emotional abuse

What disability professionals say 'tell us your story' and mean 'tell us we're wonderful'.

If a disability professional asks you to come and address their professional group, be very careful — especially if they ask you to "tell your story". Sometimes disability professionals are prepared to learn from disabled people, but more often than not, it’s a setup for humiliating emotional exploitation.

Most disability professionals form their professional consensus on The Enlightened Approach to Disabled People without many or any disabled leaders in the room. Having already decided what they will do to us, disability professionals then bring in disabled people as validation fairies to help them feel the way they want to feel about it.

Even if the person approaching you seems nice, it’s worth being cautious — don’t trust a smile; look for evidence about whether or not they are prepared to take you seriously as an expert. Most disability professionals don’t want to learn from our expertise; they want us to help them feel good about themselves. What they usually want from us is an emotional performance that validates their self image and the approach they’ve decided to take to disabled people.

They want to feel inspired, without facing difficult truths. They want to feel moved, without changing. They want to say “I learn so much from you!” without reconsidering their worldview or professional practice,  and they want to say “You have such a unique perspective!” to every disabled speaker, while treating us as largely interchangeable. (Disability professionals who are actually prepared to learn from us acknowledge gaps in their expertise, and seek out disabled experts to teach them what they need to know.)

When disability professionals *mean* “come make us feel good about ourselves”, what they usually *say* is some version of “we have so much to learn from your unique perspective” or “my colleagues need to hear your story”. When disability professionals ask a disabled person to “tell your story”, they generally expect us to follow these unwritten rules:

  • Tell the audience horror stories about your childhood that allow the listeners to feel righteous because We Would Never Do Such Things.
  • Make sure that the stories are graphic, but not too graphic. Horrify the audience enough so that their pulses raise a bit and they feel brave for listening to you, but be careful not to horrify them so much that they have nightmares.
  • Make sure that you tell the story in a way that doesn’t make them feel ashamed or responsible for any of it.
  • Give them someone to identify with so they can feel like excellent people. Usually it's either "my mom never gave up on me!" or "there was this one awesome teacher who showed me how to believe in myself!"
  • Don’t talk about the lingering harm done to you, or how it’s affecting you in the present. Don’t make them think about harm done to disabled kids who are facing lifelong consequences of that harm. Don’t talk about present-day injustice, discrimination, or violence.
  • Tell your story as a tragic misunderstanding. Don’t talk about discrimination or systematic injustice. 
  • Allow your audience to laugh at you. Tell self-deprecating jokes. Don’t insist on respect.
  • Don’t describe solidarity with other disabled people, and don’t attribute any of your success to other disabled people who you regard as equals. 
  • Don’t describe fighting with a professional and winning, unless you can attribute your victory to someone they can identify with. 
  •  Don’t be angry, and don’t describe other disabled people’s anger as legitimate. (Under some circumstances, it may be permissible to describe it as understandable, but only if you’re appropriately condescending and give the impression that the therapy provided by the professionals in the room would fix it.)
  • Don’t talk about disability in political terms. Say that “times have changed”, without giving any credit to disabled people who fought for those changes. 
  • Do not mention organized groups of disability activists, especially organized groups of disability activists who exist in the present and clash with disability professionals. 
  • At the end of the presentation, open the floor for Q&A. When audience members presume that it’s ok to ask you intrusive personal questions, smile and give them an answer that makes them feel good about themselves. 
  • When you’re in the audience of their presentations, do not expect this intimacy to be reciprocated, and do not expect them to show similar concern for your feelings. 
  • Understand that you’re here to validate them, and they’re not there to validate you. Pretend that what they’re doing is listening and learning.
  • Don't break character, and don't drop the mask. Don't acknowledge the unwritten rules or the unwarranted emotional validation they want from you. Accept compliments about your "honesty" and "authentic first hand perspective" with a straight face.
  • Above all, do not talk about being harmed by disability professionals who there’s any chance your audience would identify with.

