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

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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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Sally White

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Last Updated on July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

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How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

Meditate

Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

Reference

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