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 way you do.” Now, that would be polite. To the expert, it would show the speaker’s ignorance in the field, but at least it wouldn’t turn the speaker’s ignorance into the listener’s.

I recently had the following discussion with my husband. He was insisting that Hitler was born evil and I pointed out to him that there is no evidence that any baby could be born evil. A child could be challenging and parents are expected to meet that challenge. He said, “Well, I disagree.” I told him that this is a silly thing to say since he is not an expert in child development and I am. That type of remark needs to be altered along the lines of the suggestion above.

Bottom line: You are allowed to disagree with the provision that you respect the listener’s expertise in the area and recognize your own lack thereof in comparison.

By the way, depending on the exact language here, this level could actually be verbally abusive. “You don’t know what you’re talking about” is an attack; it’s abuse. “I disagree” is frustrating and disrespectful, but I wouldn’t call it abuse. Letting the listener know what he did wrong [in the speaker’s opinion] could be quite rude. It all depends on the choice of words.

7 – “You only said that because you didn’t want to inconvenience yourself”

This seems like an innocuous statement, doesn’t it? Beware! It’s highly abusive. It begins with mind-reading. It is a peek inside the brain and heart of the listener—a place where no one is allowed to go. This is a major invasion of personal space. No one is able to know what you thought, what your motives were, and why you did something.

Beyond that, the speaker put a negative spin on the listener’s motivations. How in the world would he know the reason why? What makes this even more toxic is that when the listener say, “No, that wasn’t the reason,” the speaker ignores this and proceeds with his or her superior knowledge. This level of certainty about another person’s motivations even in the face of being corrected and told it was not the reason is highly abusive.

Next post: 8-10 and a handy summary for your fridge

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