When disability professionals expect you to be their validation fairy, this is a form of ableism and emotional exploitation. They should not be treating your life as a story about their benevolence as disability professionals. They should not be treating you as existing for the purpose of making them feel good about themselves. They should be treating you with respect as a real human being — and if you are an expert, they should be treating you with the professional respect due to a colleague.

I am not the validation fairy, and neither are you.

Image description: Text "I am not the validation fairy" next to a line art drawing of a fairy casting a spell with a magic wand.

Image description: Text "I am not the validation fairy" next to a line art drawing of a fairy casting a spell with a magic wand.

Detecting imperius curses

There are patterns of psychological manipulation that have very similar effects as the imperius curse described in Harry Potter. When you’re on the receiving end, it can be very hard to figure out what’s going on and resist.

One way to tell is watching how you change when you’re around someone, especially if you’re not comfortable with the changes. Double especially if they emphatically say that they are not trying to influence you and would never try to influence you.

For instance, if your views change dramatically around someone else in this kind of pattern:

  • You normally think one thing
  • When you’re with this person, your views dramatically change
  • When you’re not with them, you can’t understand why your views changed
  • Or you might even find the views you adopted in their presence repulsive
  • But it keeps happening over and over when you interact with them

Especially if this happens when you try to contradict them:

  • You: I don’t agree with you about x. I don’t see myself that way. I don’t believe that.
  • Them: Why are you telling me that? What makes you think I ever told you what to think?
  • (And then, somehow, you still end up thinking the thing while you’re with them. And not thinking it when you’ve been away from them for a while.)

This can also happen with actions. Sometimes imperius curses mean that being around someone affects what you do. It can mean you do a lot of things you don’t think that you want to do. It can mean being really confused about why you did the things.

Particularly if this happens when you try to avoid doing the things:

  • You: I don’t want to do x.
  • Them: Did I ever say you should? All I did was ask.
  • (Then you somehow still end up doing the thing. And when you’re not with them, you don’t think you want to do the thing and aren’t quite sure how it happened.)

Another pattern:

  • They say they’re not trying to influence you.
  • You try to express a different opinion or desire or choice
  • If you’re trying to express a thought or desire, you don’t get to complete the thought or process why you think it
  • Instead, the conversation drifts into their opinion
  • You end up feeling like you agree, and complying with it
  • It’s not really agreement, because you weren’t really able to think about what they are saying and what you think about it, and why you think what you think
  • It’s being prompted into an emotional state in which disagreeing with their position feels impossible or petty, and in which surrendering is a relief

When you try to express a choice:

  • They pretend that you didn’t express a choice
  • And keep talking about it as though a decision has not been made
  • (And maybe say some things that might be reasonable if you hadn’t already made a choice and expressed your choice)
  • (Or some things that would make sense if you’d asked for their advice)
  • They also say some things that are just prompting you in the direction they want you to go in
  • And somehow, the conversation never stops until you give in to what they wanted
  • (And, often, not until you feel like it was your idea and reassure them that you agree with them, or maybe even thank them for their help)

Another pattern:

  • They say something awful about you in a tone that sounds loving and compassionate
  • The way they speak to you makes it hard to realize that any other opinion is possible.
  • You might end up thanking them
  • (And then possibly getting angry hours or weeks later when the effect wears off)
  • (And being really confused about what happened).

These are a few examples. There are many other ways this can play out.

Changing your opinion in response to someone else’s ideas is not bad in itself. Neither is changing your mind about what you want to do. Those are both important things to do in a lot of situations. The reason that imperius curse effects are bad isn’t that people subjected to them change their opinions or desires. Changing can be good; it’s the *kinds* of changes that imperius curse effects cause that’s the problem.

