When Someone Shuts Down a Conversation

Maybe you’ve experienced being in a conversation and after expressing yourself the other person shuts down the interaction. Or you haven’t even gotten through what you were saying when the other person cuts you off. What do you do when someone shuts down a conversation? And how do you deal with it being the other person’s decision and not yours to end the conversation?

First, think about if you’ve ever done something similar?

Have you ever said, “I don’t want to talk about this right now.” “Can you not bring this up right now?” “I’d really like to talk about something else.” In the moment you expressed this sentiment there was a reason. Maybe it was that you were feeling judged, attacked, criticized or you didn’t want to be a part of what the other person was talking about (gossip), or even that you were physically and mentally exhausted and didn’t have the capacity to have a discussion.

It’s important to take the other person into consideration during these moments, to listen to what it is that they need. Even though it may be challenging, the practice in these moments is to listen. If you choose not to listen to the other person and continue talking, all you’ll do is create more suffering – for you and the other person.

When faced with inattention, focus on what the person is really thinking, needing.

You also want to listen to yourself. Were you speaking in a way that could have provoked this type of reaction? Was there something you did or said and as a result the person is shutting down?

When faced with meanness, be compassionate.

The fact that it’s the other person’s decision to end the conversation can feel frustrating. If you feel irritated you want to remind yourself that both of you are on equal footing – there is a sense of balance within an interaction – no person is more important than the other, and what you are responsible for is the integrity of the conversation itself. As both of you are responsible for the integrity of the conversation that is what each of you is watching out for. The other person may be shutting the conversation down to keep the interaction healthy and you may need to listen and respect this to keep the conversation healthy.

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  • T

    I have this situation with a good friend and mentor of mine. I meet with her and feel inadequate and a nuisance. Therefore when she questions me I just shut down and dont want to talk anymore. Which I know frustrates her and bothers her too. I try not to shut down but I get tired of trying to defend my words and responses. How do we communicate better?

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