Counseling Notes: Verbal Abuse

By: Kyle J. Howard Topic: Abuse of Power, Abuse

Abusive speech patterns:

  1. Talk down to or insult someone.
  2. When called out on it, they will act surprised & shocked that person received their words as offensive (gaslighting)
  3. They’ll act offended & say what they said to you was in love.
  4. When forgiven, pattern repeats.
  5. If you tell individual you will not tolerate their abusive speech, they will accuse you of being unloving, unfaithful, or unkind. (Baiting) 6. If “baiting” is successful and person engages again, the pattern will repeat.
  6. If “baiting” is successful and person engages again, the pattern will repeat. If baiting is unsuccessful, they will seek to shame.
  7. Shaming may include public ridicule, guilt, making statements such as, “okay, it’s clear you are an unloving person who just believes the worst in people…” These are forms of “intensified baiting”. The goal is to make you question yourself & give them back access to you.
  • These patterns abound on social media. Many people troll on social media because they lack healthy relationships with others in person. Social media is their social outlet. Discerning these patterns can save you emotional & mental energy. See patterns quickly, mute/block.
  • In person, these are relationships to avoid! Ladies (primarily), if men do this to you on dates it should be a massive red flag. Many dating relationships should end after first one b/c men who do this typically do it early to test how receptive you will be to abusive speech.
  • This is seen when make make fun of you, or talk down to you, and if challenged on it they act as if they are surprised you were offended by their “harmless joke”. They will make you feel like something is wrong with you for not simply going along with their condescending speech.
  • This happens in almost every context where their is an authority dynamic because this pattern of speech is a common tool used by people who abuse power to ensure a position of dominance over another. Verbal abusive patterns abound in abusive leadership situations…
  • The last context I want to bring attention to is friendships. Yes, friends can play insult one another. It happens all the time. But, their are also types of friendships where one party feeds off verbally placing the other beneath them. These types of friendships are deeply toxic.
  • Final thought: Not everyone who uses these speech patterns are doing it maliciously or w/ intent to manipulate. Sadly, abusive speech patterns are often taught. They can be passed down culturally (white people do these things to PoC all the time) or socially (parents, community). It’s not uncommon for people who have experienced a profound degree of verbal abuse to begin acting in verbally abusive patterns towards others. Especially others they end up having perceived power over. Actually, it’s pretty common. “Hurt people, hurt people.”

Kyle J. Howard currently serves the church as a trauma informed soul care provider. Though his Soul Care ministry is comprehensive, he his primarily focused on counseling, teaching, and raising awareness about Spiritual abuse/trauma as well as racial trauma. Kyle holds an Associates in Biblical & Theological studies, a Bachelors in Christian Counseling, and is receiving his M.A in Historical Theology in a few weeks.