Imperius curse effects are bad because they short-circuit persuasion and induce compliance. They create emotional prompts that feel like believing something, even if you haven’t actually been persuaded of it. Or prompts that feel similar to wanting to do something, even if you don’t actually want to do it. It makes it hard to tell that the other person ends somewhere, and that your thoughts and feelings matter and might be different from theirs. It’s an intense violation, and it can be hard to detect and resist. I think knowing about the patterns helps some.

tl;dr The effects of the Imperius Curse described in Harry Potter are very similar to a form of non-magical emotional manipulation that happens in the real world. They trick people into feeling like they want things they don’t want, or like they agree with things they don’t agree with. There are some patterns they tend to happen in. Knowing about the patterns can make them easier to detect.

abuse doesn't always go in cycles

Content note: This post contains graphic descriptions of emotional abuse and mentions physical abuse. Proceed with caution.

Often people describe abuse as occurring primarily in cycles (including specifically with the pronouns this way):

  • He is effusively loving
  • Then, he resents her being a separate person from him
  • Tension builds up
  • He explodes and hits her
  • Then he’s all ~remorseful~ and swears he’ll never do it again
  • Then he is effusively loving again
  • and the cycle continues

That’s definitely a real thing. But it’s not the only pattern (and even when it is, it happens in gender configurations other than male abusers and female victims, and it’s not always between romantic partners.) There are many, many patterns of abuse and they’re not all discussed very much.

Here’s another pattern (not the only other pattern):

  • The abusive person will be demeaning and effusively loving at the same time
  • They will do something degrading and something genuinely positive simultaneously
  • There won’t be a discernible cyclical pattern because both parts happen at the same time
  • This can be very, very disorienting to the victim, who might be tricked into seeing their abuser as loving, considerate, and insightful, and themself as not living up to their abuser’s love


  • Daniel: I love you so much. I brought you your favorite flowers. Not everyone would be so understanding of your irrational need for flowers.
  • Daniel hugs Debra
  • Debra hugs back 
  • Debra feels awful about herself, and feels good about Daniel


  • Susan: Hey, the fair’s in town. Let’s go!
  • Susan: I made you a jacket to wear.
  • Bill: That’s beautiful! Thank you!
  • They drive to the fair, and it’s warm out, so Bill decides to leave the jacket in the car
  • Susan: Where’s your jacket? Don’t you know that it hurts my feelings when you reject my gifts? I just wanted to have a nice time with you.
  • Susan: I guess it’s not your fault. I know you’ve never been in a successful relationship before. We all have stuff to work on.
  • Bill then tearfully apologizes and promises to work on it.

tl;dr If someone is hurting you and it doesn’t seem to be happening in cycles, you are not alone. Abuse doesn’t always happen in a cycle of overt abuse and effusive love. Sometimes abuse is more mixed and constant. Scroll up for one example of a different pattern.

Short version of the problem with Nonviolent Communication (NVC)

This is the short version of this post and this post:

  • In a conflict, sometimes one person is right and the other person is wrong
  • In such cases, it is important to judge the situation and figure out who is in the right
  • Emotional abuse exists
  • Working to meet an abuser’s emotional needs will not stop them from abusing others
  • Genuinely felt emotions can come from an abuser’s abusive values and mentality. Expressing those feelings can be a form of abuse in itself.
  • It is possible to say horrible things about and to other people under the guise of talking about your own feelings and needs
  • It’s important to be able to judge abuse as abuse. Calling it “behavior that does not meet my needs” is not always sufficient.
  • People need emotional boundaries. Your feelings are not always anyone’s business, and you are not always obligated to care about or listen to the feelings of others.

All of these things are vitally important to understand. People who don’t understand these things abuse their power over others. People who don’t understand these things are incredibly vulnerable to being abused by others. 

NVC culture denies all of these things. That does tremendous harm to vulnerable people.




