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Talking to a brick wall

Updated on October 16, 2012

We've all been there...

There are just some people who won't listen to reason. They argue point after point without listening to anything anyone else has to say. They get an idea in their mind that their way of thinking is the only way because it is right beyond contestation.

You could show them graphs, charts, video evidence, or any number of other methods of proof and it still won't make a dent! These people get stuck in their single track mind, refusing to budge, all the while insisting that you're the one who needs to "understand better". Which really means, see it their way.

This type of person can get stuck on any number of issues such as:

  • Politics
  • Religion
  • How to raise children
  • Proper cleaning methods
  • Driving
  • What to wear or what not to wear

The list is as endless as there are topics. Brick walls can be frustrating, nerve wracking, and downright annoying.

For the remainder of this article they will be referred to as BW (brick walls)

Is it possible to get through?

Most of the time we end up just admitting defeat and walking away. There's no point in beating your head on a topic that just isn't sinking into a BW. They are going to believe what they want, no matter how much fact or evidence you place in front of them. That's part of what makes them so dangerous. They are stubborn to a fault. In any argument they will "win" (in their opinion) through default, when the other side gives up trying.

You can't stand there all day raising your blood pressure talking to the BW either. Clearly they aren't budging, so what's the point?

Here are a few ways to get around a BW:

Method 1: Deflate

To deflate a situation rather than inflame or instigate is sometimes the best choice depending on the circumstances. If you're at work, when time is limited, if you would rather avoid confrontation, or if you just aren't in "the mood" for this particular battle at the time.

BW's like to start conversations about heated topics. They like to use strong words which show their passion or perceived authority right away. This is your que to avoid the topic altogether. Great ways to get off that topic include statements such as:

  • Yeah, that's great. I'm pretty busy right now, so I don't really have time to talk. Maybe we can touch on this another time.
  • I hear what you're saying and it sounds interesting, unfortunately I'm pressed for time. I can't talk about that right now, sorry.
  • You know, I'd rather not discuss this right now.
  • Well, you seem to have your mind made up already, so there's really no point in carrying on this conversation any longer. Have a great day.

Method 2: Ignore

Sometimes a BW just wants to make some noise to feel powerful, in control, and heard. When they ask provoking questions or try to pull you into a heated debate, another effective technique is to simply ignore them.

This method is fantastic for texting conversations and/or online communications; IM's, forums, chatroom, etc. You can simply skip over it like you never saw what they typed in the first place. Either that or say you had to step away from your computer and didn't see what they typed, now that you're back your mind is on a completely different topic and you'd rather not back-step.

When in person or on the phone, you can still use this method. Simply "don't hear" the person until they change the subject. If it's a reaction they are after and you're clearly not giving them one; they will move on to a topic that will get them attention instead.

Method 3: Kill them with kindness

As difficult as this can be sometimes, it can have some amazing results. Remember that a BW is often times just seeking attention, reaction, power, or control over a situation. They want to feel right. They want to feel victorious in knowing that they got their way. So how can you do that without truly giving in to what they want?

Deflect success to another area!

Molly, your co-worker has been debating for the last 30 minutes with the person next to you about how wrong it is that the president has a dog. In her mind no pets should ever be allowed to pee on the white house lawn or get hair all over the inside of the white house. She is clearly not backing down, though she is doing a great job at working up Bill, your other poor co-worker. Now Molly turns to you... Crud!

Simply change the subject to something where Molly can be right, where she can be the "star", or where she can feel powerful. Think, you know her (a little), what's something you could use?

Respond: "You know, I don't think that's really a work related topic, but can I just say that you are rocking that outfit! You look so professional. I mean, look at you. Your hair is pulled up and back, there isn't a single wrinkle on your slacks, those shoes look comfortable yet stylish. How do you do it?"

Well, now, how can Molly possibly keep hold on her "debate" after a praising such as that? She is going to be distracted and redirected into talking about fashion or work dress policy, either way, no more talk about banning pets from the white house. Mission accomplished!

Are you a BW too?

When all of that just doesn't seem like enough, stop and ask yourself "Am I being a brick wall?"

Why is this person's views or opinions bothering you so much? Is it because they aren't the same as yours? Do you feel that you must find a way to convince the other person to "see the light"?

If you're being a BW just as much as the one you're upset with (only on the opposite side), it might be time to rethink what's really bothering you. Maybe it isn't that the other person is so pig-headed and stubborn that they won't listen to reason. Maybe it's because you're trying to change their mind, just like they are trying to change yours.

Healthy debates can be productive and beneficial. Two brick walls trying to duke it out, not so much. Take a step back and evaluate the situation. Figure out what's really causing you distress over the person, the topic, or the situation. If you're certain that you aren't being a pot calling the kettle black, the methods above will be of great use to you.


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    • Mom Kat profile image

      Mom Kat 5 years ago from USA

      Fantastic approach Lipnancy! Love it, thanks for sharing.

    • Lipnancy profile image

      Nancy Yager 5 years ago from Hamburg, New York

      This is how I now handle brick walls, Mom Kat.... Ask the person one simple question, "Can you change it?" And they will obviously say no. Then reply.... "Then just let it go." Obviously this goes for those of our colleagues who just start conversations for attention. Then you lead the conversation into something more positive and appropriate.

    • Mom Kat profile image

      Mom Kat 5 years ago from USA

      @justateacher ~ yip, been there (well in a relationship, not married) Sometimes you just have to cut the ties... Thank you for your awesome comment!

      @SandCastles ~ you're right, sometimes we can become BWs ourselves, sometimes without realizing it. The trick is to see the warning signs & stop yourself :)

      Ending a heated debate abruptly does tend to upset the BW, right again... all we can do in that case is know that we're making the correct choice in walking away from the situation & let that person work his/her own issues out on their own. Thanks for stopping by & commenting!

    • profile image

      SandCastles 5 years ago

      I will definitely be taking your advice. I can be a brick wall too sometimes. Sometimes we turn into brick walls when we are arguing with other brick walls. You get this locking of horns. I love the advice, especially about deflating the situation when someone brings up a loaded topic. I've noticed that once you've been hooked into debating and want to call it quits the BW will accuse you of being a quitter, like you've got nothing better to do than debate them for hours on end.

    • justateacher profile image

      LaDena Campbell 5 years ago from Somewhere Over The Rainbow - Near Oz...

      I have dealt with my share of brick walls...I divorced one! You present some well thought responses. Usually I will change the subject or walk away if that's an option