When telling them about how you feel, make sure you support it with facts. Your statements should sound like, “I feel that way because this happens,” and not like, “I feel this way because you think or feel they are acting up on purpose.”
  • Always state what you wish to get from the conversation. Make sure that you say it clearly to avoid misunderstandings or further arguments. You may ask for their help in helping you understand each other better. 

If you believe you are the stonewaller, here are some of the simple things you can do:

  • When you start to feel overwhelmed, start observing how you feel. Is there tension building in your body? How are you holding yourself? Keep calm and breathe.
  • If you start to think more about the topic and yet fail to blurt them out for them to hear, that is a sign you are suffering from stonewalling. Do not ignore these signs.
  • Do you feel frustrated? Realize that feeling this emotion is completely normal. Accept that it is part of your response. 
  • Instead of completely stopping, make a gesture to catch the other person’s attention, such as making eye contact, and then say this statement, “I am currently getting overwhelmed. I need a time-out. Can we talk about this in 20 minutes?” That direct response can help the two of you catch your breath and rethink your thoughts and actions. It also helps you communicate that you’re unable to provide adequate responses at this point in time.


Stonewalling is a common scenario at home, between lovers or between friends. Still, not everyone knows that it is an emotional issue that should be dealt with and improved like any other emotional sickness. If you know someone who suffers from one, do not misjudge heavily. Help them get out of their shell by following the tips above or recommending them to good counselling. 

Chettiar Counselling & Association provides the counselling services they might need in Guelph. We can help them overcome their inner difficulties and improve how they handle their external relationships. Call us at 519-766-8292, and we will be more than happy to listen.