Stonewalling or flooding* is defined by withdrawing from the relationship as a way to avoid conflict. It is a way to self protect and prevents you from being able to take in the information that the speaker is trying to tell you. You may think you are trying to be “neutral” but stonewalling conveys disapproval, icy distance, separation, disconnection, and/or smugness. While flooding involves feeling like your drowning in emotions. You may stonewall in order not to feel flooded. Unfortunately, both behaviors result in an emotional withdrawal from interaction and you as the listener are not able to give the speaker the usual nonverbal signals that you are tracking the speaker. Flooding or stonewalling may appear as stony silence, monosyllabic mutterings, changing the subject, removing yourself physically , or becoming emotionally dys-regulated. When you feel you have disconnected from the person speaking it is an important time for you to stop the conversation, check your heart rate, and self-soothe until you can become grounded in the present moment once again.
*Adapted from the work of John & Julie Gottman, PhDs.