Be very careful. Any time bullies select a potential target, they start out subtle and sweet with their bullying. They test the waters first- always. If the target overlooks their behavior, they move on to more obvious verbal abuse.
Here’s what verbal abuse does. It conditions the target to put up with abuse without them even knowing it. And bullies do it in tiny bites.
The target is unaware of the incremental, bit-by-tiny-bit eroding of their self-esteem. Because the process is so slow, it’s barely noticeable until it’s gone so far that it’s out of control. And by then, it’s too late.
Before long, the target is then blamed for the bullies’ bad behavior and is now a victim. Understand that the motto of bullies is, “might makes right.”
The best way to empower yourself is by paying attention to the vibes others put out, how you feel, maintaining a sense of your own worth, and by seeing verbal bullying for what it is.
I learned about Power Over and Personal Power when I read the book, “The Verbally Abusive Relationship,” by Patricia Evans about ten years ago.
In short, power over is what abusers use to lord over their targets and bullies are no exception here. And most bullies are desperate to keep that power because it’s the only power they can have. If there’s no target to have power over, one is created.
In her book, Patricia describes power over as the type of power that has clear winners and losers.
“Power over shows up as control and dominance. Personal power shows up as mutuality and co-creation.” (2010, Patricia Evans “The Verbally Abusive Relationship,” p. 27)
Here’s Patricia’s explanation of personal power:
“Personal power is another way of experiencing power, one which doesn’t need winners and losers., dominant people and subordinates, and which doesn’t require power over an ‘other.’ Personal power works by mutuality and co-creation and may be considered a new way of being in and perceiving the world.” (2010, Patricia Evans “The Verbally Abusive Relationship,” p. 29 para 4)
Understand that bullying is bullying whether it comes in the form of spousal abuse, child abuse, sexual abuse, workplace and school abuse, or abuse of power and government tyranny. It all comes from the desire to have power over. It’s all abuse, it’s all bullying and every type of it starts out subtle- so subtle that you won’t even recognize what’s happening if you aren’t paying attention.
When we learn to recognize the subtleties, we will better be able to protect ourselves. And how we recognize subtleties is by observing and listening. We must observe body language, listen for the subtext, listen to our gut instinct, and pay close attention to how the actions of others make us feel.
And once we do, we’ll be better able to call out the behavior and spare our self-esteem from being slowly chipped away. In that, we’ll be better able to hold on to our personal power and live happier and more peaceful lives.