When we stonewall, we make it clear to others that communication is not welcome. We let people know that their behavior or ideas are so unacceptable that we are unwilling to compromise or discuss a resolution.
I was in a planning meeting for a musical event once that got heated – there was no easy answer to an issue. We could use a space that would be just right for the music, but arriving, parking, loading, and finding the rooms would be time-consuming and complicated. Or, there was an alternative venue – a space that would be easy to find, with easy parking, and very little hassle for anyone.
William – the person in charge of the advance communication – was adamant: “If we don’t make it easy for people to get here, they won’t come. We’re doing it at the easy location.”
Others, including myself, tried to speak up and point out that acoustics mattered; that the music was what mattered most to the people attending; and that the event was long enough that the pain of finding it would be forgotten. But each time we tried to cut in, we got William’s hand in our face and, “Don’t wanna hear it. Until you’re in charge of the thing, you don’t know what we have to go through.”
No one got to finish a sentence, so we gave up.
We had a lot of people register for the event, but many left early, and we had to cancel it the next year, because no one was interested in coming again; the venue was horrible, even though it was easy to get to.
Stonewalling can be gratifying to someone who hates conflict, but has a strong personality.
They get to punish the other person while telling themselves their behavior is strong and dignified. As an added bonus, they avoid the untidiness of conflict.
Therefore, stonewalling can become a self-preservation strategy when we feel overwhelmed by a swirl of uncomfortable emotions.
What to do?
Ask yourself, “What emotions am I hiding from when I do this?” Then, consider sharing your feelings, and asking about the feelings of others.
This is the 17th post in an 18-part series discussing what not to do during conflict situations. Effective leaders avoid portraying these 18 behaviors during conflict and address them in others. Follow along as we explore the negative impact of these behaviors, and what to do instead.
Post 1: Leaders Address Arguing During Conflict
Post 2: Leaders Address Belittling During Conflict
Post 3: Leaders Address Caving In During Conflict
Post 4: Leaders Address Being Defensive During Conflict
Post 5: Leaders Address Dismissing Others’ Opinions During Conflict
Post 6: Leaders Address Drama During Conflict
Post 7: Leaders Address Exaggerating During Conflict
Post 8: Leaders Address Exclusion During Conflict
Post 9: Leaders Address Finger-Pointing During Conflict
Post 10: Leaders Address Gossiping During Conflict
Post 11: Leaders Address Hyper-Criticism During Conflict
Post 12: Leaders Address Overpowering During Conflict
Post 13: Leaders Address Passive-Aggressiveness During Conflict
Post 14: Leaders Address Seeking Revenge During Conflict
Post 15: Leaders Address Sarcasm During Conflict
Post 16: Leaders Address Withdrawing During Conflict