The Best Strategies Against Verbal Abuse

Whether the ambush comes from someone plagued with jealousy, a social anxiety disorder, or an inferiority complex, you owe it to yourself to neutralize—and not internalize—the verbal attack. Here are a few strategies that are sure to stop that verbal bully in his tracks.

Strategy 1: Emotional Balance Strategy

When facing off with someone who is verbally abusive, it is important to center your emotions and your confidence. A predator is always searching for prey, and if you expose yourself as having low self-esteem, the verbal abuser will be tempted to attack that weakness. Take a moment to fortify your mental gates by boosting your self-confidence; if you are able to focus on your strengths and the respect and love you have for yourself, the verbal attacks will fail to breech those iron mental defenses thus preventing serious emotional injury.

Strategy 2: The Listener Controls the Interaction

Keep in mind that the person tossing out the barbs is only doing so to get a reaction out of you or other people around you. Remembering this when the verbal assault begins will keep you feeling confident in having the upper hand and impervious to those verbal slings and arrows. They need you to react in order to feed their attack, so why give them what they want by reacting out fear, anger or weakness?

Strategy 3: Nip the Comments in the Bud

One way to neutralize the situation is to call them out on their boorishness. A calm and confidently delivered phrase, such as “that’s really rude and you need to back off,” shows them you are willing to stand up for yourself. It also displays your unwillingness to play the role of their verbal punching bag.

Strategy 4: Change the Direction

Another technique in verbal defense is to change the direction of the attack, which throws your opponent off-balance. They will expect a fight-or-flight-type response after a verbal barb, not a skillful navigator who grabs those conversational reigns right out of their hands. For example, if someone attacks you about a mistake you may have made in the past, a confident person might say, “look how well things turned out for me though.”

Strategy 5: Be the Better Person

Not engaging in a verbal attack is the best method if you are able to disengage your emotions from their opinion. There is no better defense than not caring what the other person thinks or says. If you don’t play the victim, and don’t sink to their level, they will likely feel a sense of shame in front of their peers or coworkers. Lastly, in these situations, it will always serve you well to remember the wise old phrase, “All cruelty springs from weakness.”

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7 thoughts on “The Best Strategies Against Verbal Abuse

  1. Dee

    I am in a verbally, emotionally and financially abusive relationship now. I live in the moments I am not home, work is a refuge for me and I think my relationship affects everything. My work, my career growth, it causes me to feel low.

    I am seeking for a way out.

    All your comments were helpful, Doug’s was the most helpful as he lived what I am living.



  2. Doug

    It took me about 20 years to find out I was in a verbally abusive relationship. After my divorce, it took me 2 years of trauma therapy to get over it.

    The best advice I could give is:

    Be able to recognize it. (Name calling, trivializing your feelings, saying things to intentionally heart you and withholding.)

    Stay calm. The abuser wants you to go crazy with anger and frustration.

    You are not alone. I know I did feel this way. If they are doing it to you they are or have done to other people.

    Tell them that their communication is rude and unacceptable and to not do it again. This really tosses them out of the ring because they now know that you are aware of the abuse and that it will no longer work. Also be prepared for more acting out when you inform them. It will get worse and can make them panic when they see you have let the air out of their behavior. When they know you have identified it and will not consider it acceptable they will most likely act out.

    Warning: Do not do this if they are drunk or in a black out. This could result in a physical confrontation. Just wait till they are sober. Many law enforcement offers know how dangerous it is to confront a drunk. Unfortunately they do not have this option when arresting an intoxicated person.

    Get therapy from a psychologists, counselor or social worker.

    Standing up to this was one of the hardest things I had to do emotionally. You probably love the person too.

    Also remember that people who inflict this type of damage on you have serious social and esteem need problems that they have not solved yet and probably hate themselves. Remember this is not your fault. It is just a human emotional condition.
    I still love my X but had to say good bye and I hope that she can forgive me and get help for the unfulfilled social and esteem desires that she has not resolved.

    I hope this helps.

  3. Powerless

    I think it easier said than done … When your husband drinks and says mean things and puts you down I really don’t think you can do any of those steps cuz he’s not caring what your saying it just he’s way and that’s it and you have no choose but to listen til he comes down or get tired and then I’ll leave the situation !

  4. Carole Sidell

    My closest and dearest friend has attacked me verbally on several occasions. It’s very difficult for me to deal with afterwards, I am sensitive and she says she can’t remember ever having her feelings hurt. This might be part of the reason she does what she does. As she attacks I just listen and then eventually when I get my chance I tell her how I feel. We try and talk it out, but the damage has been done and it’s something that I don’t forget. I know we will always be friends, but my armor has some chinks in it.

    Your article and K’s response helped me know that I am doing a pretty good job with handling her attacks. The next day she has remorse and calls and tries to explain where she was coming from and that helps me .

  5. Gina Rose ext.9500Gina Rose ext.9500

    Unless it truly is a matter where you need to defend ( verbally ) yourself….or someone else…..better to always walk away.

    This is what I learned thru the Martial Arts years ago……better to walk away from verbal assaults… not let them push your buttons.

  6. kroo

    Great article! I have always told my children (now adults) when they have encountered verbal attacks, it is easy for all of us to attack someones weaknesses, especially those we love and love us, but why would we? Everyone has had a weakness or two in their past so what do we gain by making them aware of it, nothing. It will take a lifetime to take back that one comment that took 45 seconds to throw at someone. Its best to ‘rise above’ the attacker, not lower ourselves to their level, and this article has pinned that tail on the donkey and given some great constructive ways to counter attack, so to speak. Being strong in spirit, will take care of the ‘low blows’ we have all encountered along our path.
    Thank you, I always love reading about valuable life lessons here on and confirming what I preach!
    peace and love to all


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