Signs of Subtle Abuse in Communication

Abuse is a behavior that stems from the attitude of objectifying human beings - feeling entitled to control and hold power over others. Objects are cold, static, emotionless, and can be manipulated. Objects are not vulnerable, humans are. If you try to fit a living being  into your ideas and disregard their real human experience, you’ll probably hurt them. Living beings are meant to be related to - and not be used.

Abusive behaviour by others is often internalised, thus, sometimes we tend to objectify ourselves in anticipation to be objectified by others. Perfectionism is an example of that - striving for unrealistic standards is a way to maintain power and control over one's image and behaviour. It's harmful.

If you’re not sure whether you can spot abuse or self-abuse, here are some common examples. We invite you to notice how you feel as you read them and take pauses if you have to.  

Here is a list of the most common abusive attitudes, behaviours and language patterns in personal relationships:

Passive-aggressive comments:

  • What did you do today besides wasting time on Instagram?;
  • [seeing your friend eat another piece of chocolate] Ahh, is this how you plan to lose your belly fat?;
  • Of course, you can’t take the trash out, you have been so busy playing video games all day, etc.;

Insisting or implying that the person doesn’t know what they’re talking about:

  • You have no idea about real violence;
  • If you had attended that retreat, you would know what “truly embodied” means;
  • Oh, so now you’re a tantra specialist?

Spiritual bypassing - shaming or guilt-tripping others for having "lower consciousness/vibration:"

  • Be careful which wolf you’re feeding;
  • I sense some really negative energy here;
  • You’re lowering your vibration by acting like a child;

Dismissing experience:

  • So this is what you’re so sad about??? It’s nothing!;
  • Sorry, I can’t deal with your shit right now, I’m having bigger problems;


  • You really need to own your shit;
  • So according to Marshall Rosenberg, your anger is communicating unfulfilled needs…;
  • Your way of expressing anger could be much more constructive if you…

Labeling or naming others' experiences for them:

  • You aren’t a hot-chick type,
  • You’re rather the girl-next-doorish;
  • You’re the smart one;
  • You don’t have high chances of succeeding in science, do you?;


  • Yes, sure you’re the best girlfriend ever;


  • You’re stupid;
  • You’re a loser;
  • You suck;
  • You’re fucked up;
  • You’re the spoiled kid;
  • [also said in a friendly-like manner]: You silly; You lazy ass;


  • Do you really want to go out dressed like this?;
  • Just don’t cry in the movies again!;

Criticising and humiliating:

  • Who do you think you are to say that?;
  • I would never do what you did;
  • Look, your nipples are sticking out, wtf???;
  • Don’t be such a cry-baby…;

Accusing or blaming:

  • If only you expressed your needs more openly, we could have such great sex;
  • You work so much that it’s impossible for me to connect to you;
  • You can make a problem out of everything;

Assuming to know what the other is feeling/ thinking:

  • You’re just angry…;
  • Of course, you’re disappointed and you’re not owning it;
  • You’re just jealous and you can’t even admit that.

And the list of behaviors:

Prioritising performance and productivity over well-being:

Perfectionism: shaming or punishing someone for making mistakes and insisting them to "never do that again."

Dogmatism and rigidity: this is how it is because I said so or because God said so.

Toying with connection/disconnection:

  • making one’s availability and openness dependent on other person's compliance;
  • shutting down communication when not getting what one wants;


  • playing nice in order to get what you want;
  • praising someone so that they’re more willing to do what you want them to do;
  • playing small in hopes of being taken care of instead of asking for help openly;


  • being kind or helpful but hiding a feeling of superiority;
  • talking down;
  • using stereotypes, derogatory terms to put someone "in their place."

Public embarrassment:

  • making jokes about someone at their expense;
  • exposing their secrets;
  • provocation.

How many such attitudes, behaviours or language stems have you heard in your life? I believe that abuse is a vicious circle: we experience subtle abuse from the people we depends on, internalise it as hostile self-talk, and, consequently, end up performing those forms of abuse on the people we perceive to be weaker and more vulnerable than us. This blog post is meant to inform you and be mindful of your language use and what behaviours are more harmful than helpful.

Disclaimer: This blog post is for informational purposes only and does not constitute professional advice. If you are experiencing abuse or manipulation, reach out to a qualified therapist or counselor.

Written by
Jura Glo

With over ten years of experience guiding individuals and couples worldwide, I specialize in supporting those impacted by complex trauma.  

My personal experience navigating cults, institutional betrayal, and manipulative individuals has given me a unique understanding of the psychological and emotional impact of these dynamics.

This translates into my work and writing, where I help my clients identify core issues and co-create solutions within a safe, balanced and supportive environment.

Where to start?

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