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...

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...

You’re Walking On Eggshells? —GOOD!

REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION from the Florida Jewish News, p. 16. “Can’t I express myself?” the man asked me with annoyance. “I think I should be able to be honest with my own wife!” another one haruumphed at me. “Why should I always watch out for his feelings?” a woman asked with indignation. The answer to the questions, in order is, “No, you can’t,” “No, you shouldn’t,” and “Because that’s the right thing to do.” “But”—and here comes that big “but” that always clinches these discussions—“I feel like I’m walking on eggshells!” And I have the same answer each and every time: “Good! You should!” At this point, I’m met with a combination of confusion and irritation. The irritation usually wins (which is a good part of the problem). “How can a couple have a genuine, honest, intimate relationship if they can’t be truthful with each other and tell each other exactly how they feel?” they want to know. I’ll ask you one better: “How can a couple have a genuine, honest, intimate relationship if they block communication by hurting their partners and putting them on the defensive?” Being Hurtful is NOT “Honest” Communication; It Destroys Intimacy You can see that my answer is paradoxical: The more honest you are in a hurtful or rude way, the less intimate your relationship will be. If you really want intimacy, walk on the eggshells. You know what? Forms of speech that stop the conversation cold, shut the ears of the listener, reduce intimacy, and make it very hard to feel love for someone are the most honest. Imagine that! Here are some...

8 More Ways To Heal From Abuse

Many people don’t even realize that they were (or are being) abused. But the assumption that the pain will go away is not correct. What is needed is to take active steps towards recovery. This includes a bunch of wonderful tools. 1. The First Tool Is To Discover Yourself The worst part about verbal abuse is that over time, the victim loses track of who he or she is. That sounds weird, doesn’t it? But it is true. Imagine a small child sitting in a high chair being fed. Mom wants that child to eat. Eating is obviously important, so mom says, “Oh, this is delicious, soooo good.” The little child tastes it. Now, one of two things can happen. Either the child decides it is good, eats it, and grins, or the child hates it. The child may spit for the fun of it, so spitting is not an indication of whether the child likes it or doesn’t. (Spitting is actually a develpmental exercise of the tongue and throat and is, to the baby, a brilliant discovery of what great talents he or she has. Although it is annoying to the adult, it seems to be a standard developmental process that you just have to get through.) Suppose the child spits it out and grins. What should the mom do? Mom should put that food aside, end the meal, and let the child go play. Why? Because if the child were really hungry, he or she would have eaten it. The grin indicates a game. But suppose mom is worried the child hasn’t eaten well. Suppose the mom...

Substance Abuse & Family Abuse–They’re Connected

Substance abuse and addictions do not occur in a vacuum. It is not merely the result of vulnerable kids becoming involved with the wrong crowd. If only it were that simple. In fact, substance abuse is more a symptom of the real problem than “the” problem. The real problem falls in one of three categories: abuse, neglect, or failure to discipline. Abuse Physical, verbal, emotional, or sexual abuse will inevitably lead to later scars. Even people who cope well and rise above it are forever hurt by their horrible experiences. For some individuals, the best way to blot out the pain is substance abuse. When chemicals anesthetize emotions, a person can go on with life. There isn’t much quality to that life, but it is bearable. Neglect Neglect does not mean leaving a child without food-although that too happens. Neglect may simply mean being too busy to have formed a relationship with one’s child. My hunch is that Noelle Bush’s history involves this category at least [She is the daughter of former Governor of Florida, caught with drugs]. As children grow, parents become models for them of how to function in the world. Children also discover who they themselves are through the feedback they get from their parents. When the small girl constantly picks out the frilly clothes, her parents may say, “She’s all girl.” Those remarks help that little girl define her personality. Parents who ignore their children not only fail to give this feedback that is vital to their personality development, but instead give a most undesirable message: You are not important enough for us to pay...

7 Things You Can Do To Heal From Abuse

1. Accept The Fact That Everything You Did Made Sense I was once speaking to a brilliant and accomplished woman who had recovered from alcohol abuse. She had been severely emotionally and verbally abused most of her life. Abuse hurts. Sometimes there is only one way to deal with the pain: cover it up in a brain-fog. This woman made a wise statement to me. She said, “Thank God for every drink I ever took or I wouldn’t be here today.” Now, I know that I am talking heresy from the perspective of the recovery program. How could drinking make sense? they would ask. DrDeb, you’re crazy. Everyone knows drinking destroys brain cells. Everyone knows drinking destroys the liver. Everyone knows that hard drugs are even worse. There is nothing good about drinking, they would say. Of course they’re right. There is nothing at all good about drinking. Except if it saves you from dying. It is, indeed, better than being dead. And if, as a ten year old or 14 year old or whatever age you started using substances to avoid the pain going on around you, you didn’t know any better, then it was a blessing. The key words in the above sentence are “to avoid the pain going on around you.” Here is a list, a short list, of the kinds of things that are so painful as to induce a young person to booze it up so they no longer know what is going on: being verbally abused being sexually molested watching a sibling being sexually abused knowing a sibling is being sexually molested being...

“You’re hypersensitive!”

“My wife is emotionally hypersensitive. She is hurt by things that wouldn’t bother me at all if someone said them to me.” This is an excellent question. The answer is buried in the old pain of your own childhood. What happened to you went like this: You got hurt a lot and somehow toughened up from it. You became numb to your own pain. The process occurrs as a brilliant coping mechanism of the human soul. After all, if you were aware of your pain (as some people, indeed, are, unfortunately) you would be suffering constantly. And you were just a little kid, after all. So you got numb. Or you dissociated. Numbness is a kind of dissociation, isn’t it? Numbness is a way of being here yet the emotional part of you has taken a hike. Be A Man! This frequently happens to men. Especially if they were told that men shouldn’t feel anything, or “Be a man!” That type of tripe. So you did what they told you. Very obedient. Oh, I know, you didn’t think you were doing it to be obedient. That was the last thing on your mind. You probably thought you were in rebellion. Ha ha. Fooled you. You actually got programmed not to feel their pain and it worked. This suited them too, because now they didn’t have to watch their language. They could keep on dishing it out, and you wouldn’t feel it. Of course, then they wondered why nothing “worked.” Nothing they said “got through” to you. Well, of course. The human soul could only take so much. Then you’re...

Attraction: What If Two Victims of Abuse Marry Each Other?

People can be verbally, emotionally, sexually, or physically abused; there’s also exposure to substance abuse, borderline disorder, post traumatic stress, and there’s more too. An abused person could become both a victim (say of a spouse or boss at work) and an abuser (say of a child). A victim could turn to eating disorders or even multiple personalities (now known as “dissociative identity disorder”) as a way of hiding from the pain. He or she could just have a bad temper, or the opposite–be emotionally withdrawn–or be depressed, or a not-so-talented parent. Besides substances, a person could become addicted to sex, gambling, shopping, or work. Any possibility goes. Given all that, did you ever wonder why a person marries someone who seems healthy, clean, sober, whatever, only to discover something from the above list lurking underneath? And you wonder: How did I miss it? And when you stop wondering that, you start to go, “Woa! Why do I keep meeting people with all these problems???” Here’s my answer: It’s not your fault. It was built into our souls. I’m not kidding. I don’t want you to think that means we are fated to keep making a mistake. In fact, I don’t even think the whole thing IS a mistake. I think the ending can be good, so hear me out. You’ve heard the term “soulmate” before. Did you ever wonder where it came from? Here’s my take on it. According to the Bible, when Adam and Eve were created, they were actually a complete man and woman that were joined. (I know, I know, you never heard that one...
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