Our understanding of violence has long since moved away from the rigidity of the past to include many behaviours that are not based on physical aggression. Insults and verbal attacks in general, for example, are also considered types of violence. In fact, they are among the most common.

That is why it is very important to ask ourselves if we know how to deal with interactions with verbal aggressors , those people who systematically and sometimes almost unconsciously use words in order to harm the sense of dignity of others.

What do verbal abusers look like?

There is no demographic or socio-economic profile of verbal abusers, but there are certain behavioural styles that define them. For example, a low resistance to frustration and impulsiveness , which makes them, among other things, bad at following a line of reasoning in a debate or discussion.

Emotions linked to anger or contempt take the upper hand in the type of discourse they use to explain their point of view, so the only aspect of the content of their message that they care about is that which expresses how little the person to whom they direct their verbal attacks is worth.

They are also relatively incompetent in understanding the arguments of others; if they make them feel bad, they act as if they haven’t heard them. Not because they are unintelligent, but because of their high emotional involvement in discussions, however minimal.Furthermore, they try to make others complicit in the disqualifications, mixing them with humor to ridicule the other.

Verbal abusers are very numerous, as the use of insults and derogatory labels is relatively permitted in many contexts.

Symbolic and emotional disqualifications

Another aspect of verbal aggression is that it has even more indirect and subtle allies. They correspond to symbolic and emotional aggressions, which despite being non-verbal work through a code that transmits ideas and can therefore cause harm or discomfort.

Recognizing cases of non-verbal symbolic disqualifications can be difficult in some cases, as there is more room for interpretation, but in any case it must be clear that it is not something that can be admitted.

Any attack on us that is not physical, but through symbols and words, has an effect on us ; even if you don’t see matter or energy flowing in our direction as it would if we were kicked, that doesn’t mean that the insults and bad words are any less real. Part of assertiveness is to watch over one’s dignity, and if verbal aggressors compromise it, one must confront them… but not in any way.

How to Deactivate a Verbal Abuser

When someone uses a term used to disqualify (either an insult or a word used to minimize our opinion, such as “little” or “infant”) and we understand that it has been an unusual outburst, it is important to give the message that that particular behavior has clear consequences from that very moment.

That is why, instead of worrying about refuting the content and arguments used by the other person, we should call attention to the verbal aggression and not allow the dialogue to continue flowing until the other person acknowledges his mistake and apologizes. No matter how important the other person’s argument seems to be, we must ignore it until we get an apology.

This blocking of the conversation is seen as an incident for which the other party is responsible for breaking the rules of good communication. In this way, he is forced to choose between an option that will make him renounce a good part of his position of fictitious superiority or another in which he shows his inability to maintain a dialogue without incurring in a very basic fault against which the youngest children are educated.

In case of recurrence

When verbal abusers fall again and again into disqualification, we have to make our reaction follow the same rhythm; the dialogue is stopped as many times as necessary to focus all the attention on the verbal aggression.

When apologies do not appear

In the event that the verbal aggressor refuses to acknowledge his mistake and does not apologize, the most effective way is to make him pay for that as well. How? By taking to the end the logic of the communication blockade that we had followed up to that point: by physically leaving that place . This action will be an explicit and visible manifestation by everyone of the failure of the verbal aggressor’s attempts to communicate.

If we remain on site but refuse to talk to that person, the impact of that measure is less, because it goes unnoticed until the moments when we are challenged to say something.

Bibliographic references:

  • Evans, P.(2009). The Verbally Abusive Relationship . Adams Media