Stonewalling vs Gaslighting

Stonewalling vs Gaslighting


Dating, relationships, and even friendships have become really difficult to navigate in this modern day of technology. People seem to have more trouble maintaining good relationships than any generation. However, there is an advantage of fast-paced technology and social media for young adults. In contrast to early generations, people are more aware of toxic behaviors and non-negotiables in a relationship of any kind. More and more people are being able to stand up for themselves and create an independent life.

Related: Understanding The Psychology Of Love In Modern Dating

“Gaslighting ” and “Stonewalling” are the two terms that seem to pop up a lot in conversations about dating and relationships these days. Let us deconstruct both the terms and see what they mean and how they differ in detail. Stone walling is a communication behavior where the individual completely shuts down during a conversation and showcases minimal or no response when the conversation is initiated. Gaslighting is a type of psychological and emotional abuse where a person causes their friend, family, or partner to question their perception, reality, and or sanity.

The difference between gaslighting and stonewalling:

These two terms might seem the same and a bit confusing. Gaslighting involves actively manipulating someone’s perception of reality and undermining their confidence, while stonewalling involves withdrawing from communication and refusing to engage in conflict resolution or emotional expression. Gaslighting can be more harmful and it is even considered emotional abuse. While stonewalling can be unintentional, gaslighting is often thought and deliberate behavior. Let us deconstruct and understand each topic in detail.


Communication is the most crucial ingredient of a relationship, whether a friendship or a romantic one. It is the foundation of trust between people. Communicating in the right way is essential for navigating conflicts and arguments. These are natural in any relationship and must be handled in a healthy manner. Unhealthy ways to cope with these uncomfortable situations can hurt both the people in a relationship. As navigating these relationships is becoming more complex in today’s world, understanding toxic behaviors can make the process less hurtful.

Related: Let’s sort it out: Importance of Healthy communication in relationships

“I don’t wanna talk about this”, and “I have nothing to say” These are the two common sentences you hear when the person in front of you is not willing to engage in a conversation with you. If this occurs frequently, we can characterize the behavior as stonewalling. Hence stone walling is a communication behavior where the individual completely shuts down during a conversation and showcases minimal or no response when the conversation is initiated. The individual actively withdraws from communication, both verbally and nonverbally.

Stonewalling behavior can manifest in both unintentional and intentional ways, each with distinct characteristics and underlying motivations.

Overwhelm: Many times the individual might shut down unknowingly or get into a fight or flight mode as a response to a stressful situation. They may temporarily shut down at the moment by certain emotions and situations. They may experience processing their emotions.

  • Less Awareness: Sometimes the individual may not know that he is engaging in stonewalling. They may lack self and emotional awareness and might not understand the consequences of their behavior.
  • Trauma: Some individuals who might have experienced trauma might have been conditioned to resort to this behavior since then to protect themselves from uncomfortable emotions, confrontation, or perceived threats. Individuals may consciously choose to shut down communication as a means of survival.
  • Lack of Responsibility: In some situations, stonewalling might occur as the individual does not want to take any responsibility for his or her actions and might have a tendency to avoid guilt by not engaging in difficult conversations.
  • Manipulative Behavior: Some people might use stonewalling as a manipulative tactic to feel a sense of control or power over their friends or partners. By withholding communication or emotional engagement, individuals may seek to manipulate the situation or manipulate others’ emotions. This can even lead to emotional neglect.


People who get gaslighted may not initially recognize that this is abuse and they are left feeling confused, anxious, stressed, etc. The effect of gaslighting is so detrimental that it impacts the victim way after the incident and they may start to question their sense of worth and identity.
Gaslighting can happen in any relationship and isn’t limited to romantic relations only.

Related: Gaslighting: A Hidden Emotional Abuse in a Need for Attention

When a person is gaslighted they will start to second guess themselves, question their memories, events that happened, beliefs and perceptions, etc, After having a conversation with a gaslighter the person might feel overwhelmed, and drained out and they may start to wonder if something is wrong with them. They may be compelled to believe that everything is their fault and that they are being too sensitive.

This may leave the person confused and it can deteriorate the mental health of that person over time. Due to this, there is a risk that they might develop a dependency on the gaslighter. This can lead to confusion. It can also result in loss of confidence, self-esteem, and uncertainty about one’s mental stability. A frequent outcome of this situation is developing a reliance on the perpetrator.

Gaslighting can be overt, thus making it hard to recognize if you are being gaslighted, here are some signs that will help you recognize if a person is gaslighting you:

  1. They do not accept the things that they previously did or said, sometimes a person might genuinely forget but gaslighters deny complete responsibility and they consistently follow this pattern and make you question your memory.
  2. They often lie and make you confused about the reality.
  3. They often bend the truth play a victim and blame you even when it is their fault.
  4. They invalidate your feelings and emotions when you get upset over something that they did, and they keep blaming you for being oversensitive.
  5. They constantly criticize and belittle you, and when you confront them about this and try to set a boundary they say things like” It was just a joke”, Why can’t you take things lightly”?
  6. You might find yourself getting more dependent on them because they isolate you from your friends and family.
  7. They use manipulation as a way to feel superior and gain control over the relationship.

If you identify with any of these signs of gaslighting, you must seek professional help right away. Gaslighting can take a significant toll on your self-esteem and overall mental health if it is not addressed at the right time. You can reach out to close friends and a professional counselor who can help you with this process.

References +
  • gaslighting. (2024). In Merriam-Webster Dictionary.
  • Gordon, S. (2023, November 21). Is someone gaslighting you? Learn the warning signs. Verywell Mind.

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