Nonviolent Communication can be emotionally violent


Nonviolent Communication (NVC) culture facilitates abuse in part because NVC culture has very little regard for consent. They call it nonviolent, but it is often a coercive and emotional violent kind of interaction.

sorenandjoey said:

Chilling is right, another response I’ve noticed that seems to be standard to any critique of NVC is the whole “oh well that was a misapplication of NVC, if you’d been doing it correctly that never would have happened”.

It’s been incredibly refreshing to see these posts and then reading the comments even though it’s sad to see how many people have been hurt by it, just being able to know I’m not the only person in the universe who rejects NVC has been so helpful, it’s just like my god, finally.

realsocialskills said:

NVC advocates say that to me a lot. Every single one of them who has ever said that has also quickly done the exact things I say are pervasive and awful in NVC culture.

They also often do a thing where, no matter what you say, they interpret it as though you have said something they agree with. NVC people can make it impossible to express disagreement with them and be heard. That is also an act of emotional violence.

deniseeliza said:

Thank you for this. THANK YOU. I lived with an NVC person and felt like I could never, ever make myself understood, and that I was always hurting her feelings no matter what I did. It always just seemed easiest to do whatever she said and not have any needs or opinions of my own whatsoever.

realsocialskills said:

I’m sorry she treated you that way. It was wrong. You are not alone.

Nonviolent Communication can be emotionally violent



Nonviolent Communication (NVC) culture facilitates abuse in part because NVC culture has very little regard for consent. (I said a little bit about this in my other post on ways NVC hurts people.) They call it nonviolent, but it is often a coercive and emotional violent kind of interaction. 

NVC has very different boundaries than are typical in mainstream interactions. Things that would normally be considered boundary violations are an expected and routine part of NVC dialoging.

That can be a good thing, in some contexts. There are settings where it can be very important to have different emotional boundaries than the default. To have intense engagement with people’s emotions. To hear out their emotions and state yours and try to refrain from judgement and just hear each other, and then talk together about what would meet your mutual needs.

In a NVC interaction, you have to regard your needs and the other person’s needs as equally important, no matter what they are. You have to regard their feelings and emotional reactions as equally valid and worth hearing as yours, no matter what they are. That is a good thing in some contexts, but it’s dangerous and deeply destructive in others.

That kind of interaction can be a good thing. I understand the value. But here’s the problem:

One way NVC can be abusive is that it supports coerced emotional intimacy, and coerced consideration of someone’s feelings even when their expressed feelings are abusive. This isn’t actually a good thing even when someone’s feelings are not problematic in and of themselves. Coerced emotional intimacy is a violation in and of itself, and it’s a violation that leaves people very vulnerable to greater violations.

I recently challenged an NVC advocate to answer this question:

Consider this situation:
An abuser has an emotional need for respect. He experiences it as deeply hurtful when his partner has conversations with other men. When she talks to other men anyway, he feels betrayed. He says “When you talk to other men, I feel hurt because I need mutual respect.”
Using NVC principles, how do you say that what he is doing is wrong?
This was their answer:
“You’ve described him as "an abuser”. Abusing people is wrong because a person with abusive behaviour doesn’t or can’t hold with equal care the needs of others.
Is he doing something wrong? Or is he being honest that he feels hurt when his partners talks to other men? His partner can become his ex-partner if she doesn’t agree to what he’s asking for.”

That, in a nutshell, is the problem with NVC philosophy. This abusive partner’s honest expression of his feelings is actually part of how he is abusing his partner. NVC has no way of recognizing the ways in which expression of genuinely felt emotions can be abusive. It also has no recognized way for someone to legitimately say “no, this is not a conversation I want to engage in” or “no, I don’t consider that feeling something I need to respond to or take into consideration.”

Part of what it would take for NVC to stop being an abusive culture it to recognize that NVC-style dialogue and emotional intimacy require consent every single time people interact that way.  Like sexual intercourse, this kind of emotional intercourse requires consent, every single time. Having a close relationship is not consent to NVC. Having a conflict is not consent. Anger is not consent. Having found NVC helpful in the past is not consent, either. Consent means that both parties agree to have this kind of interaction *in this specific instance*.

