How To Deal With Verbal Attacks.

26 Feb


Online, you can delete, block and sometimes report inappropriate or abusive comments, but what do you do if someone verbally attacks you at a dinner party or gathering?

After watching Anthony launch into a witch hunt on Cheryl at the dinner party on Married at First Sight Australia  (series 4 episode 10) I realized a few things.

1.  A lot of people, even strong empowered ones, don’t always know HOW to stop unwanted, unwarranted, unacceptable tirades.

2. Abuse often renders people speechless and causes what I call “bunny in the headlights.”


3. The majority of people tend to sit in a bystander rather than an upstander role and appear to live in hope that the discomfort will just magically end on its own.

Whilst Cheryl appeared to do a great job in managing herself, it became apparent that the way she was doing it (justifying and defending) didn’t actually stop Anthony. As the spotlight continued to scorch into her, not only did others watch, but a few more joined in! Victimizing the victim is a horrible things to do.

In order to be clearer about our boundaries and what we are willing to listen to, or put up with, we need to recognize what constitutes the abuse of our boundaries.

As an observer, away from being personally impacted by Anthony’s words, it was easier for me to see that he displayed all of the following behaviours:

  • Finger-pointing.
  • Voicing overly strong opinions.
  • Blaming.
  • Shaming.
  • Mocking.
  • Controlling.
  • Threatening.
  • Judging.
  • Acting righteous and dominant.

So, how does one get out before they get burnt at the stake?

  1. Hold up your hand and firmly say no, stop or don’t, and be sure to add – you’re out of line.
  2. Wear an invisibility cloak. Don’t allow the spotlight to stay on you. Turn your body and attention away and start your own respectful conversation with another person and make sure it’s a subject far removed from the previous one. Don’t even begin to think it could rude to disengage.
  3. Disappear in a puff of smoke. Take yourself physically away, sooner rather than later.
  4. If the person continues despite being asked not to, and if you can’t get away, then take up the challenge of asking them calm, curious questions such as why do you persist in talking so disrespectfully to me? Or, who made you the boss of me? Or, what would it take for you to talk to me in a respectful way? Or, when do think you might decide to be respectful? Or, how do you figure talking in this way is going to make me want to listen to you? Or, what would it take for you to focus on your own life rather than mine?

What could the bystanders have done?

Anthony’s partner and Cheryl’s partner did actually step in, but it was a little too late. They could’ve stepped up and asked Anthony to stop sooner which could have bypassed the emotional hurt she incurred.

They, or you or I can all be upstanders by distracting the abusive person or by firmly asking them to stop, or by asking the same type of who, what, when, why and how questions as before. The questions work because they make people stop and think, which accesses their adult ego state. So, the next time you or someone around you is under fire, don’t fear the sparks leaping over to you. Step right up and give these new tips a go (with your imaginary fire extinguisher close by). You can do it!

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