Language is one of the most powerful tools we have. With words we can get closer, understand each other, ask for help, receive comfort ... But with words we can also distance ourselves, misinterpret, hurt each other ...
Sometimes "words violate understanding, throw people into confusion, and lead humanity into countless and vain controversies and errors," said Francis Bacon. Words can become a more or less subtle and disguised form of psychological abuse in relationships. However, verbal violence only breeds dissatisfaction, frustration, and ultimately submission.
The main problem is that identifying verbal abuse is not easy. Sometimes it is difficult to distinguish a heated discussion in which we say things that should not be said by manipulation and abuse, so we end up justifying the other or seeking justifications for our words.
On the other hand, violence and verbal manipulation encompass a wide range of attitudes that go beyond insults and threats. Many times the verbal abuse occurs in secret, and because it comes from those we love, it is difficult to recognize it.
5 forms of verbal manipulation in relationships
1. Retention, silence and indifference as weapons of control
Retention is a form of psychological abuse in which a person systematically refuses to share information with the other. The person resorts to silence. He stops speaking as a punishment and limits himself to the use of essential monosyllables and phrases. So it makes the other person feel guilty and give in to his demands.
When in a relationship one of the two does not share their ideas and feelings, it condemns the other to a kind of psychological ostracism, subjecting him to strong pressure. The victim understands that something is wrong with the relationship, but moves like a blind man because the communication channels have been cut. In this way a sort of cold war is created from which it is very difficult to get out without capitulating.
2. Blocking of dialogue, when the goal is to maintain the conflict
This verbal manipulation strategy is to divert attention from the main problem. The person is the one who decides which communication topics are appropriate and blocks the ones they feel are most sensitive, usually because they undermine their position of power in the relationship.
This way he brings an elephant into the room. Both are aware that there is a conflict, but this becomes a taboo that the victim does not dare to touch because he fears the reaction of the other.
3. Trivialization, minimization of the inner world of the other
Trivialization is a verbal manipulation strategy in which the person invalidates the other's feelings or ideas. It can happen through a criticism or a joke, but the aim is always to belittle the inner reality of the other or to make his thoughts, actions or feelings seem insignificant and trivial.
The person trivializes everything his victim says or suggests, even denying him the emotional validation we all need to feel empowered. He may label her as overly sensitive, childish, or inexperienced. Then comes the point where the victim questions and doubts their own opinions. In extreme cases, the victim will feel bad for thinking how he thinks or feels what he feels. He will believe that there is something wrong or inappropriate in his reactions.
4. Denial, denial of one's responsibility
Denial is a very common verbal manipulation strategy. It occurs when the person does not recognize that he has made a mistake, denies his behavior or the results of the same. It is the denial of individual responsibility and the total refusal to accept the consequences of one's actions, attitudes or words.
This person will always look for a way to justify and rationalize their behavior. The problem is that by denying one's share of responsibility, the relationship enters a dead end, so much so that the victim is forced to bear the weight, a weight that should be shared.
5. Blame and criticize, the ultimate manipulation strategy
Manipulation and sense of guilt are tools through which we try to transfer all responsibility onto the other. There is no denial but direct accusation. The person will blame the other for all the conflicts and problems in the relationship. He also usually blames her for her own dissatisfactions and failures in life. In this way he manages to subdue his victim.
It is normal for the person to use criticism as a weapon. He will continually criticize and judge his victim until they lose self-esteem and self-confidence. When the victim ends up feeling more psychologically vulnerable, he accepts the guilt they try to place on him and submits to the wishes of the other.
Being able to identify verbal manipulation is the first step to curbing it. That's why it's important to keep an eye out for the little signs that indicate communication in a relationship is no longer assertive. One sign is that discussions, far from solving problems, generate new conflicts and increase dissatisfaction. At that moment one must stop to recap, because perhaps one of the two is using the conflict as a weapon to obtain secondary benefits in the relationship.