The categories described below are loosely adapted from The Verbally Abusive Relationship by Patricia Evans. In this summary, care has been taken to avoid either referring to a specific gender, or using the term 'abuser' since everyone can fall into these practices at some time. However, verbal abuse can, and often is used systematically as a power behavior. This should not be tolerated. For clear boundaries on the receiving end, or for change on the sending end, recognition by all involved is key.
- Withholding This is a choice to keep virtually all one's thoughts, feelings, hopes, and dreams to oneself and to remain silent and aloof towards one's partner, to reveal as little as possible, and to maintain an attitude of cool indifference. Withholders may pride themselves on how reasonably they talk to their partners, and believe their communication style to be the opposite of abuse.
- Countering This is where the speaker frames the partner as an adversary. How dare he/she have a different view! If the partner sees things differently, the speaker may feel he/she is losing control and dominance.
- Discounting This denies the reality and experience of the partner. If the partner does not recognize it for what it is he/she may spend years what is wrong with him/her or what is wrong with his/her ability to communicate. Common discounting statements include: You're too sensitive/ You're jumping to conclusions/ you can't take a joke/ You blow everything out of proportion/ You take things too seriously/ You feel too much/ You don't know what you're talking about/ You always have something to complain about/ etc...
- Verbal Abuse Disguised as Joking This type of abuse is not done in jest or with a light heart. It cuts to the quick, touches the most sensitive areas, and leaves the speaker with a look of triumph. This abuse never seems funny because it isn't. A speaker may also startle or frighten his partner, after which he/she will laugh as if it were a joke.
- Blocking and Diverting The speaker refuses to communicate, establishes what can be discussed, or withholds information. Blocking may be by direct command or by switching the topic. Examples of blocking are: You're just trying to have the last word/ You know what I meant/ Did anybody ask you/ Where did you get a crazy|stupid|weird|dumb idea like that/ Who asked for your opinion
- Accusing and Blaming A speaker will accuse his/her partner of some wrongdoing, or some breach of the basic agreement of the relationship, blaming the partner for his/her anger irritation or insecurity. To most partners this is very painful and very powerful because usually the partner wants more than anything to assure the speaker that he/she is not the enemy. Examples are: You're looking for trouble/ You always have to have the last word/ I've had it with your attacks|bitching|complaing/ You didn't used to be like this
- Judging and Criticizing The speaker judges the partner and expresses the judgment in a critical way. If the partner objects, he/she may say they are just trying to be helpful, but in reality the speaker is usually expressing a lack of acceptance. Statements that begin with "The trouble with you..." or "Your problem is..." as well as most 'you' statement are judgmental and criticizing.
- Trivializing The speaker says in so many words that what the partner has just done or expressed is insignificant. When trivializing is done in a frank and sincere tone of voice, it can be difficult to detect.
- Undermining This not only withholds emotional support, but also dampens enthusiasm and erodes confidence and determination. Examples are: Who are you trying to impress/ You wouldn't understand/ What's the point/ You won't get anywhere/ Who cares/ "What a pretty flower!" A flower's a flower
- Threatening This manipulates the partner by bringing up his/her greatest fears. Verbally abusive threats usually involve the threat of loss or of pain. Examples are: Do what I want or I leave/ Do what I want or I'll get a divorce/ Do what I want or I'll get angry
- Name Calling All name calling is verbal abuse, including forms of endearment said with sarcasm or contempt.
- Forgetting This involves both denial and covert manipulation. Everyone forgets what happened now and again. However, consistently forgetting interactions which have a great impact on another person is denial of verbal abuse.
- Ordering This denies the equality and autonomy of the partner. When the speaker gives orders instead of asking respectfully for what they want, he/she is treating the partner as if they were the glove on his/her hand. Particularly pernicious is: We wont discuss it.
- Denial This is one of the most insidious categories of verbal abuse because it denies the reality of the partner. Examples are: I've never said that/ You're making that all up/ We never had that conversation/ I don't know where you got that/ You've got to be crazy
- Raging Tone It is important for the partner to realize that there is no way for him/her to be to prevent the speaker from venting his/her rage on them. Speaking more gently, listening more attentively, being more supportive, more interesting, more learned, more fun, thinner, cuter, classier--being more anything will not work because the rage is not about change, it is about control and the speaker's internalized bad feelings..