Just like gaslighting and playing victim, stonewalling is one of the tools used by narcissists to try and manipulate their target psychologically.
Specifically, by building a wall and refusing to communicate, narcissists “punish” the other person and assert power.
In today’s article we’ll have a look at why people with narcissistic traits tend to stonewall, as well as how you should respond if it ever happens to you.
Without further ado…
Narcissist stonewalling: meaning
To stonewall someone means to refuse to engage in any type of meaningful communication with them.
The person who stonewalls you may give you the silent treatment, avoid eye contact, or only give brief, vague answers.
It’s as if they literally built a wall between you and them, making real communication close to impossible.
When narcissists stonewall you, they do exactly that — they build a wall and refuse to talk to you.
Stonewalling could be done deliberately, as a passive-aggressive method, or could simply be an inability or unwillingness to confront an issue.
However, narcissists are master manipulators, which means they almost always know what they are doing.
If a narcissist stonewalls you, they are almost certainly targeting you, and they are looking for ways to take advantage of you or use you.
Why narcissists stonewall
1. To punish the other person
This is a very common reason. We see it with stonewalling in general, but especially with narcissistic behavior.
Because we naturally expect a healthy level of communication from those close to us, being “stonewalled” hurts us.
The narcissist knows that, and may use stonewalling as a way to punish the other person, for example if they don’t meet their standards.
2. To avoid responsibility
The average narcissist is too concerned about their own image and their own sense of self-importance for any type of responsibility.
So when issues arise (usually issues they themselves created), they will automatically refuse to do anything about it and blame the other person.
With stonewalling, they don’t give the other person a chance to confront them or ever talk to them, thus avoiding responsibility.
3. To show power
Ever taken for granted someone’s affection? It may have been a good thing — healthy relationships aren’t supposed to be emotional rollercoasters.
With narcissistic relationships, however, this won’t happen — after the initial phase, the narcissist will do anything they can to assert power over you.
And to remind you that they are your source of validation and happiness, and that can be removed at any time because it’s conditional.
4. To make you vulnerable
Speaking of which — how would you feel if someone’s affection was a constant on-and-off and your sense of worth depended on that?
Typically, victims of narcissistic abuse haven’t yet learned to love themselves, which means they are more vulnerable.
Narcissists use that vulnerability to first get you hooked (with e.g. love bombing) then establish power over you, for example with stonewalling.
5. To make you feel guilty
Lastly, narcissists may stonewall you to gaslight you — in other words, create a story as to why you have done something bad to them.
Guilt is a secondary emotion that’s almost always unnecessary, but the narcissist knows it can seriously mess with the victim’s mental health.
Stonewalling can easily lead to feelings of guilt (regardless of what happened) which in turn create even more vulnerability.
Narcissist stonewalling and ghosting
Gaslighting, guilt tripping, love bombing, breadcrumbing, playing victim… narcissists use many tactics and are unfortunately very good at them.
Two tactics that are relatively similar are stonewalling and ghosting, and the narcissist may decide to use both.
They may, for example…
- Initially refuse to communicate with you, then disappear
- Alternate stonewalling and ghosting in unpredictable patterns
- Stonewall you, having previously ghosted you then come back
Their goal is always the same — assert power and make you vulnerable, hoping that you’ll eventually give in.
Ghosting is, in a way, the more extreme version of stonewalling, where the narcissist, like a ghost, will suddenly end all contact with no previous warning.
This can leave their victim with feelings of confusion, sadness, anger, and of course guilt.
Dealing with the stonewalling narcissist
Each situation is different and you may want to decide how to respond depending on the history of the relationship or even just your own gut feelings.
However, be consciously aware of this: the narcissist stonewalls you to trigger a specific reaction — a certain behavior but most importantly certain emotions such as guilt.
Therefore, it’s vital that you…
- Keep calm and maintain inner balance
- Know it’s never your fault
- Avoid impulsive, automatic reaction
- Allow yourself to take time and think
- Challenge the negative thoughts in your mind
Stonewalling or ghosting are never the solution to a relationship issue, and as mentioned, the issue was probably created by the narcissist in the first place.
You may decide to simply take time, or let the narcissist know you won’t accept their behavior, or interpret their stonewalling as a clear red flag…
But the key is always emotional stability. Strong, negative emotions lead to impulsive reactions, and that’s probably the type of reaction the narcissist wants.
How to stonewall a narcissist
If you want to stonewall them, then you should generally expect one of the following reactions:
- The narcissist may play victim and/or beg you (a relatively common reaction whenever they feel their plan isn’t working)
- They may gaslight you (say your behavior is unreasonable and unjustified regardless of the truth)
- The may realize they no longer have control over you and perhaps use stonewalling themselves or say goodbye
Keep in mind, though: you won’t beat them at their game. And even if you did, it wouldn’t be worth it.
Using tactics with manipulative people isn’t usually the best strategy because they’ll sense that and, again, find ways to win the game.
If you believe you are dealing with a narcissist, my advice would be to be straightforward with them.
That is, if you want/have to be with them. If not, find ways to detach emotionally, or take a break, or walk away.
The number one priority is always your mental wellbeing — don’t waste it on people who have no respect for it.