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Have you ever been guilty of verbally abusing the people you love? “No, of course not!” is probably your first thought. But think hard. Abusing verbally can take many forms and be far easier to “accidentally” do than you may realize.
It's possible for any of us to be verbally abusive. We may not do it intentionally, but that doesn't mean we aren't still being abusive with our words – the way we use them, and the tone or volume with which we say them.
Who We May Be Verbally Abusing And Why
You may have heard the old saying, “You always hurt the ones you love.” Unfortunately, it tends to be true. I’ve found that we're most likely to be verbally abusive the most towards the people we love.
Sadly, those closest to us don't always get our best side. I see this every day in marriage counseling. What has become a normal way to talk to their partner is actually verbally abusive.
How could this be? Why would we ever want to hurt someone we love? Well, for most people, we don’t want to, but we still do. Verbal abuse can be an unintentional result of poor communication, anger issues, and proximity.
The people we love the most tend to be the ones we share the bulk of our lives with – spouses, children, and other family members. They’re the ones we’re closest to, most comfortable with, and feel safest around.
While logically this should also mean they’re the ones we treat with the most respect, the truth is that when logic breaks down and emotion takes over, they’re the ones we show our ugly side to first.
Think of children who are always polite and well-behaved around strangers. Those same children may back-talk and act out around their parents, not because they hate their parents, but because they feel safe around them and loved by them.
Does that make bad behavior okay or excusable? No, not at all.
For children that safe environment allows for a pushing of boundaries and expression of immaturity that results in using poor behavior as an outlet for frustration and anger. This is where parenting enters in to teach them better and more appropriate coping methods.
Adults, however, are expected to have these skills firmly in place. But many of us simply don’t.
As adults we can experience all levels of stress during a day. And sometimes the effort to cope and get along as we work and interact with others can push us to the edge, leading to a meltdown at any small trigger when back home around the people we love.
What’s next? Verbal abuse.
If this response goes unchecked it can become the norm, leading to regularly verbally abusing the people we’re supposed to love the most.
How To Stop Verbally Abusing Those We Love
So, how can we stop verbally abuse those we love?
Here's a post I wrote on our social media page a while back about how we verbally abuse the wrong people and where we need to begin if we want to stop it.
Step #1 to change is HONESTY. We need to be honest with ourselves about our susceptibility to be verbally abusive.
I've done it and I'm sure you have too. Denying this truth will stop you from ever getting started toward preventing it. This first step is crucial for us to be able to change it.
Okay, now that we're all being honest and admitting that we can abuse verbally the ones we love, we can take the next step.
Step #2 is AWARENESS. We need to become aware of when we do it and when we're most vulnerable to do so. Want to see an example of why greater awareness is important? Take a look at this Detroit Lions football player verbally abusing marching band.
We can become more aware in two ways.
- First, we can listen to our words. But it's crucial that we do this with an objective, open mind, not a subjective, denying one.
- Second, we can ask our loved ones when they feel we speak to them with words that hurt.
Keep in mind that if it's possible you've been verbally abusive for a while, a result may be that your loved ones could be apprehensive or even afraid to be totally honest with you at first. They may not even recognize what’s happening themselves, or also be guilty of being verbally abusive at times, and thus uncomfortable identifying your problem for fear of exposing theirs.
Changing abusive behavior takes more than what I can explain here. But the two steps outlined above are the first steps. If you'd like to learn more about how to change your verbally abusing behavior and understand why you do it, find an experienced licensed counselor to help.
Please share your experiences or thoughts about verbally abusing those we love by commenting below. If you like this post, you can sign-up at the bottom of this page to get notified of each new post. You can also follow me on Facebook or Twitter where I post weekly relationship and self-improvement tips just like this one.
Editor's Note: This post was originally published December 21, 2013, and has been updated with new information for accuracy and comprehensiveness.
Looking for More? Check Out These Articles
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