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Verbal Abuse Is Much More Destructive Than You Think. Don’t Overlook That

Verbal Abuse Is Much More Destructive Than You Think. Don’t Overlook That

You may have heard disparaging comments directed at someone, or maybe even yourself: in the girls’ locker room, on the bus, at work, but when someone faces them on a regular basis, it cracks their self-esteem and erodes their self-confidence. They feel hurt, lonely and maybe even afraid.

Verbal abuse is “the excessive use of (negative) language to undermine someone’s dignity and security through insults or humiliation in a sudden or repeated manner”.[1] It does not get better after a time, it only gets worse.

According to statistics, 1 in 5 college women have been verbally abused by a partner[2].

The first verbal attack will take you off guard. You may even think you heard it wrong, they were joking, or more than likely, misunderstood them. But then you may notice these incidents more and more.

Common Forms of Verbal Abuse

  • Name calling
  • Crude remarks
  • Put-downs
  • Sarcasm & mockery
  • Hostility
  • Threats
  • Spreading rumors
  • Yelling & screaming

Lesser Known Forms of Verbal Abuse

These lesser known forms of verbal abuse often go over-looked, as they happen in relationships and often privately.[3]

Blocking & diverting

You try to have a conversation with your partner and they switch gears mid-conversation and redirect the subject away from what you intended. Other times they refuse to discuss the subject point blank.

Blaming

Everything that goes wrong seems to be your fault. They can’t find their wallet- you must have moved it (you didn’t). They forgot their dentist appointment- it’s your fault you didn’t remind them. It doesn’t matter what the issue- they could hit you and still tell you it’s your fault! They refuse to take responsibility themselves.

Denial

They deny everything. No, they didn’t eat that last piece of cake. No, they aren’t having an affair. You may even catch them doing something and yet they will still deny it.

Criticizing

They let you know that everything you ever do in life is wrong. Your cooking is all wrong. Your choice in clothing is atrocious. You wonder how you ever survived all these years making such bad choices! It’s not you- it’s them. You will never live up to their imaginary standards- no one could.

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Treating you like a servant

They expect you to drop what you are doing and tend to their needs- now, as if they are the most important person in the world and you are their lowly servant. They think your own jobs should be put on a back burner when they are around. They believe they are king of the castle, and will make you feel miserable if you don’t bend to their wishes.

Undermining

You have dreams and goals, and they set out to make them collapse under you. If you plan a weekend away, they suddenly have an important meeting that came up at the office and they need the car. Any shining light towards a free life of your own they will hunt down and snuff out. They don’t want you to be free or chase your own dreams, as they don’t want to lose their power over you.

Telling you that you are crazy

You know what happened the other night, but they twist the scenario around to suit them and tell you that you must be going crazy. It sounds insane that you could even fall for it, yet when it happens over and over, they are conditioning- or brainwashing you. Eventually you will begin to doubt yourself and your perspective. You may even believe you might be crazy. You aren’t.

Making you feel like you are with a Jekyll-Hyde

One moment they are charming and lovable and the next they are an unbelievable terrifying monster. You live a stressful life around them as you are never sure which version you are going to face. You tip-toe around certain trigger topics just to avoid Mr. Hyde from rearing his ugly head.

The Negative Influences of Verbal Abuse

Verbal abuse takes it’s toll on victims mentally and physically[4].

Verbal Abuse Affects You Mentally

  • Depression
  • Low self-esteem
  • Memory issues
  • PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome)
  • Eating disorders
  • Sleeping issues
  • Alcohol & drug abuse
  • Self-mutilation
  • Suicide
  • Becoming an abuser yourself

Verbal Abuse Affects You Physically

  • Chronic pain
  • Migraines & frequent headaches
  • Indigestion
  • Gastric issues
  • Stress-related heart conditions

Why Abusers Act Like That

Verbal abuse steals lives. How can someone choose to torment and manipulate another human being?[5] Many abusers are known to be charming and powerful figures in public, some even pillars of their communities. But their victims witness their other side in private. What are the reasons that causes their abuses?

Power & Control

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They feel the need to be in control, and by bending you to their will, they have power over you. Everything else in their life may be going haywire, but if you are trapped under their spell, they have control over something.

Low personal self-esteem

Abusers often suffer from low self-esteem. Instead of trying to raise their own self-confidence, they choose to bring everyone else down to their level and push them under.

Personality Disorders

Some abusers suffer from psychological disorders, like narcissism or psychosis. They may even suffer from brain damage. They exhibit little or no empathy. In their eyes, you are not a person. You are an object, their possession, to be manipulated and used by them.

