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The Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense Hardcover – June 1, 1985
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Most of us are under verbal attack everyday and often don't even realize it. In The Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense you'll learn the skills you need to respond to all types of verbal attack
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What I was hoping for, however, was a more general response to how to deal with people who are verbally abusive. Rather than learning responses to specific attacks only, I would have found it much more helpful to learn responses to KINDS of attacks. How do you deal with someone who is politely malicious versus someone who is being an overbearing bully? How do you distinguish between someone who is openly hostile versus merely emphatic? What guidelines can you use for yourself to figure out when to respond to an attack versus ignore it? What works in response to passive aggressivity? Trying to memorize a specific script in response to a specific tactic of verbal abuse only works if you encounter that specific tactic; I also have personally found that sort of approach to be unhelpful because it is hard to remember techniques unless you practice them, while overall principles are more adaptable. I would have found it much more helpful if the author had gone over more generalities and then devoted chapters to specific techniques. It is perhaps not fair of me to judge her for not writing the book I wanted to read instead of the book she wanted to write, but I include this in case anyone else is looking for the kind of book I was; you will not find it here.
Another thing that made this book less helpful is the extreme datedness of the advice. The book is a product of its times; the technology, gender roles, and some of the expressions are outdated. Gender roles are still unequal, but I was reminded by reading the gender-specific chapters at the end that things are much better than they used to be. One of the 8 attacks she focused on was, "Everyone here understands why you are reacting like that." I don't believe I've ever even HEARD that expression used. Certainly some of the attacks are still current ("Why don't you EVER...?" for example), and much of the information still works, but you have to do some sifting.
Also, one final note: the author assumes that you will have many opportunities to practice the techniques described in the book. Perhaps in some way she's assuming a self-selected audience; if a person isn't dealing with verbal abuse, why read the book? It seems, however, that a certainty prevails that the reader is facing a constant/daily/unending stream of verbal abuse (phrases about undergoing this "every day" are used, for example). While I'm sure the author didn't mean that every reader is undergoing verbal abuse EVERY DAY, I still had to wonder why she assumed it as a normal course of life. I have a community that communicates directly and without being manipulative. Instead of saying, "If you really loved me, you'd do it my way this time," they say, "Hey, this is important to me; could we do it my way today?" Instead of saying, "A person who wants to get ahead here would make a priority of being on time," they'd say, "Please stop being late." It is possible to surround yourself with people who have healthy communication styles, and if this is not what someone is experiencing on a regular basis then it might be a good idea to suggest ways to find that community rather than solely putting out fires.
Although I did not agree with the authors choice of the true attack topic in all his examples, he does have a point about responding to the true core of the attack, and deflecting the attack by questioning the attacker about this core.
Actually, in my life as a wimp, I have found that it does help to say something to turn the attack back on the attacker. At least it makes you feel less wimpy.