An Explanation of Verbal Bullying and How to Stand Up to It

When bullies carry out a barrage of verbal attacks against a target, they attack the person’s character, mental stability, and abilities. Therefore, if the target doesn’t maintain his/her sense of self and confidence, the bullies will eventually brainwash them and crush their spirit.

Verbal bullying can be done openly through bursts of rage, overt personal attacks, name-calling, and physical violence threats. Open verbal bullying aims to strike fear in the target.

It also seeks to let the target know in no uncertain terms that the bully is controlling them and that they’d better acquiesce or the bully will hurt them. It also dares the target to protest against it or defend themselves. In open bullying, bullies instill terror in bystanders as well by making an example of the target.

Examples of open verbal bullying include but aren’t limited to:

“You’re such a moron!”

“I’ll kick your butt if you say anything back to me!”

“You’re completely hopeless! Can’t you do anything right?”

It can also be subtle through tiny digs, zingers, offhand comments, and backhanded compliments. Subtle bullying aims to control and dominate its target without them realizing it.

In being subtle, bullies may act like they’re sincerely and genuinely concerned for the target.

Examples of subtle verbal bullying include:

“I’m concerned about you. You need help because you’re always so defensive every time we tell you what you’re doing wrong.”

“We’re telling you to help you.”

There’s a difference between constructive and destructive criticism, and bullies only give you the latter.

This type of verbal aggression aims to manipulate the target. Again, in most cases, the person doesn’t realize the bullies are using them. However, they will notice that they’re not as happy as before and don’t feel as good about themselves as they did once. The target will also sense that something is off.

Bullies use words to discourage, disrespect, and devalue the target, and they do it to diminish the target’s confidence and self-esteem. Targets may consciously or unconsciously try and change their behavior and personality to avoid agitating the bullies and protect themselves from any future bullying. But in doing this, targets only allow bullies to brainwash them into suppressing their authenticity, good natures, talents, and gifts.

verbal abuse bullying

Understand that you’ll never know people are bullying based on what outsiders see and tell you. When the bullying is subtle, it’s vague and almost unnoticeable not only by you but especially to others. Over time, the target becomes conditioned to take the abuse.

This kind of bullying can be unpredictable. The target may think he’s doing quite well until suddenly and out of the blue, bullies blindside him with another barrage of insults. The sudden onslaught only renders the target shocked, stunned, and thrown off-kilter by the bullies’ sarcasm, angry jab, put down, or ridicule.

It won’t matter how intelligent and socially aware you are; you’ll never expect the next attack, and you’ll never know why they attacked you nor how to keep them from attacking you.

Verbal bullies will send conflicting messages to confuse you:

They’ll say there’s nothing wrong, but their body language and the vibes they put out will tell you otherwise. Bullies may say that they don’t care what the target says, does, or thinks, yet they continuously watch her, eavesdropping on her conversations and invading her privacy.

What’s terrible about verbal bullying is that it always escalates. In the early stages of bullying, bullies disguise their insults and ridicule as jokes and fake concern. Over time, they turn it up and dish out their verbal abuse more openly. They do this deliberately to soften the target up for worse abuse later.

Even worse, verbal abuse usually escalates to physical assaults and beatings.

That’s why it’s so important to know when someone is verbally abusing you and put a stop to it as early as possible!

If you’re not sure people are verbally bullying you, listen to what your body tells you. Pay attention to your senses and intuition. If something said to you doesn’t feel right, call it out! I can’t express enough how important this is. Counter with something like,

“I know what you’re trying to do, and I don’t like it! So, I’d suggest that you back off right now!”

“Stop being foolish!”

“I don’t want to hear that garbage!”

Or you can scoff or roll your eyes and tell them to shut up. Then walk away like you don’t have time to listen to their boring nonsense. It’s a fact that mocking and derision work wonders against bullying.

If you do this in the early stages, the chances are that you’ll stop them dead in their tracks, and they go away and find another target.

With knowledge comes empowerment.

14 thoughts on “An Explanation of Verbal Bullying and How to Stand Up to It

  1. This is so on point and very important to remember. It’s chilling how they can use these subtle tactics to try to gaslight/lower someone’s confidence. The fake help/fake concern has happened a lot particularly with my family. The positive thing is that I can see what they’re doing so I then uphold my boundaries with them. As much as I love them, I can’t spend too much time with them. My parents in particular have accused me of taking drugs and think my “crazy ideas” are a result of that. LOL and I have never done hard drugs in my life.

    • Thank you so much, Sara. I’m so sorry you’re being treated so horribly…and by family. That has to be the most difficult because they’re people you love and who are supposed to love you back. It’s especially heartbreaking when it’s family. 💔

  2. Reading this, I suddenly realized that the social media comments that leave me sometimes feeling deflated are bullying- I suppose I knew about cyber bullying- but I never connected that term to the experience I sometimes have. When I write, I write my truth- so when people respond negatively it often leaves me feeling like I said something wrong. Reading your blog today was an important moment for me, because I realized that when people come back with accusations or negativity, they are just assholes and I shouldn’t let them take up space in my head. Thank you.

    • You’re most welcome! And you’re so right, especially in that last line. Those people have no right to insert their negativity and you see it for what it is. I’m so proud of you! 💖💐🌺

  3. Mocking bully is not always the smartest choice. Some of them will lose it completely and the situation can become physically dangerous.
    But the rest is spot on. I wish I knew things like that twenty seven years ago when I met my ex-husband…

    • I’ve seen the same thing, Dwain. These abusive men do that to brainwashed these women and make them afraid to leave their sorry butts. It’s pathetic. These types of men aren’t real men in my view.

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