Business Category Business: career motivation and tips to move ahead

How to Deal With Confrontation & Verbal Abuse

Many people, men and women alike, suffer from verbal and emotional abuse. It is hard to tell when a person has been dealing with violent verbal abuse because there are no bruises or obvious physical signs of hurt, but emotional abuse is no less destructive. You can learn to protect yourself against confrontation and verbal abuse by knowing how to deal with it and how act towards the person who is hurting you.

Understand what constitutes verbal abuse. Verbal abuse includes such behaviours as yelling, name-calling, blaming, shaming, intimidating, controlling and threatening physical violence or other repercussions. Victims of verbal abuse often think the abuser is right and that there is no way to end the relationship.

Know when you are under attack. Verbal attacks can be identified by your gut feeling and are harder to identify than physical abuse. You can sense confrontation in the words that are being used, the tone of the person, the volume of their voice.

Identify the type of attack your are faced with. Just like in a physical fight, you need to size up your opponent and make judgments about his strength, motives and goals to prepare yourself to deal with the confrontation. Ask yourself, "How strong and skilled is this person who's attacking me?" Ask, "Why is the attack happening?" and "What is the goal of this attack?' By answering these three questions, you might be able to figure out if the abuser is picking a fight out of boredom, because he has just been attacked himself or because he is simply showing off.

Resist the urge to counterattack. When someone is verbally abusive, you do not have to be confrontational as well. Resist the temptation to use hostile language and respond by counterattacking, pleading or debating.

When a person is attacking for no good reason, use the "Boring Baroque Response." This technique consists of spending about 15 minutes in a stupid, boring argument with the person, without getting emotionally involved. Most attackers will get bored and leave your alone well before the end of the 15 minutes. Do not use the "Boring Baroque Response" with a person of power such as your manager. This technique will only make him angrier.

Another technique is to simply walk away from the conversation. When the attacker is getting mad, increasing the volume and giving out insults, do not try to reply with attacks of your own. Walk in the opposite direction, go in a different room or try starting a conversation with other people if you are not alone. Your attacker will see that you do not want to argue or participate in the conversation anymore and will simply have to stop talking to himself.

If all else fails, report the attacker's behaviour to the appropriate authorities. If a co-worker is abusive, let your manager know. If your spouse if verbally abusive, get in touch with the National Domestic Violence Hotline online at hotline.org, or by phone at 1-800-799-SAFE (1-800-799-7233).


Speak up if you suspect that someone you know is suffering from verbal abuse. Talk to the person privately to let him or her know that you're concerned and to confirm your suspicions. Let the person know that you're there for any needed support.

About the Author

Marie-Pier Rochon has been writing since 2005. She has served as a writer at PlaceForPoeple and a newsletter writer for the Creative Sydney festival. Previously, Rochon also worked as a communications adviser for various Canadian federal agencies. She earned a Bachelor of Arts with honors in organizational communications from the University of Ottawa.

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