NVC can’t be the only kind of interaction allowed, even between people who are very close to one another. And it’s not ok to coerce people into it.

And yet, NVC culture is not careful about consent at all. NVC tactics are routinely used on people whether or not they agree to have that kind of interaction. (Some NVC advocates may say otherwise, particularly in response to criticism. But actions speak louder than words, and NVC proponents do not act in practice as though consent is important. They are case in point for When Your Right to Say No is Entirely Hypothetical) This is wrong. Emotional intimacy requires consent.

NVC practitioners express deeply felt emotions and needs to non-consenting others. They do this with the implied expectation that the other person experience their expressed feelings as very very important. They also expect that person to respond by expressing their feelings and needs in the same pattern. They also expect that person to refrain from judging the NVC proponent’s expressed feelings and needs. It is not ok to force this pattern on someone. Doing so is an act of emotional violence.

It’s not ok to force someone to be emotionally intimate with you. It is not ok to dump your deep feelings on someone with the expectation that they reciprocate. Other people get to decide what they want to share with you.

An example: White NVC proponents sometimes express feelings about their racist attitudes towards people of color, to people of color who have not consented to listening to this. They do so with the expectation that the person of color will listen non-judgmentally, appreciate the honesty, and share their intimate feelings about their experiences with racism as a person of color. This is a horrible thing to do to someone. It is an act of racist emotional violence.

NVC people also use empathy to violate boundaries. They imagine what someone must be feeling, name that feeling, and express empathy with it. Then they either insert a loaded pause in the conversation, or ask you to confirm or deny the feeling and discuss your actual reactions in detail. These are not really questions. They are demands. They do not take “I don’t want to discuss that” as an ok answer. They keep pushing, and imply that you lack emotional insight and are uninterested in honest communication if you don’t want to share intimate information about your feelings. That is coerced intimacy, and it’s not ok.

For instance, an NVC advocate with power over someone might say in response to a conflict with that person: I can see that this interaction is very difficult for you. I’m sensing a lot of anger. I’m saddened that your experiences with authority figures have been so negative. (Expectant pause). I think you are experiencing a lot of anger right now, is that right?

That is not ok. When you have power over someone, it is abusive to pressure them to discuss their intimate feelings rather than the thing they object to in your behavior towards them. Emotional intimacy requires consent; it is not ok to force it on someone as a way of deflecting conflict. And when you have a lot of power over someone and they aren’t in a position to assert a boundary unilaterally, you have a much greater obligation to be careful about consent.

NVC advocates may tell you that they are just trying to have an honest conversation, with the implication that if you want ordinary emotional boundaries, you are being dishonest and refusing to communicate. They are not right about this.

You do not have to be emotionally intimate with someone to listen to them, or to have an honest conversation. It is ok to have boundaries. It is ok to have boundaries that the person you’re talking with doesn’t want you to have. Not all interactions have to or should involve the level of intimacy that NVC demands. It is never ok for anyone to coerce you into emotional intimacy. Using NVC-style dialogue tactics on someone who does not consent is an act of emotional violence. 

fourloves said:

I love these posts, realsocialskills. And that quote is awful. Since when is “well, someone can just leave if they don’t like being abused” an adequate defense of abuse??

realsocialskills said:

Beyond that: it’s incredibly naive to think that an emotional abuser who considers their victim obligated to meet their needs will let their victim just walk away.

That kind of abuser is particularly likely to try to force their victim to listen to their needs and ~work things out~ long after they have left and made it clear that they do not welcome further contact.





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lexsplosion said:

In general, if you are convinced that you know better than the person that you’re talking to what their own thoughts, feelings, and motivations must really be—and keep insisting that they’re just too sick or don’t have the insight to understand what their REAL thoughts, feelings and motivations are—you need to go away and stop hurting people who are already having a rough enough time.”

