Verbal Warfare

Body and Mind Matters: Verbal Warfare

April 8, 2024

Body and Mind Matters with Coach Jenna Nocera, MA, MFT, CLSC, CPFT

As a Life and Wellness Coach, Psychotherapist, and Fitness Trainer, one of the things my clients seem to struggle with the most is what I call “verbal warfare.” Friends, relatives, coworkers, and acquaintances seem to wield power over us with their words. If we allow it, their words can occupy inordinate amounts of time in our minds. Words can inspire or condemn; motivate or depress; encourage or discourage; approve or disapprove. The list is endless. What matters is what we do in the face of verbal zingers.

Complimentary, Encouraging Words

As humans, we’re hard-wired for connection and approval. Think back to caveman days when being excluded from the pack meant less likelihood of survival. It makes sense that we crave support and a sense of belonging and tend to wither without it. It also makes sense that condemning words can feel so devastating and enervating. And, on the flip side, complimentary, encouraging words can feel so uplifting – like fuel for the soul!

Even if you are somewhat isolated or work from home, you need other people in one form or another in order to survive. Consider how your groceries get to you, the workers who keep your internet running, how you interact with coworkers (even if it is only via email), or your relationship with your doctor. People are everywhere. It is an unpleasant fact of life that insensitive and sometimes cruel conversations will occur. What, then, can we do to minimize the harm and continue to move forward in a positive direction?

Some Of Us Are More Sensitive Than Others

This is a challenging question due to the infinite number of variables involved, such as  the level of closeness in the relationship, economic dependence (e.g., employer-employee relationships), and the length of the relationship. Some of us are more sensitive than others.  Emotional eaters, for example, tend to be very sensitive and internalize their reactions and feelings more readily. 

As an author, perhaps I appreciate the power of words more than most. As a coach, I can offer my clients tools to combat the careless use of words by others. However, I recognize that this is not necessarily an easy task. It takes repetition and determination to make a mental habit of not ingesting other people’s negativity and unsound opinions. 

Below are some suggestions to help you minimize the damage of verbal warfare.

  • Recognize that your opinion of yourself and the kind of person you want to be matters more than any unsolicited advice or opinion from another person. You can never please all of the people, all of the time.
  • Replace the mental replay of the words and event with an affirmation, song, or statement of gratitude. Is there something you like about the other person that you can focus on instead?
  • Consider if the source is reliable. Is the person stable, successful, intelligent? Does their opinion hold any water? Or are they hot-tempered, closed-minded, and always finding fault? When someone is rude or disrespectful, it says more about that person than it does about you. They have issues of their own that need to be addressed.
  • Realize that some people run their mouths. It is highly likely that they use their words haphazardly and do not recall what they said. It is almost certain that they are not dwelling on the insensitive words as much as you are. Retain your personal power.
  • Resist the urge to respond in kind. Resorting to equally insensitive and cruel retorts only serves to bring you down to the other person’s level and will, likely, instigate an argument. Save your energy.
  • Attempt to draw a boundary around the sort of communication you will tolerate in the relationship. Be prepared to walk away, if necessary.
  • Reflect for a moment. Did the disparaging words offer you any constructive feedback that you can use to improve yourself? If so, decide what you will do to make changes in your life. If not, do your best not to focus on the thoughtless words.
  • Use humor. If you find yourself ruminating on the other person’s words, change your mental picture into something ridiculous. Maybe you visualize them standing on their head dressed like a clown, babbling something nonsensical. Anything that changes your thought process.
  • That which you focus on expands. Is what you are dwelling on helping or hindering you? Commit to guarding your mind. Learn to replace negative words and thoughts with life-affirming statements. 
  • Redirect your energy to the fulfillment of your own goals and dreams. Spend time with the people you love and doing things you enjoy.

Hopefully, my words have helped you to filter verbal warfare a bit differently. Remember to choose your own internal and external dialogue carefully. Words are powerful! Let’s use them to build ourselves and those around us up!

Do you have other techniques that work for you? Is there something on your mind that you would like me to address in upcoming columns? Submit your comments and questions to me here.

Coach Jenna Nocera, MA, MFT, CLSC, CPFT is a Life & Wellness Coach, Psychotherapist, and Personal Fitness Trainer with Formula For Excellence®

Verbal Warfare


Coach Jenna Nocera, MA, MFT, CLSC, CPFT is a Life & Wellness Coach, Psychotherapist, and Personal Fitness Trainer with advanced degrees in Behavioral Science, Psychology, and Marriage and Family Therapy. She works with clients to redesign their lifestyle habits. Subscribe to the Formula For Excellence® newsletter to receive a Free Habit Tracker and occasional health and wellness tips.