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Emotional And Verbal Abuse Isn't Always LOUD: Subtle Verbal Abuse Is Just As Damaging

Most of us are good at identifying the “in your face verbal abuse” in our lives. There’s no mistaking outright insults, yelling, swearing and other obvious forms of verbal abuse, but it’s much harder to identify the “death by a thousand insect bites” kind of verbal abuse.

In some ways subtle verbal abuse is actually more damaging than> more obvious forms of it. Why? Because subtle verbal abuse is> something you may experience every day, perhaps dozens of times a day. It works its damage beneath the surface affecting the way you think and feel about yourself and about the people using subtle abuse techniques, sometimes even unintentionally.

Purpose of Identifying Subtle Verbal Abuse

The first step in dealing with any kind of verbal abuse is to recognize its existence. You can’t make decisions about what to do about it unless a) you understand that it is occurring, and b) you are able to identify specific behaviors on the part of other people that are abusive in nature. Also once you are able to identify the specifics of verbal abuse, it’s possible to work with the other person to improve the relationship by dealing with specific relationship behaviors that need to be changed.

What You Need To Know

It is exceedingly important that you understand some vital aspects of subtle verbal abuse. Make sure you read and understand the following before continuing.

Something is verbally abusive if it demeans, or sends a message:

  • That the recipient is “less than” what they should be AND is unsolicited.
  • Verbal abuse serves the needs of the sender, and ignores the needs of the recipient.
  • Subtle verbally abusive speech doesn’t necessarily mean the individual is consciously trying to hurt you. Some people habitually speak using subtle verbal abuse. They may do so because they are tired, upset, angry and don’t know how to phrase things in constructive ways.
  • All of us use subtle verbal abuse on occasion. That doesn’t make it acceptable, but it’s important not to over-react.
  • Subtle verbal abuse is about hidden manipulation, where your feelings and behaviors are negatively and indirectly influenced. The words used are not themselves abusive, but the message that lies below the surface is.
  • Subtle abuse is also used to obscure, or hide the issue under discussion, or create one or more of the following:
  1. Confusion
  2. Embarrassment
  3. Intimidation
  4. Anxiety
  • Other strong negative emotions
  • Generally subtle verbal abuse is used to put you off balance so the other person (or you if it’s you using them) can get his or her way or negatively affect how you feel.

Seventeen Subtle Verbal Attack And Abuse Patterns

We've identified seventeen patterns of verbal abuse, and summarized them in our mini-guide, Identifying Subtle Abuse In Your Life. It's available for a nominal charge to download here.

Symptoms of Emotional Abuse By NA - Designed primarily for women, this articles helps women identify signs of their partner's emotional abuse, describes the insidious nature of emotional abuse and its effects, describes the cycle of abuse and the characteristics of an abuser and the adverse effects on the woman (Added: 15-Nov-2002 Hits: 2191 )

Tell Me More About Control - Why do abusers & victims both appear abusive? By Dr. Irene - One of the most difficult concepts for the abusive and the abused is "control." The difficulty is compounded because "control" has two opposing meanings: "Controlling" vs. "self-control." (Added: 15-Nov-2002 Hits: 810 )

Controlling Behaviors - An Awareness List for Abuser and Victim By Dr. Irene - Abuse is always about CONTROL. Whether it is verbal abuse, emotional abuse, or physical abuse, IT IS ABOUT CONTROLLING YOUR PARTNER, subtly or openly. Check yourself out with these controlling behaviors or words: (Added: 15-Nov-2002 Hits: 1271 )

Guidelines: Who is The Abuser, Who is the Victim? By Dr. Irene - While some cases are "classic" and clear-cut, sometimes it is very difficult to make the distinction between who is the angry controller and who is the codependent victim. Appearances may be deceiving... (Added: 15-Nov-2002 Hits: 965 )

Prev 12 Articles On This Topic

Pages Updated On: 21-Sep-2015 - 10:22:34



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He holds a Masters Degree in Applied Psychology, and has taught clinical and counselling psychology at the college level.

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