The Distinction between Disagreement and Verbal Abuse

Question: When I have a disagreement with another person at work, I think how I hurt them verbally and I have a strong fear about what I have done. But…the person I have the disagreement with understands that people do disagree. I have spoken to a therapist and she said that feeling is common to people who are survivors of child abuse. What do you think?

Answer: Whatever has hurt us and what we hold on to….in other words, what ever has not come to closure is still there for us to “heal.” From the perspective of “why won’t they do what I want,” Many who have suffered difficult child  hoods, were forced to do what someone else wanted and to say “no” to that meant some sort of mental or physical abuse. This creates a programming that we have to please others or we will get hurt. We lose our power to say “no” without suffering.

I talk a lot about distinctions, so I want to address a distinction here. There is a distinction between a disagreement and abuse.  It sounds to me like you might fear that you are abusing others, so…once you clarity the difference you can get some relief. If you find that you are indeed acting too aggressively you can change it.

So what is the difference?

A disagreement is just a difference of opinion, while abuse is making it personal by name calling, speaking rudely, or being committed to changing the other person’s point of view through manipulation or bullying. It is basically the difference between  ” I disagree,” versus saying something like,  “You are a complete fool!”

One is respectful of the other person and the other statement is intended to take the other person down a notch.

Same thing with anger. For EXAMPLE, A person can say clearly, “I am angry and that is not acceptable,” when spoken to rudely.

However if you say something like, “You $#^^% how dare you say that to me!” then it is abuse.

Start taking note where you simply disagree and where it might be considered disrespectful. I call it “Representing Yourself”

The question is “how do you want to represent yourself?”  You certainly don’t want to be a doormat, and on the other end you don’t want to be an abuser.

I hope this helps you to make the distinction and helps you release your resistance to saying “no.”