They were abused themselves or grew up watching abuse in their household

Some abusers were abused as children or they witnessed an abusive relationship in their youth. If they were not privy to healthy relationships, they may even mistakenly believe that is how the dynamics work in relationships.

The Psychology That Causes Victims to Stay in an Abusive Relation

A verbal abuser sees you as their target[6]. They are not going to stop. The solution is transparent to someone viewing from the outside of the relationship, but when you are trapped inside, caught up and manipulated by your abuser, it can be difficult to see or even think clearly.

Some abusive relationships are cut and dry- bad from the beginning, but others can go through cycles of good and bad that confuses the victim into thinking each incident is a one-off situation [7].

Also the victim may fear repercussions from leaving the abuser- physical violence, stalking, kidnapping of their children and even homicide[8].

The Cycle of Abuse

Your relationship starts out good, then an ‘incident’ happens. The abuser may feel bad, and even apologize profusely and you both go back to as before.

However, the next incident or series of incidents arise. Afterwards, there’s more apologies, maybe flowers this time. Then all is well until the next incident of abuse.

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You may forgive and forget, but by doing so, you are accepting their deplorable behavior and also conditioning yourself tolerate it. This becomes a vicious cycle that escalates. You start wondering if it’s something you did, or tell yourself it must be alcohol or drug-related. Eventually those episodes become more frequent with less happy times sandwiched in between.

Then one day you wake up and find yourself trapped in a nightmare situation, with no self-confidence, questioning your own sanity, and wondering how on earth it all happened. You believe you are truly alone. But you aren’t, not really- that is just what your abuser wants you to think.

The Solutions to Verbal Abuses

You may choose to cut all ties with your abuser. However, for whatever personal reason you have, if you decide to stay, there are ways to help you deal with verbal abuse[9].

Arm yourself with knowledge

Giving a name to what you are facing can lessen the power of your abuser. When you know you are being baited or recognize the senseless blaming for what it is, you are more able to control your own reactions to the situation. Read up online about verbal abuse. Arm yourself with knowledge.

Stop reacting to their baiting

Once you stop reacting to their baiting the way they expect, you take their power (over you) away from them. Tell then to “Stop it.” Name their game and step away from the situation.

Instill boundaries

Set boundaries in your relationship and have consequences if they are crossed. Carry out those consequences.

Tell somebody

If only to maintain your sanity, tell a close friend or family member what is going on and keep an outside perspective on the situation. Whereas you may get sucked into the lulling stages of the abuse cycle, someone outside of that circle may be able to call it out for what it is. Set up a safe word you can text them or say over the phone if you need rescuing from a situation, or for them to call the police.

Seek professional counselling

Sometimes you need professional help. You may be in a long-term relationship or have children- something you can not see yourself easily extracting from. Seek help. Not all counselors are trained to deal with abuse issues, so look for a domestic abuse counselor.

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Find community resources to help you

Contact social services or your local domestic violence agency. You can also seek support from others who know exactly what you are facing at Domestic Violence Meetings.

Remove yourself from the situation

You may be able to walk out of the room and away from the craziness, but what if you can’t? Verbal abuse can quickly spiral into physical violence. If you feel physically threatened, leave immediately. Call 911 when you are safe. There are some situations that may require you to get out fast and far away. There are safe places you can go .

Call the authorities

If you are threatened with violence or someone wanting to hurt themselves if you leave them, call the police (911) immediately.

It is High Time to Leave the Abuse

If you make the decision to leave your abuser, the Woman’s Law website has detailed advice on everything you need – from personal effects to legal documents to make planned and emergency escapes.

Plan an exit strategy and keep yourself safe. Do not place yourself in a volatile situation.

National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233 or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY)

You are not alone.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255

Reference

[1] Prevention-violence.com: Prevent Violence at Work
[2] TheHotline.org: Abuse Statistics
[3] Verbalabusejournals.com: Types of Verbal Abuse
[4] Healthyplace.com: Effects of Verbal Abuse on Children, Women & Men
[5] Mentalhealth.net:Why Do People Abuse
[6] Healthyplace.com: How Do I Stop Verbal Abuse-Part 1
[7] Domesticviolence.org: Cycle of Violence
[8] StopAbuse.Umich.edu: About Domestic Violence: Barriers to Leaving
[9] Healthyplace.com: 5 Ways of Dealing with Verbally Abusive relationships

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Last Updated on January 15, 2021

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

Posture

First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

  • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
  • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
  • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
  • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

Facial Expressions

Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

  • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
  • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
  • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

2. Relax Your Face

New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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3. Improve Your Eye Contact

Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

3. Smile More

There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

4. Hand Gestures

Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

5. Enhance Your Handshake

In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

“Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

Final Takeaways

Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

Reference

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