How to Defend Yourself from Verbal Abuse

August 12, 2021 Cheryl Wozny

If you or someone you know has been the victim of verbal abuse, it can be hard to determine how to handle the situation. Verbal abuse can show up in the home, at work, or even in public situations. Each circumstance is unique, and knowing how to defend yourself against verbal abuse can be complex. In some cases, verbal abuse can lead to physical violence, so effectively handling it can keep you safe from harm. 

How to Defend Yourself When Confronted with Verbal Abuse

Examine the Real Reason for the Verbal Abuse

There could be an underlying issue why your abuser is lashing out at you during this moment. Although this is not an excuse to condone verbal abuse in any way, it could help you understand why they are acting abusively towards you. Sometimes if you can pinpoint the source of the anger, you can help diffuse the situation. Did you make a comment or do something that they misinterpreted? Is the abuser angry at someone else, but you are the person in front of them right now taking the negative energy? Do they feel threatened by you in some way? 

Avoid Defensive Mode Even Though You Are Defending Yourself from Verbal Abuse

Automatically, when we are feeling attacked or abused, we will go to our defensive mode. It is an instinct to protect ourselves and fight back, but this can escalate the situation higher when facing verbal abuse. Some of these tips can help minimize the severity of the problem. 

  • Keep your voice calm, almost monotone, without yelling or showing extreme emotion.
  • Relax your body, do not appear tense, frightened, scared, or angry.
  • Do not provide extensive explanations to the abuser; they will not listen anyway.
  • Do not use vague or hypothetical situations in your comments to an abuser.
  • Do not offer answers for the abuser to continue their verbal assault.
  • Use clear, concise, and straightforward language and do not stray off-topic.
  • If you can physically remove yourself from the situation, it may be best, depending on whether you have any witnesses.

Know Some Effective Responses 

You will not always be able to diffuse a situation immediately or as ideally as you would like. Knowing some alternative ways to have the abuser stop attacking you can provide relief in many cases. If they are a regular acquaintance in your life, you can respond accordingly once you know their intent. Try responses like these:

  • "I'm sorry, I will not sit here and listen to you talk to me like this."
  • "It's funny that you mentioned that I eat too much junk food since I was just thinking about a story I read in the newspaper about a convenience store that had a problem with their supplier . . ." and then go on and on until the abuser gets fed up and leaves. (This is the "boring baroque response.")
  • "It can be frustrating when you don't know where other coworkers are in their projects and are coming close to the deadline."

Each circumstance will be different, and it is crucial that you stay calm, remember to breathe, and not retaliate if someone is verbally abusing you. If you cannot handle the situation yourself, you must seek some help from others before your circumstances become worse. 

APA Reference
Wozny, C. (2021, August 12). How to Defend Yourself from Verbal Abuse , HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2023, September 24 from

Author: Cheryl Wozny

Cheryl Wozny is a freelance writer and published author of several books, including mental health resources for children titled, Why Is My Mommy So Sad? and Why is My Daddy So Sick? Writing has become her way of healing and helping others. Find Cheryl on TwitterInstagramFacebook, and her blog

October, 21 2022 at 5:22 pm

Oh goodness, i don’t think i’ve ever laughed so hard as i did reading the response to the abuser about”you know its funny you should say i eat too much …blah blah blah…”and then ramble on until they get bored and walk away. I’m not trying to take away from the seriousness of the matter, just couldn’t help myself to imagine my abusers response to that!! He wouldn’t know what to do to continue attacking me!! So funny 😂 i feel like i have had a few opportunities which i “tried something new” as far as attempting to stop him in which were so successful!! I felt like i had just accomplished a huge success in both instances!! To the point i felt like the first one was a highly pivotal moment in my life in which i felt i would now know ways to nicely defend myself in the future!! Is it evil to feel so satisfied by these successes i cant hold it in?!?! I hope not. The funny part about both of the times i put him in his place, i wasn’t angry, i was very sarcastic in one, but i was only making a point, because i actually do care about him. The funniest part about the second incident was that without even planning it, i ironically made him feel stupid without even directly saying so because he had actually did’t have even one valid argument behind his supposed “reason” to which he was angry at me over. And i proved him how he was wrong!! And then i guess he couldn’t come up with anymore “non valid reasons “ so he gave up and said something to the effect of “i was irritating him so i needed to leave”. Which made me laugh so hard !!!! Because that was him giving up because he knew i was 100% correct and possibly felt intimidated by how “dumb” i was!! That was always his go to degrading and hurtful tactic he would use. So satisfying!! 😂. I guess my point is that anyone suffering verbal abuse can try different rational tactics to take apart their supposed “reasons” their anger is your fault, you don’t even need to yell and in fact its a lot more effective if you are matter of fact!!

