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What is the difference between stonewalling and gaslighting?


Gottman


Communication is the foundation of healthy relationships, whether it be with a partner, friend, family member, or colleague. However, there are certain behaviors that can hinder effective communication and lead to conflict. Stonewalling and gaslighting are two such behaviors that can cause significant harm to relationships. While they may seem similar on the surface, they are distinct in their own ways.


Stonewalling is a behavior in which one person actively avoids or refuses to engage in a conversation. This can involve shutting down emotionally, giving the silent treatment, or withdrawing from the interaction altogether. The stonewaller may use this tactic as a way to avoid conflict or as a form of passive aggression. It can leave the other person feeling unheard, frustrated, and dismissed.


Gaslighting, on the other hand, is a form of manipulation in which one person tries to distort the other person’s reality. The gaslighter may deny or minimize the other person’s feelings, experiences, or perceptions, making them doubt their own sanity. This can lead to confusion, self-doubt, and a sense of powerlessness in the victim.


While stonewalling and gaslighting are both harmful behaviors that can damage relationships, they differ in their intent and impact. Stonewalling is more about avoidance and disengagement, while gaslighting is about control and manipulation. Stonewalling can be a defense mechanism or a way to cope with overwhelming emotions, while gaslighting is a deliberate and calculated tactic to distort reality and maintain power.


In terms of impact, stonewalling can create distance and emotional walls between people, making it difficult to resolve conflicts and address issues. Gaslighting, on the other hand, can cause deep emotional wounds and erode the victim’s sense of self-worth and reality. It can lead to feelings of confusion, helplessness, and isolation.


It is important to recognize the signs of stonewalling and gaslighting in order to address them and protect yourself from harm. If you feel like you are being stonewalled, it is important to communicate your feelings and needs clearly and assertively. If you suspect that you are being gaslighted, it is important to trust your instincts and seek support from trusted friends, family members, or a therapist.


In conclusion, while stonewalling and gaslighting are both destructive behaviors that can damage relationships, they are distinct in their intent and impact. By understanding the differences between the two and learning to recognize the signs, you can take steps to protect yourself and foster healthier communication in your relationships.



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