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Healthy Communication: Break through the “Wall” Part Four

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Healthy Communication: Part Four

Here it is, the final entry of this four part blog series on healthy communication!   In parts one, two, and three we explored criticism, contempt, and defensiveness respectively.  What have you noticed in your relationships? Are any of these styles of communication more prevalent than others?  What areas can you continue to improve towards healthy communication?  Acknowledging and naming these ineffective styles of communication is the first step, so kudos to your bravery.  In part four we will explore stonewalling. 

Stonewalling occurs when one person shuts down emotionally and withdraws from the conversation. This is not healthy communication.

This type of communication (or lack of healthy communication) is an avoidance of conflict.  Instead of having an interaction it becomes one person “imploding” and one “exploding”.  According to Gottman, stonewalling can become a typical response when the first three horsemen become so overwhelming that shutting down seems like an “understandable out”.

It may look and feel like your partner does not care.  You may experience a feeling of emotional overwhelm.  This is not healthy communication.

In fact, it is probably not the case of one partner not caring, but that shutting down seems to be the only way to self soothe in times of high conflict.

Other examples of stonewalling include:
  • Physically leaving a conflict
  • Distracting by doing other things to “look busy”
  • Engaging in obsessive behaviors
  • Tuning out
  • The silent treatment

The best remedy for stonewalling is healthy communication about your or your partners’ overwhelm. When you notice you or your partner becoming flooded, stop the conversation and agree to come back together when you both feel calmer.  Gottman recommends “physiological self-soothing” for at least 20-minutes during this time.  Engage in self-care by doing something that soothes you. Exercise, reading, or listening to music are great ideas. It is important to avoid negative self-talk and catastrophizing thoughts.  Reunite with your partner when you both feel calmer. This promotes a healthier space to work through conflict and practice healthy communication.

As this blog series comes to completion, I want to thank you for reading, being committed to your relationships, and commend your courage. You have most likely begun to identify and have started working on healthy communication.

For more resources, I recommend all of Dr. Gottman’s books on relationships.  Here’s one to add the your list of resources: https://www.amazon.com/Relationship-Cure-Strengthening-Marriage-Friendships/dp/0609809539/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1495645509&sr=8-2&keywords=gottman

Happy healthy communication and stay tuned for what’s up next!

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