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Stonewalling is a refusal to communicate or cooperate. Such behaviour occurs in situations such as marriage guidance counseling, diplomatic negotiations, politics and legal cases.[1] Body language may indicate and reinforce this by avoiding contact and engagement with the other party.[2] The use of deflection in a conversation in order to render a conversation to be pointless and insignificant. Tactics in stonewalling include giving sparse, vague responses, refusing to answer questions, or responding to questions with additional questions. In most cases, stonewalling is used to create a delay compared to putting the conversation off forever.[3]


In politics, stonewalling is used to refuse to answer or comment on certain questions about policy and issues, especially if the committee in question is under investigation. Stonewalling in politics and in the world of business can sometimes create a critical advantage. William Safire wrote that stonewalling was originally used in Australian cricket, but its use during president Richard Nixon's Watergate affair brought it into usage in American politics as a "refusal to comment".[4] Stonewalling can also be seen as filibustering[5]or delaying or stalling the passage of bills until they become outdated or changed when engaging in parliamentary procedures. Stonewalling is neither seen as good or bad - simply a strategy. Stonewalling in politics is the key selection of information a person is willing to give or withhold in order to protect one's image.[6]


When one or both members of a couple refuse to communicate, this can mark the final step in the breakdown of their relationship. John Gottman characterised this stage as the fourth horseman of the Apocalypse in his cascade model of divorce prediction.[7] In his studies, "stonewalling" was overwhelmingly done by men, with women overwhelmingly conducting "criticism".[8] In his studies, men's physiology reached a state of arousal prior to them "stonewalling", while the female partner showed a physiological reaction of increased heart rate after her partner had "stonewalled".[8] As stonewalling perpetuates in a relationship and becomes a continuous cycle or the negative effects of stonewalling outweigh the positive effects, is when stonewalling becomes the greatest predictor of divorce in a marriage. When one or both partners in a relationship stonewall their ability to hear each other or listen to each other's disagreement, concern side or argument the person it reduces their ability to engage and help solve the situation. When stonewalling occurs it has both a physiological and psychological effect on the person who is stonewalling. Physiologically the person who is stonewalling can shut completely down used as a self soothing mechanism[9]and while the person may be aware or unaware that this is taking place because of an increase in adrenaline due to an increase in stress, where the person can either engage or flee the situation. Because stonewalling is a physiological reaction the stonewalling can be thought of as a fight or flight response,[10] Psychologically stonewalling is a defense mechanism in order for one to preserve one's self and emotions. [11] Other signs of stonewalling are silence, mumbling monotone utterances, changing the subject and physically removing yourself from the situation.[12] Stonewalling is often detrimental to relationships because there is no resolution of conflict, and often there is no chance for resolution of conflict because the person who is the stonewaller will not engage with their partner.[13]


Witnesses may refuse to cooperate with a counsel by not volunteering information and refusing to testify. Prosecutors may try to break their united front by offering incentives such as immunity from prosecution.[14]Another tactic of stonewalling is providing the jurors with misleading information or purposefully withholding certain pieces of information that can be self incriminating. When witnesses practice the stonewalling practice they are usually in an agreement with other witnesses to do the same in order for the tactic to be effective.[15]

See also


  1. Webber, Elizabeth; Feinsilber, Mike (1999). Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of Allusions. Merriam-Webster. pp. 519–. ISBN 9780877796282. Retrieved 10 December 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Laura K. Guerrero, Kory Floyd (2006), "Withdrawal/Lack of Involvement", Nonverbal Communication in Close Relationships, Routledge, p. 211 et seq., ISBN 9780805843972<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Safire, William (2008). Safire's Political Dictionary. Oxford University Press. pp. 706–. ISBN 9780195343342. Retrieved 10 December 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Filibuster
  7. John Mordechai Gottman (1994), What Predicts Divorce?, Routledge, p. 210 et seq., ISBN 9780805814026<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. 8.0 8.1 Gottman, John M. (1999). The Marriage Clinic: A Scientifically Based Marital Therapy. W. W. Norton & Company. pp. 46–. ISBN 9780393702828. Retrieved 10 December 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. Fight-or-flight response
  14. Howard W. Goldstein (1998), "Stonewalling", Grand Jury Practice, Law Journal Press, pp. 12-4 to 12-6, ISBN 9781588520838<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>