September, 27 2022 at 12:49 am

I actually have a problem with verbal attacks with my boyfriend.
He is the owner of a pub. We had a rough two years because the pandemic of COVID-19. We kinda managed to keep the pub working, but it left a scar on our relationship. We are both tired of trying to keep things going. We are both fighters - he is the restless one, I'm the one who is trying to be the reasonable one. I'm done working insane hours - it's not good for ones psychological state. But he keeps working insane hours and even blaming me for getting more sleep than he does. I understand that he is angry and tired. Also a lot of people are calling or writing text messages to him every day, wanting something from him.
I started to kinda hate these people. When somebody asks if they can speak to my boyfriend, I would tell them off and also tell them to plan a meeting with him. He sees it as me trying to interfere, because he is trying to maintain the image of the 'one, who could do everything'. But I see him crumbling and I want to protect him.
Last week he slapped me in front of few people. I know that I don't have to suffer this. I have to fight for myself. And I will.
But also I am his lightning rod. And I know it and I can live with it for some time.
Until my patience runs off.
I keep myself together and I value myself. But I also care about him and the future of the pub that I helped him to keep.
He also keeps on showing that he really regrets his actions.
Please, can you give me some advice?
I don't want to see him losing his or mine determination. Or our relationship. It's been hard and we are both kinda trapped in the situation.
Thank you.

September, 27 2022 at 12:25 pm

Hello Lotta, I am Cheryl Wozny, author of the Verbal Abuse in Relationships blog. I commend you for reaching out and sharing your story with me. It can be difficult to be vulnerable and put yourself out there while looking for help. I can tell that you want to take care of yourself and your boyfriend to solve the issues you have both been experiencing. I am glad you see the behavior's problems and want a resolution. I encourage you to check out our resources page:…. Here, you can find some hotlines and referral services that could help you and your boyfriend in tackling the difficult scenarios that are happening and what your next steps would be for healing and working towards a healthy life.

GaryLee Duclos
February, 23 2022 at 9:57 pm

I had an assistant manager insult, berate, intimidate, humiliate, and demand that I have to stay and "deal with it" over her (I feel) intentional mistake.
Right after she sent a star coworker home, she was also berating, for taking an extra half hour on her unpaid break to calm down.
So, taking verbal abuse to the next level.
Wanted someone to yell at so bad she purposefully created a problem, then blamed me for it in a tirade.
This is the second time she's straight yelled at me for her mistakes.
She's also singled me out, in another situation, three hours into my shift telling me I wasn't allowed to eat because reasons didn't matter.
Made a whole thing about a handful of free fries I wanted to eat to keep my strength up.
Basically, we don't care if you're hungry or starving, we rule all, now get back out there and feed the customers! They're starving! Oh, and times a factor... So... No breaks
After she went off on me, in the original paragraph of this statement, she walked away saying...
And if you don't like it... I'll find somebody else, then she smiled smugly and walked off.
It killed every ounce of passion I had for the day on the spot.
I told the other managers what happened and that I couldn't stay for the rest of the shift because of it.
I just didn't want to be there another five hours with her looming and skulking over me, just waiting for me to make a mistake so she can pounce again. (What she did for a half hour after the incident)
They told her what my plan was and she just had to come over, dig her heels in, and "put me on the spot"
Conversation went very much like this,
So I hear you're going to leave early?
Me: Yeah
Yelling: You CAN'T leave, you HAVE to stay, you're scheduled wether you like it or not, it's set in stone!
Me: *looks her right in the eyes and laughs loudly*. *Struggling to stay calm*
You! You're the reason I'm leaving! You have a terrible attitude and I can't work with you anymore!
Then I clocked out and left.
Apparently, after I left, everything fell apart even harder. She refused to get "hands on" even though two star employees left. And just let everything crash and burn.
Source: Headcook coworker working the shift I left, we game together.
Called in the next day cause her manager won't be back for three days and I stand by what I say.
Luckily I had three days off after the call out.
I'm going in tomorrow, armed to the teeth, with homework I've done on worker's rights and verbal aggression and harassment. I'm eager and am a professionally patient person...
I'm actually feeling excited with confronting this issue tomorrow.

February, 24 2022 at 11:19 am

Hello Gary, I am Cheryl, the author of the Verbal Abuse in Relationship blog here at HealthyPlace. I applaud you for taking the initiative to stand up for yourself and others against an abuser. Taking the steps to remove yourself from the situation and find a solution that works for you can be challenging, especially when it involves our livelihood. Remaining calm and researching your options is a terrific strategy for returning to a better work environment. I wish you luck with your next steps.

August, 15 2021 at 4:51 am

Wonderful tips, especially remembering to breathe and leave the situation! However, sharing a long story to annoy the abuser can sometimes escalate the situation. I know this from personal experience with a verbal abuser.

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