Monday 23 January 2023

Killing Me Softly...With Your Words

by Grace Anaja

Verbal abuse is one of the major forms of abuse that is less spoken about or addressed. It is pretty detrimental because it usually affects individuals emotionally and psychologically.Many people need help understanding how to communicate their feelings in words. They need to understand that what is said is usually less important than how it is said. You might not want to intentionally hurt another person, but when you do not adequately process what you want and the best way to say it, you just might. 

It is also possible that you were misunderstood and your intentions were not adequately communicated. Communication, however, only happens when the intent of the speaker is received as such and understood from the message (whatever that may be) by the listener. This applies to written communication as well.

However, this cannot be compared to verbally abusing someone: a constant, deliberate, and intentional attack on another's emotions. It could be belittling a person, their work or effort (whether privately or with an audience); ridicule and embarrassment; threats; saying terrible things about a person's loved ones, background, or orientation; targeted statements at a person's social status, color (even within the same race), beliefs, ethnicity, body type, or disability. Sexual harassment in the form of comments or inappropriate jokes, sexual objectification, etc., is seen as verbal abuse too. 

Verbal abuse could be done by anyone: a partner, friend, sibling, parent, classmate, leader, boss, or co-worker. 

Even words and statements we think might not mean much – 'idiot,' 'stupid', 'mumu', 'you no get sense' – may have such an immense impact on people. Imagine a friend always putting down another friend, a partner telling the other 'you are worthless', or a teacher calling a pupil 'olodo' and the other pupils joining in. There is this story – a true life experience – of a young boy of 12 who attempted to commit suicide in school by jumping off the rooftop and was saved by a teacher who was passing by. When asked why he tried to take his life, he said his mother told him repeatedly that he would never amount to anything in life, and he believed it. So he felt there was nothing to live for.

Emotional blackmail can occur through verbal abuse, as oftentimes, blackmailers use words to manipulate the victims by blaming or threatening them to control their actions or behavior. Abusers can also prey on people's kindness or sympathy. Let us not forget social media, where individuals barge into ‘DMs’ and storm people's pages and handles with demeaning comments and insults in the name of 'freedom of speech and expression' and 'I like to speak my mind'. Or clout-chasing individuals, websites, and blogs that spread lies and rumors about other people.

Some of these expressions are offshoots of frustration, hurt, and pain that usually have nothing to do with the abused person. As is said, 'hurt people… hurt people'. Many people today need to go through a healing process: emotionally and psychologically, and from past hurts, current some, come disappointments and challenges, and an uncertain future. There are those who come from dysfunctional families, friendships, and relationships. Many just need to better understand how to communicate, especially with heightened emotions of anger, pain, or frustration and learn to respond and not react.

Some would want to form 'jagaban', 'hard guy', who claim they are not affected by these things, and those who truly are not as emotional as others. But words are words, and words are indeed powerful. They might not affect you immediately, but they definitely will, especially when that annoying little negative voice in your head comes around.

So, love and appreciate yourself. You can only love others if you first love yourself. If you have been hurt in the past, start your healing process now and deal with it. Understand what communication really is. It is a skill. Learn it and learn emotional intelligence, so you properly handle your emotions. And, of course, if you do not have anything good or beneficial to say to someone, don't say anything at all. This does not rule out constructive criticism: emphasis on constructive.

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