Remember when you were a preschooler, how, when you got upset and wanted to whine or hit someone, your parents or teachers taught you to ‘use your words, not your hands’? Well, words can also be some very powerful weapons. Verbal abuse does as much harm to a person’s self worth as physical abuse. Name calling, sarcasm, insults, personal threats and attacks on a person’s character are all forms of verbal abuse and aggression.

It is normal to feel angry and threatened when you feel disrespected or disregarded. There are times however when a person’s verbal defense turns into verbal attack

Heated arguments can quickly flare into downright verbal abuse when neither party has good emotional skills for interacting with or navigating highly emotional or reactive situations.
Verbal abuse may be a habit we picked up from our parents or other role models, but is a sign of weakness and not strength. Some people use yelling and threatening language to impose their will on the people around them. This may work in the short term--they’ve succeeded in getting you to give in, walk out or shut up--but in the long term it will only breed resentment and contempt, slowly but surely eroding whatever foundation is left of the relationship.

Learning better negotiation and emotional intelligence skills (such as self soothing) will help you earn the respect you are seeking from others. If you find yourself saying things in an aggressive or sarcastic tone, slow down, take a breath and remind yourself that, if you say it now, you will regret it later. Tell the person you are speaking to that you are too upset to discuss the matter at the moment and you need some time to cool off. After this, write down what upset you but then forget about it and do something to help you feel happy and calm again.

Also admitting to your family that you are embarrassed for your actions will reassure them. Telling them, and yourself, that you are going to make a sincere effort at managing your anger and emotions is surprisingly effective at easing your own guilt and giving everyone some sense of renewed hope and optimism.

Kim Cooper is the author of “Back from the Looking Glass” and “The Love Safety Net Workbook,” e-books about healing an abusive relationship. She and her husband Steve co-host The Love Safety Net talk radio show and website at

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