7 Forms of Verbal Abuse (And How to Handle Them)

7 Forms of Verbal Abuse (And How to Handle Them)
7 Forms of Verbal Abuse (And How to Handle Them)

Interruption is a tool of hostility for someone who is not listening, cutting you off as if your opinion doesn’t matter. This person might attack you because what you’ve only partially said is incorrect – but if you’d been allowed to finish your thought would have been clear. Beware of interrupters as the habit can mask aggression. Your best tool is call them out on it, and insist you be allowed to finish.

7 Forms of Verbal Abuse (And How to Handle Them)
7 Forms of Verbal Abuse (And How to Handle Them)

Public embarrassment
To humiliate or embarrass anyone in front of anyone else is abusive. Those behaviors devalue the other person in public. People who behave this way have little self-control and low self-esteem. If you have to deal with someone who pulls this, take that person aside in the moment and calmly insist it be private, or set up a time for a one-on-one conversation going forward.

One might think that verbal abuse is only with the spoken word. Withholding valuable information from others so as to be the only one “in the know” is in effect a form of abuse. I’m not speaking of person-to-person information that you would only share with a confidante. I’m talking about purposely withholding something that would benefit the other person. That is passive aggressive behavior and not okay.  If you believe you’re dealing with someone abusing you by exclusion, you must evaluate the relationship. With a professional contact, you need to confront the person and ask if you can be included on all significant matters. With a personal relationship you need to have that conversation about honesty and transparency in all matters.

We all make judgments.  Even if we think of ourselves as non-judgmental, there’s always something about which most of us have a comment. But there’s a huge difference between disagreeing with others and judging.  It’s natural to have differences of opinions but the judge operates in a different way. They are quick to tell you that your ideas or thoughts have no value in a demeaning or sarcastic way in order to assert authority.  Don’t listen!  It’s about someone’s need to be right.  Excuse yourself from the situation ASAP!

Most of us have had experiences dealing with a demanding person who insists you drop everything in order to address their needs.  A person like this can create instant anxiety.  The best way to deal with this is to say something. Tell this person, “I’d like to help you and I’ll have time later.” This can, of course, be tricky when dealing with a superior in the workplace but we all teach people how they can treat us by our behavior.  Stand up for yourself.  You’ll gain more respect in the long run.

Unfortunately, certain people thrive by undermining others.  They gather information and then do their best to sabotage another by sharing this information without consent.  They will often not value others’ accomplishments or efforts.  Do your best to identify these types and not share your achievements or personal thoughts with them. Be pleasant but brief.

It’s like the old story of walking into a store in another country and asking, in your native language, directions or information.  If someone doesn’t understand, raising your voice won’t make it any clearer.  Hollering demonstrates a lack of self-control and an inability to control your behavior in the moment.  If confronted by a yeller, don’t engage.  You can say something like, “I see you’re upset, so let’s talk another time.”  The person may continue to rant but remember you don’t have to attend every argument you’re invited to; you can bid a fast farewell and move on.


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