This this this this this. Also pretty terrified the person who abused me wants to be a therapist. :(

realsocialskills said:

It scares me too. I wish this was the first time I’d heard about an abuser wanting to become a therapist.

Therapy is so important for so many vulnerable people. And there are abusers who take advantage of that. It’s terrifying.

youneedacat said:

One of my long-term abusers, someone who has not seen me since 1996 but has participated in cyberstalking extremely recently to this day?  Became a therapist.  She was working on her psych degree when I first met her, and even then already believed she had the right to fuck with people’s lives, act like she knew them better than they knew themselves, etc.  But it wasn’t even as benign as that.  She enjoyed inciting drama and friction and tension between people.  If there was not a problem she would create a problem because she got off on people having problems.  She would even lie to create problems — she has lied multiple times, blatantly, not misremembered but outright lied, in the course of her cyberstalking and defamation campaign against me.  And I’m far from the only person she’s targeted.  She’s also set up situations where she’s deliberately triggered people who were fairly psychologically stable to begin with, and induced symptoms of mental illness so that she could take on a long-suffering martyr caretaker role (that is the only explanation I can imagine for some things I’ve seen her do).  And she’s a therapist, and that scares me to death.  I am afraid for her patients.

NVC, cognitive ableism, and abuse




Nonviolent Communication can hurt people




People who struggle interpersonally, who seem unhappy, or who get into a lot of conflicts are often advised to adopt the approach of Nonviolent Communication.

This is…

ischemgeek said:

This. Other issues is that NVC can be used by abusers to abuse… “nonviolently.” Especially if you’re standing up for yourself to them.

Like by using their I-statements to redirect from the issue to them. Like, if I’m saying, “Please don’t [x] because [y],” then the abusive NVC user responds with an I-statement about how hurt they feel about what I just said. Suddenly I’m the bad guy for telling them not to [touch me, interrupt me, roughhouse, etc].

Or using their I-statements to gaslight. I say, “Please don’t [x] because [y],” and they respond with an I-statement about how they feel attacked when I “yell” even though I wasn’t yelling. And then the conversation is suddenly about whether or not I was yelling at them, not about the thing I’m trying to get them to stop doing. And again, I’m the bad guy for establishing a boundary.

Or using their I-statements to engage in ableism and tone policing. “I don’t like being spoken to in such a harsh tone.” when I can’t word something any differently because I’m trying to hold off a meltdown. And then convo is redirected to whether or not I’m being “too harsh” and away from “I need to get out of this situation yesterday,” however I phrased it.

And ableism in that they don’t accept that sometimes it’s hard to impossible to phrase stuff in a NVC-acceptable way. On a bad word day, something like 70% of my conversational brainpower is focused on getting the mouth to make the word-sounds in the order, volume, cadence and smoothness that makes the gist of what I need to communicate understood. The remainder of my conversational brainpower is about evenly split between understanding what the other person is saying and trying to figure out how to phrase something so that I can get it out of my uncooperative mouth. NVC phrasing is almost always wordier, more oblique, and therefore harder to conceptualize and say than direct/blunt phrasing. On a bad words day I don’t have any brainpower left over to figure out how to phrase things tactfully/gently. If I stumble onto it because it’s in a preexisting script that I think I can say, great. If not, communication > etiquette. I will point and say “Shut it” about a fume hood sash at work, even if it’s blunt to the point of rudeness, if it’s what I can say at the time. Because the alternative is dangerous at my work. NVC does not as a philosophy allow for this being a situation that might happen.

