How to Handle A Verbally Abusive Person You Can’t Avoid

How to Handle A Verbally Abusive Person You Can’t Avoid how to handle a verbally abusive person you can’t avoid
Photo by Simran Sood on Unsplash

“The words with which a child’s heart is poisoned, whether through malice or ignorance, remain branded in his memory, and sooner or later they burn his soul.” — Carlos Ruiz Zafón

We’ve all encountered someone who can really use their tongue to put us down — it may be your partner, co-worker, family member, or anyone close to us. Verbal abuse is often downplayed, but the effects those words can have on our self-esteem and self-worth should not be ignored.

Toxic people use verbal abuse to control us or get what they want, and this is a common factor in abusive relationships. Verbal abuse can be defined as the use of speech to forcefully criticize, insult, or denounce another person. Toxic people may use verbal abuse to exploit someone’s weaknesses or insecurities through weird, subtle, or indirect ways.

What makes verbal abuse even more dangerous is that unlike physical abuse, which can be easily recognizable, the harm it causes is an unseen internal wound to the core of our being. Constant verbal abuse is traumatizing and can lead to depression, anxiety, hopelessness, as well as chronic stress. If you’re unsure whether you’re experiencing verbal abuse or not, this article will briefly outline some common signs of verbal abuse to look out for and then describe what you can do to handle a verbally abusive person you can’t avoid.

Common Signs of Verbal Abuse

  1. Name-Calling

This is probably the easiest one to notice, as it may be direct and involves being called offensive names to win an argument or induce rejection or blame. At times, it might be disguised in the form of offensive teasing.

For example: “You’re really an idiot, as everyone says. How can you not see that?”

2. Put-Downs

This is where someone uses sarcastic, condescending, and belittling comments to make someone else feel inferior.

For example: “Are you going out with that haircut? Do something about it before you embarrass me or someone sees you.”

3. Harsh Criticism

Constructive criticism is okay in life, but when someone goes the extra mile and constantly criticizes someone else’s actions, they will stop believing in themselves, and that’s a sign of verbal abuse.

For example: “Why are you always so disorganized? Is there a day that can go by without you ruining something?”

4. Intimidating Threats

This is where someone intends to inflict pain or do a hostile thing in response to an action. Someone may say this jokingly, but a threat is a threat, and it creates an element of fear.

For example: “I will hurt myself if you leave me.”

5. Blame

This is a common one where they constantly blame you for everything happening, even what’s happening in their lives.

For example: “You’re the reason why I did not get that job.”

6. False Accusations

This is where they constantly accuse you of things mainly because they are deeply jealous, and you even start thinking you’re doing something wrong or inappropriate.

For example: “You were having lunch with your boss again; I knew it. You’re sleeping with them.”

7. Raising Their Voice

This is where someone constantly yells at you even without being provoked. It is disturbing and frightening, and you find yourself watching your every step so as not to trigger them.

8. Gaslighting

This is a subtle one which is not easy to spot, where someone twists your sense of reality. Gaslighting can make someone feel so disconnected and unable to express their feelings. When someone is gaslighted, they find themselves constantly apologizing for something they did not do.

For example: “You have a terrible memory.”

“You’re crazy — and other people think so, too.”

9. Manipulation

This is a form of “if you do this, I will do that” kind of language. It can also be a form of subtly influencing someone else to one’s advantage.

For example: “If you really love me, you’d do this for me.”

It may not be easy to spot some of these verbally abusive techniques right away, and the best thing you can do is always trust your gut instinct, pause, and check if you’re comfortable with what’s being said. The best solution is to always disengage and avoid those verbally abusive people in our lives, but this is mostly not a plausible scenario as there is a chance we can’t avoid most of them. Below I will briefly share some techniques you can use to deal with verbally abusive people.

How to Handle Verbal Abuse You Can’t Avoid

  1. Do not Share So Much with Them

One way to keep yourself safe from a verbally abusive person is not to share your private, personal matters or your weaknesses with them. One thing with toxic people is they love mirroring what you tell them when they want to manipulate you. The best way is to keep your conversations and what you share with them to the level that is only necessary and not the deep stuff that may be used against you later on.

