Verbal Abuse Scale From 4 to 7

Part II of the Verbal Abuse Scale 4 – “What you accused me of is dumb.” This is much worse than #1 because it is an overt statement, not implicit, but explicit that the person you’re speaking to is dumb. Don’t use pejorative language on your loved ones! Although you did not say the person is dumb, her thinking process had to be dumb. That’s a put-down. 5 – “You don’t know what you’re talking about” This statement is incredibly rude. It is not merely name-calling. It also goes beyond the “you” statement of #3 for the following reason: “You always do [this or that]” is a behavior, but to not know what you’re talking about says something bad about your mind, your knowledge, and your Self! It is a more global sort of put-down. Now, let’s go one more. 6 – “You don’t know what you’re talking about” (regarding person’s field) Suppose a person is a stock broker and a client says the above statement to him in reference to stock-picking. Can you see how that would be really insulting? In fact, even without the level of harsh language, just the concept alone draws blood. For that reason, the following would also be included in #6: “No, you’re wrong.” Remember who is speaking to whom. It’s not any husband and wife talking to each other; it’s a person out of the field disagreeing with someone inside the field. This line of discussion is a no-go. A better approach would be, “I really don’t understand your field so well, but from my own experience, I don’t see it the...

Verbal Abuse Scale From 1-3 (Out of 10)

There was a humorous article in the newspaper about how a person manages to secure table reservations at restaurants when the hostess has been telling other people that there will be nothing available for three weeks. The gentleman in question says, “I want a reservation, please, for two people, tomorrow at 8.” (WSJ, 12/7/2011, Gardner). The speaker pointed out that normally you would say, “I would like.” His version, “I want,” is more forceful, maybe even rude, so he then tempers it with the “please.” This got me thinking about how helpful it would be if we could have a rudeness scale from 1 to 10 with each succeeding number on the scale representing a more and more aggressive statement culminating in full-scale verbal abuse. The above sentence would be, say, a 2 because the “I want” is rude regardless of the “please” but the whole thing could be a lot worse. This post would be really long so I divided it up into three parts. This is Part 1. Here goes: 1 – “Do you think I’m stupid?” It’s not overtly rude. However, you are accusing someone of thinking that you are stupid. Since “stupid” is one of those inflammatory words, it’s a bit aggressive. A more toned-down approach could be, “It sounds as if you don’t have much faith in my judgment.” 2 – see the restaurant reservations story above 3 – “You always put your foot in your mouth. Why do you embarrass me like that?” While the speaker might be embarrassed, she is nevertheless unjustified in being aggressive in return. “You” is rude. It’s critical...

Verbal Abuse or Being Polite: It’s the Extra Words

I was delighted: more feedback! I love opening emails from people or seeing blog comments; I like that sense of conversation. When people post, I know I’m not talking to myself. Imagine my surprise in reading a comment that I shouldn’t have said in a recent newsletter, “Let me know your thoughts.” Instead, I ought to have said, “Please.” And he or she was right. After all, why should you, my readers, bother to take your time to write? You have other things to do. If I expect politeness on your part, then I need to be polite to you. See, that is really what the function of the words, “please,” and “thank you” is. These words have no meaning of their own. Their meaning comes from the fact that the speaker or writer makes that extra effort to say a word or two and in return hopes the listener will make an extra effort to do the thing the speaker wanted. Tit for tat. That really is the way all speech works. We need a few extra words to completely convert what feels like rudeness, selfishness, or thoughtlessness into something gracious, meaningful, and considerate. And with the magic of those few words, we have hopes of getting our requests met. I had a conversation with a man whose wife was insulted. She wanted to discuss something and he wasn’t ready. Later, he said, “I’m ready now if you want to discuss it.” I asked him, “Where was her perspective in all this? This is about when you are ready or not. How about how she felt the first...

Why Does a War of Words in Business Make the Front Page?

On Friday, September 30, 2011, the Wall Street Journal’s interesting “Marketplace” section featured a 1/3 page spread entitled “War of Words” airing the dirty laundry between Oracle (the giant IT company) head Larry Ellison, Hewlett-Pakard, and a company H-P bought, Autonomy. The particulars of the argument over a deal are not relevant to this discussion. What is relevant is some of the language the men involved in the dispute used. Aside from the “war of words” title and the comment of “verbal potshots,” the WJS characterized the language as: having “reached a new level”; “hostile rhetoric”; and “choice language.” The WJS said “Oracle has been taking shots at H-P.” Now for the kill. Now I’m going to really excite you. What exactly was this hostile language that was sizzly enough to make the front page of a major section in this paper? Were foul words used? – No. What exactly was it that made the Wall St. Journal believe verbal abuse was going on? Well, Oracle suggested that his rival at Autonomy “has a very poor memory or he’s lying.” The opponent at Autonomy, responded to Oracle’s description of events as, “Interesting, but not true.” Wow! What? You’re not excited? This isn’t getting you gasping for breath? Why in Heaven not? Verbal Abuse Should Bother Us Oh. Because it’s no big deal – is that it? Then THAT’S the problem. I mean that’s YOUR problem. You see, it really is a big deal. This is not the way people should be talking to each other, whether in business or at home. If you are underwhelmed by what all the...