It’s also harder to parse what the other person is actually wanting from me in the conversation when they choose to hint and talk around it with NVC (e.g., “I’m sensing anger” can mean “Did I upset you?” or “Are you angry?” or “Why are you angry?” or “Is something bothering you?” or “am I misreading your body language?” or “I don’t like your tone of voice.”). When I’m in a high-stress time, I’m unable to correctly parse body language and subtext. I will misread what the other person is hinting at, and then they get annoyed when I don’t follow their lead in the social dance. When I’m stressed, I’m either oblivious to or I’m hearing only part of the metaphorical music, and therefore I can’t follow the subtleties and intricacies of what they want me to do. NVC also does not as a philosophy allow for this being a situation that might happen - I need direct, explicit, and downright blunt-to-the-point-of-rude communication at times. NVC practitioners (for want of a better word) have a tendency to assume I’m being purposefully obtuse at such times, when in reality I’m just not understanding what they’re trying to get at.

Lastly: I’m a survivor of various forms of abuse. Learning how to judge my abusers for their abuse was a necessary part of the healing process. NVC takes the assumption that it “takes two” to have a blow-up about something. And in some cases, it does. But in other cases, NVC is a philosophy of victim-blaming.

It did not take two when I was being sexually harassed by a kid over twice my age on the school bus. It took him. Choosing someone to victimize. It did not take two when someone held me by the throat as they put a hole through the wall beside my head. It took that person, choosing to victimize me. It did not take two when I had kids slam my head in the locker and beat me while I lay on the ground stunned and counting stars out of the blue, for no reason other than that they thought it would be funny. It took my bullies choosing to victimize me. Judging their actions as wrong and harmful and just plain mean let me learn to stop blaming myself when it was done to me. And that, in turn, opened me to taking more radical action, which I eventually did upon graduating high school.

Judgement is a necessary skill when you’re in an abusive situation. Full stop. You need to judge others so that you can stop victim-blaming yourself and stop believing that if you’re just perfect enough - if you fit in enough, if your hair and clothes are good enough, if you’re well behaved enough, if your marks are good enough, if you practice physical coordination enough, if you never even sneeze wrong or breathe funny - you won’t be abused anymore. That won’t happen. You will never be perfect enough for them. I could walk on water, and they would call me a r***** for not knowing how to swim. And it’s not my fault. It’s theirs, for choosing to victimize.

Learning how to judge, and that judgement is okay in some situations, even necessary in some situations, allowed me to leave those abusive situations. Expressing my judgement of their actions allowed me to establish boundaries in a way that was unmistakable by bystanders. And it got others to acknowledge and more importantly learn from my experiences. A school-aged relative of mine did not have a bullying situation in school go unchecked because I expressed my judgement of how my parents handled my bullying situation in school. My parents were hurt by my words, I’m sure. But that relative was saved years of torment. I tried with I-statements, I really did. And they didn’t work. And I tried talking about the scientific studies on the harms of bullying. And that didn’t work. What worked was sitting down with the kid’s parents and telling them in so many words (I rehearsed it a lot so I’d be able to get it out right the first time), “Your child will hate you in ten years if you don’t do something about this now. Not in a month or two in case it gets better. It’s been going on for months. It won’t get better. It will just get worse if you don’t do something, and in a month it might be too little too late. Trust me on this. You need to do something now. I was in [kid]’s shoes when I was that age, and by the time I was a teenager, I hated my parents with a passion for not doing anything about it when I was a kid. Don’t ignore it and pretend it’ll go away. Do something. Even if it doesn’t work, [kid] will know you’re there and trying, and that means something. “

NVC is a good tool for certain situations. But it is not and should not be the only tool. If it doesn’t work, you need to have something else to turn to. To use a metaphor: If all you have is a hammer, you’ll wreck your damn plumbing when you try to tighten a nut. Likewise, if all you have is NVC, you’ll make the situation worse when forceful verbal action is required.

youneedacat said:

Oh gods the first fourth-grade teacher I ever had (I repeated the grade)… he always said “it takes two to tango” or “it takes two to tangle” or something.  I didn’t have the language skills to parse out what that meant, but it always consisted of this girl beating me up or otherwise bullying me and then him forcing us to “talk it over” while she cried sweet little crocodile tears about getting caught and the teacher would tell me “Look at her, she’s CRYING,” as if that meant any damn thing at all.


