I hate conversations with abusers. Trying to have a conversation is like being in a sparring match with no rules. It’s more a verbal competition than it is a mutual discussion about an issue. Toxic communicators don’t have anyone’s best interest in mind except their own. They see a conversation as a fight to the death because, for them, to lose is emotionally unconscionable. Their motivation is to win, at all cost.
There are tell-tale communication red flags I always try to pay attention to when I have to converse with a toxic communicator. Since the goal of a toxic communicator is to win, he must throw the hardest punch and knock you out first (verbally). The last one left not crying, wins. If he hurts you worse than you’ve hurt him, he wins. Therefore, anything you say, have said, do or have done can and will be used against you. You cannot trust a toxic communicator with your authentic self.
Are you in a relationship with a toxic communicator? Being able to recognize the crazy-making conversation tactics will help you not go insane!!
Lies and Manipulation: Things in the conversation aren’t going his way? He’ll make something up!! He doesn’t like what you have to say so he’ll navigate the conversation to try to make you say what he wants to hear. Twisting the truth, making up stories and manipulating your emotions are all tools that are kept handy for use by the toxic communicator. Remember, it isn’t about being accurate, it’s about winning.
Accusations: He’ll attach the motive and the narrative to the situation for you! No need to explain or defend yourself because he’ll already accuse you of what he’s made up. It doesn’t matter that his accusations are ridiculous and groundless, accusations mixed in with a good amount of lies are the best jumping off point to start a toxic conversation. No level playing field here! You are left wondering, after the lies and accusations, if he even knows you at all! Remember, it isn’t about the truth, it’s about winning.
Forgetting or changing the facts: He’ll easily ascribe a totally different motivation to his actions just to make him look good, and you look wrong. Or, he’ll completely forget that something was said or done so you will be the crazy one for bringing it up! This is also called ‘gas-lighting’ or ‘crazy making’, and it’s a favorite toxic communication tactic. Remember, it isn’t about reality, it’s about winning.
Talk over you: You want to share your point of view? Do you have something to add? Would you like to defend yourself or point out their hurtful actions or words? Too bad!! They’ll just talk right over you and not stop. This is more than interrupting, although they’ll do that too, liberally, this is the refusal to stop talking at all, ever, for any reason. It is the definition of ‘Can’t get a word in edgewise’. Maintaining control of a conversation gives the abuser the ability to navigate where the conversation is headed, and where it will end up. He gets to sidestep responsibility to deal with issues you find important. By talking over you and interrupting they control the focus of attention and the topic. Remember, it isn’t about mutuality, it’s about winning.
Change the subject: How often does the toxic communicator drop something into the conversation that has absolutely nothing to do with the topic, but he knows it will sidetrack you? ALL THE TIME!!! He’s probably running out of verbal ammunition and has to start pulling stuff in that he’s been saving up to smack you with. This is a great way to purposely sidetrack you so he, once again, has the upper hand. Remember it isn’t about discussing a specific issue to reach understanding, it’s about winning.
Say the cruelest thing they can think of: Finally, if you are still trying to communicate and he doesn’t feel like he’s winning, he’ll pull the punch card. He knows what means the most to you and what will hurt you the most. Now is the moment he’ll use it for the win! Anything and everything you’ve ever shared about yourself is up for grabs with this one. Nothing is out-of-bounds. He’ll slash you with it and claim victory! Remember, it isn’t about being kind, considerate or mature, it’s about winning.
Conversations with toxic communicators are chaotic. They thrive on throwing curve balls and left hooks to keep you off-balance. The abuser has absolutely zero interest in hearing your perspective, feelings or point of view. They are 100% focused on themselves and how to control you, to please them. Their egos are fragile, so their motivation is not to reach a point of mutual understanding, but to shut you down first in order to salvage their sense of self-importance.
This kind of ongoing communication leads to many unhealthy symptoms for those who are trying to forge a relationship with the abuser. According to The Cagey Communicator, some of the things that might happen are:
You’re left a mess. You wake up in the morning, or go to sleep at night, re-hashing the insane things the toxic communicator has said or done.
Can’t and don’t communicate. “We can’t talk!” is how you’re left feeling since you can’t really pin down the toxic communicator who is forever scheming and planning.
Sucked into the wounds of the cagey communicator. Toxic communicators pull you into their grief world to heal them, and then you’re left wounded and lonesome.
Wallowing in suffering. You blame yourself and kick yourself in the head for feeling so bad for so long. Whoops! You’ve been had once again because it’s not your fault.
I can’t get you out of my head. Your head is crammed full of the crummy stuff that the toxic communicator has so carefully stowed away, at your expense.
Panic, anxiety, and personal unrest. Your life intent is happiness and peace of mind, not having your mind split into a million little pieces by the controlling will of the toxic communicator.
If you find yourself in a relationship with a toxic communicator, it is vitally important you do your best to care for your own mental health.
- Know that it isn’t your fault.
- Realize you are not crazy but are being manipulated with crazy-making communication.
- Be a broken record. Repeat yourself over and over and over again. OR
- Be silent. Refuse to participate in the chaos. OR
- Ask targeted questions that will allow the toxic communicator to tie themselves up in verbal knots. This takes skill and practice but they will sometimes do the work for you when you can ask the right targeted questions. Asking about their words, motivations and feelings instead of accusing them back can often be an effective way to be heard.
- Refuse to be derailed. Don’t take the bait when he throws diversion comments at you. Stay on topic.
- Be aware of your reactions. Stay in control of yourself; we sometimes call this ‘grey rock’. A grey rock has no reactions and no feelings, right? Be the grey rock.
- Set boundaries and do not let them move. You can protect yourself by setting boundaries that you will not allow the toxic communicator to cross. If they do cross the boundary there is a clear and decisive action such as removing yourself from the conversation.
- GET HELP! see a counselor, read the book ‘Boundaries’ or talk to a trusted friend to help you sort it out. Reach to others to help you figure out what to do and share the burden.
Dealing with a toxic communicator and the abuser is very difficult. It is essential you find a way to minimize the harm the abuser can and will do to you emotionally and mentally. We long for healthy, mutually loving and respectful relationships. God created us to thrive in healthy situations. It’s imperative you continue to maintain your personal integrity. Don’t allow yourself to start communicating in the same harmful ways, know what healthy communication looks like and strive for that to be your goal.
Sometimes, you’ll need to find a way to end the toxic relationship. As a Christian, ending a relationship with a toxic person can be difficult because we want to forgive and reconcile. We are taught to be hopeful that everyone can be redeemed. Remember, you have to choose to change before God will change you. It is never a sin to honor God and yourself by removing toxic people from your life. There are many examples of people in the Bible who ended unsafe relationships with others in order to maintain their personal physical and mental safety. God never intended that we live in constant chaos and abuse.
Dealing with a toxic communicator is very hard. It’s difficult to understand how someone who professes to care about you is so utterly uninterested in effectively communicating with you. It hurts to come to the realization that their form of communication is self-serving. So much freedom can be found, though, when we begin to see that the crazy-making talk isn’t our fault, but is the choice of the abuser. Making choices to keep ourselves safe can save our hearts and minds in the long run.