Verbal Abuse at Work: How to Shoot Yourself in the Foot

No one can afford to turn away potential customers, yet thousands of people are doing just that every day. They are also begging to be fired. Just ask Carol Bartz. You may be familiar with her name. She was hired as CEO of Yahoo.com in 2009, and by September, 2011, she was fired. Why? The obvious reason is that the company was not doing well. But there was more: She was fired by telephone, something never done at an executive level where people are paid millions in salary (hers was $1 million plus stock equity of $18 million). So what was going on? According to the Wall Street Journal, Ms. Bartz had “an abrasive CEO style, including her frequent use of swear words.” What does “abrasive” really mean? People who use foul language usually do it in loud tones. They interrupt. They have an angry face, unapproachable body language. Often, it’s accompanied with put-downs, criticism, and name-calling. Was this her behavior? If so, she was verbally abusive. Why would a CEO do that? Abuse Is A Bad Substitute For People Skills When CEOs lack the people skills to explain their positions and win over allies, they get frustrated. Instead of reflecting on how they can accomplish their goals, they flare up, compounding the original problem. All that drama does serve a purpose, though: It distracts others from the substance of the problem, and intimidates them from bringing up their own position. However, the distraction eventually comes to an end as we saw from the headlines that Ms. Bartz and Yahoo! are divorced. It takes great courage for a leader...

3-Step Formula When Abusive Parents Visit for The Holidays

We were making progress, this new couple and I. Eli was getting it. He realized that his sarcastic remarks, his put-downs, his glares, and his barely-controlled anger all constitute verbal abuse. He was starting to work effectively with his tools, too. He had downloaded the mp3 file from my website and had burnt the relaxation disc. He was listening daily and taking the deep breaths that I recommend for slowing down his autonomic nervous system so as to engage his brain and not just react. He was practicing assertiveness to make his points effectively in a non-threatening way. Perhaps most important, he was working hard at catching himself falling into the trap of victim thinking. That means, just by catching himself, he would prevent many awful fights.   His wife, Andrea, was starting to see a difference. She was still nervous, hurt from the past, and unsure of the future, but the good part is that she understood that healing takes time and she was giving this process the time it needed.   All well and good.   Until Thanksgiving approached.   If Your Spouse Is Abusive, His Parent Probably Was, Too   Thanksgiving meant that Mother was coming. His mother. The person who taught Eli every dirty trick he knows and remained clueless of the pain she constantly inflicted. So instead of preparing for a lovely family visit, Andrea’s nerves were tuned to a high pitch; she found herself yelling at the children more, dropping things unexpectedly, and in a near-collision on the highway. She most definitely did not want his mother to come. But Eli’s mother is...

How The Victim Thinker Thinks and Why He Will Never Be Happy

What’s your reaction when someone tells you, “You hurt my feelings”?   There could be two possible reactions: You’re going to be either me-focused or other-focused. That is, if you’re me-focused, you’re going to feel irritated, offended, angry, insulted or—this is the famous one—“picked on.” If you’re other-focused, you’re going to feel compassion for the hurt you may have inflicted on the other person.   If you’re me-focused, several things will ensue:   1. You will never, ever make the person you’ve hurt happy. On the contrary, since you don’t want to hear and deal with the complaint, you’ve probably already forgotten what the complaint was even though you’ve been licking your wounds for having been told you did something wrong. You certainly haven’t fixed the problem.   2. You, yourself will not be happy. By focusing on the pain you’re imagining you’ve received, you have to feel unhappy. By fashioning yourself into a victim, you have compelled yourself to remain unhappy. You may try to escape from that awful victim feeling, but you can’t get too far away from it. Every time you get happy, the little voice inside of you that wants you to remain a victim will be sure to remind you.   There it is: Unhappiness for the person you hurt and unhappiness for yourself.   Now, you can legitimately ask: “But what if I did not hurt that other person? What if she/he is the one that’s playing victim? Why are you making it my fault?”   If you did that, I guarantee you that you are thinking like a victim. A compassionate person...

The Blame Addiction In Relationships

REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION from the Florida Jewish Journal, p. 14 “It’s your fault!” Robbie screamed. “Do you understand what you did? Do you understand what a terrible loss this means?” His screams filled the air with a sick heaviness, a light and bright afternoon immediately transformed. Sarah felt weak at the knees, unable to breathe. And for what?   What, indeed. What purpose is ever served by blame?   If you are one of millions of people addicted to blame, know that it’s a great way to shoot yourself in the foot. Rather than accomplish something by it, you ruin more than was ruined already by the problem for which you are blaming somebody.   Why Blame Ruins Relationships   At the very least, the air of attack causes the listener to shut down. Therefore, the person you’re yelling at can’t take in your point.   Usually, it also causes the listener to become defensive. This means there will be an escalation of bad feelings—still with nothing accomplished.   If the listener is a certain type, it will also cause him or her to counterattack.   Now we have two adults acting like kindergardeners: “No, it’s your fault!” “No, it’s yours.” Which generally leads to utter nonsense like, “And what about that time your mother…..” “Oh, you want to talk about my mother? Well, let me tell you something…”   Just in case the original screamer was justified in his or her assessment of having been damaged, he loses that hallowed “victim” status by having been a mongrel in dealing with it.   The listener will, if this happens...
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