When is Communication Harmful?

When is Communication Harmful? What classifies as harmful communication? The following are some common harmful, and even potentially abusive, communication tactics. Be mindful if you, or if someone else is, using these communication tactics with others or inwardly with yourself.

Withholding: Pretends not to understand or flat out refuses to listen.

Countering: Questions memory, even when person is sure it happened. Saying “you’re wrong, you never remember things correctly,” or “you’re just imagining things, that never happened.”

Blocking/Diverting: Changes the subject to create silence or questions feelings/emotions, saying things like “Is that another crazy idea you got from your family?”

Trivializing: Makes needs/feelings unimportant, saying “You’re too sensitive” or “You’re going to get angry over a little thing like that?”

Denying: Pretends to have forgotten what happened, or flat out denies promises made. Say things like, “I don’t know what you’re talking about” or “You’re just making things up.”

Introjecting: Transfer painful mental conflicts. Unconsciously adopts the ideas or attitudes of others onto self.

Criticism: Attacking personality or character w/ intent to make someone right or wrong: Saying things like, “you always…” you never…” “you’re the type of person who …”

Contempt: Attacking sense of self with intent to insult. Insulting, name calling, hostile humor, sarcasm or mockery. Body language/voice tone: sneer, rolling eyes, curling upper lip etc.

Defensiveness: Being a victim to ward off attack. To make excuses: “It’s not my fault…”, “I didn’t…”

Cross-complaining: Meeting complaint or criticism with a complaint. Ignoring what was actually said. Saying things like, “That’s not true, you’re the one who …”; “I did this because you…”, “Yes-but”, or Whining “It’s not fair.”

Stonewalling: Withdraw from relationship to avoid conflict. Conveying disapproval, distance, disconnection, or smugness. Stony silence, monosyllabic mutterings, changing the subject, leaving, or silent treatment.

Gas-Lighting: Emotional abuse where person learns to seriously doubt own memory, perception, and sanity.

Stages of Gas-Lighting




Signs of Gas-Lighting

Constantly second-guessing yourself

Question, “Am I too sensitive?”

Often feel confused and even crazy at work

Always apologizing

Make excuses for partner’s/parent’s behaviors

Withholding info to not have to explain

Know something is terribly wrong

Lying to avoid put downs and reality twists

Trouble making simple decisions

You used to be a very different person

Feel you can’t do anything right

Feel not good enough for others

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