Nonviolent Communication can hurt people




People who struggle interpersonally, who seem unhappy, or who get into a lot of conflicts are often advised to adopt the approach of Nonviolent Communication.

This is often not a good idea. Nonviolent Communication is an approach based on refraining…

agent-hardass said:

Holy shit thank you. Someone finally said it.

00goddess said:

Dear God yes.

When I was in foster care as a teen, we were given therapy and “boundaries” and “communication rules” that (I eventually learned, as an adult) were based on NVC. There was a huge focus on “I statements.” We were literally forbidden to speak in any other way, and punished if we did so.

What no one told any of us, all foster kids with histories of abuse, neglect, or both, was that “I statements” don’t mean a damn thing or have any effect at all when the other party is either not reasonable, or downright abusive. No, they just trained us with what the author at realsocialskills very aptly calls “anti-skills” and tossed us out into the world.

NVC *crippled* me emotionally and socially. It made me even more vulnerable to abusive situations. Why? Because I had been trained, indoctrinated even, for more than two years to not ever hold anyone responsible for their bad behavior or call them out on it. So when I found myself in abusive situations, I would step right up and use my “I statements” and then when this was not effective, I would do that same thing again, and again. I was not taught any other relationship skills. NVC taught me that in any conflict, I had to figure out what *I* was doing wrong and fix that somehow. It never taught me that some people don’t respond to “I statements” by changing their bad behavior because they don’t actually care if they are hurting you, or they might even like it. It never taught me that I didn’t actually have to stick around when someone was being abusive.

In the very abusive group home and foster org in which I was placed, NVC functioned as a tool that staff used to marginalize, manipulate, gaslight, and control us. NVC did not teach us how to spot those things when they were happening, of course, because the org and the staff had an interest in keeping us marginalized, rather than in raising us to be empowered.

Anger is an emotion, not a moral blank cheque

hello i have a question, do you know how to deal with someone who hurts and manipulates you and then makes you feel bad about it? like, if they say mean things about/to you and justify it by saying ‘i was angry’ but if you are ever mean to them, they get really mad at you for it and say you’re a terrible person?
realsocialskills said:
I think in that situation, the best thing you can do is get distance so that person can’t keep hurting you like that.
Some people treat anger like a blank cheque that justifies anything they decide to do to you in their rage. Those people are abusers.
Anger is not a justification. Things that are wrong when you’re calm are still wrong when you are angry.
One thing that anger does is lower inhibitions against certain kinds of actions. That can be a good thing, if it makes it feel more ok to protect yourself. It can be a bad thing, it if makes it feel more ok to hurt people who don’t deserve it. It’s easier to make certain kinds of mistakes when you are angry and have lower inhibitions against doing things that might hurt others. We all make mistakes in anger, from time to time. 
But those mistakes *count*; the anger doesn’t cancel out the actions. People who treat their rage as a justification for mistreating you are unlikely to ever start treating you better. If someone still thinks what they did was ok once they’ve calmed down, then they *actually think it was ok* and will do it again next time.
What people say when they’re angry counts. What people say when they’re drunk counts. What people say and think always counts. This is especially true if they are very distressed by the possibility that you’ll judge them for saying mean things, but not at all concerned about the possibility that they hurt you by saying mean things.

If someone calls you a terrible person on a regular basis, assume they mean it. Even if they say they don’t later. Even if they say it was just anger (or alcohol, or stress, or exhaustion.) And keep in mind that friends are people you like who like you, and people who dislike you aren’t friends. 
People who regularly tell you that you are a terrible person are trying to make you feel unworthy of friendship so that you will put up with anything they decide to do to you. If they really thought you were a bad person, they’d be trying to get away from you, not trying to keep you close.
The best thing you can do is distance yourself from this person, and spend time with people who actually like and respect you.