by Steve Becker, LCSW
Stonewalling is when someone shuts you down from communicating. He just “bails” on your efforts at communication, refuses to take you seriously; refuses to engage a discussion of your concerns. He may ignore or dismiss you, express fatigue with you (and your concerns); he may listen without offering a thoughtful, respectful response, and then credit himself for having listened.
In any case, his unthoughtful, lazy, dismissive, or flat-out non-response to your feelings and concerns captures the essence of stonewalling and will reflect his pure contempt for which he’ll take no responsibility.
His rebuff will feel cruel and leave you feeling especially helpless. It will also very likely be dripping with some form of passive-aggressive, if not aggressive, contempt.
Now this is stonewalling, and stonewalling is a nasty, hurtful thing to do to someone; it leaves the stonewalled party feeling as negated as a person can feel.
You don’t have to be a sociopath to stonewall. Plenty of non-sociopaths stonewall. But many sociopaths are stonewallers, and the act of stonewalling itself contains the cold, callous attitude of the sociopath.
The stonewaller’s absence of empathy for the stonewalled party, perhaps even the relish the stonewaller takes in messing with the stonewalled party’s head, in watching her twist and squirm and perhaps make humiliating efforts and bids to be heard—there can be something actually sadistic about this.
Stonewallers, whether sociopaths or not, are seriously disturbed communicators. Their indifference to the stonewalled party’s experience, as noted, can be chilling. Their stonewalling often reflects character pathology, in which case they won’t change—they will always be stonewallers.
Stonewallers are destructive people and it’s best to avoid them for your sanity’s and dignity’s sake. I make this strong suggestion where the stonewaller refuses to assume total and genuine responsibility for his stonewalling, which is too often the case.
By Steve Becker, LCSW. Use of the male gender pronoun was strictly for convenience and not to imply that females aren’t capable of the behaviors and attitudes discussed.