2. Use Straightforward Communication

The best way to communicate with them is to use clear and factual statements for them to hear you. Also avoid open-ended statements that can make you go round in circles with them. Simple and transparent will make things less complicated. You can also find ways to limit the communication with them where possible by only communicating with them when necessary.

3. Set and Enforce Your Boundaries

Boundaries protect you from being taken advantage of and they outline how you deserve to be treated. Setting and declaring your boundaries will prevent you from engaging in unhealthy conversations with people. Toxic people will constantly poke those boundaries but always be firm on them. Let them also know the things you cannot tolerate (where possible).

4. You’re not What They Say

The other way is to always reaffirm that what someone says is not who you are. They can throw all words and names at you, but that’s not a portrayal of who you are. 9 times out of 10, what someone says about you is just a portrayal of who they are, and they’re just projecting that onto you. You can as well water down what they say by having an inner laugh and simply see it as nothing but just words and constantly remind yourself that you’re an amazing human being.

5. Surround Yourself with A Support Network

Having people around you who can validate your experiences and listen to what you’re going through really helps when you’re facing a verbally abusive person. One thing you can also do is when facing a toxic person, always have someone with you (if possible) as this will at most times make the other person watch their language. Your support network can also help you out when you ask for it.

6. Remain Calm If Possible

One thing that toxic people love is constantly provoking and then wait for your reaction. Verbal abuse is like a bait to lure you into their games of deceit. Whenever you find yourself being verbally abused, always try not to react to what they say, as they’re waiting for you to do that so that they can bounce the ball back to you as the abuser and them as the victim. It’s good to always know that if you respond ‘offensively’ to them, they will amplify it a hundredfold, and you will never hear the end of it. They may even tell the people around you of what you’ve done, which will make things worse. Take a deep breath and remain calm (or let the words you’re about to say stay inside you and then put them in a journal later on). It’s not easy to remain calm, and if you happen to react, always know that it’s because you were pushed to the corner and you’re not a bad person.

7. Don’t Fall for their Rare Compliments

This is a weird one; toxic people may rarely compliment you for something you’ve done just so that they win your trust back or get something from you. It may feel nice to be validated by a verbally abusive person as it is a rare occurrence. What makes this so dangerous is if you fall for it, you will forget the verbal abuse that’s happening, and you will trust their words. This means that they can easily manipulate you and have their way. When they praise you, it’s like they’re preparing you for a bombshell of verbal abuse, so it’s better to watch out, just listen and let those words not distort the reality of who they are and what they’re planning.


Verbal abuse is abuse. It is often overlooked as there are no scars to display as evidence. The first time I learned of verbal abuse, I kept nodding my head while having many ‘Oh!’ and ‘That’s why’ moments as I reflected back on the verbally abusive behavior I have encountered in my life (mostly with loved ones and at work).

It was a realization that made me understand why I trembled when I talked to some people. Being told words like, “You’re always damaging things” or being called names really did ruin my self-esteem, but I’m glad I was able to dig myself up after learning and doing self-work.

It is not easy to spot verbal abuse, and also sometimes those people who use it may not even know that what they’re doing is emotionally draining to the receiving parties. It’s even rationalized as jokes, but the effects can be very damaging. Awareness of verbal abuse really sets someone free from a patronizing tongue.

The best way is to always avoid them as much as possible or find better coping mechanisms as I’ve talked about in the article. Always remember this: what someone says about you is not a portrayal of who you are.

Note from the Author

If you’re ready and you’d like my help with healing, finding peace in life and breaking free from these toxic patterns (in less than 2 months) , then you can book a FREE BREAKTHROUGH CALL with me HERE. Happy healing 💙💙. Feel free to share and comment! Use this information with caution, it comes from my own thoughts & bias, experiences and research😊.

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Edwin Bii
Edwin Bii

I'm Edwin Bii, a trained advanced conversational hypnotherapist (ACH) and Mind Shifting Coach from Kenya offering mental health support, and life coaching to help you crush your goalsand overcome your problems. Together, we'll navigate challenges, build self-awareness, and create a happier, healthier you. Let's unlock your potential.

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