Spousal Abuse / Partner Abuse
Does Your Spouse “Talk At” or “Talk With” You?
by Dr. Jeanne King, Ph.D.
In providing domestic abuse counseling to couples in abusive relationships, I have noticed a subtle yet significant communication pattern that alerts me to the underlying dynamics moment-to-moment. I call it “talking at” vs. “talking with” your partner.
Talking At You
“Talking at” you is what people do when their words are working for them to do the job of their fists. It’s almost as though their words are swords and they seek to jab you into listening, behaving and being what they perceive you not to be.
What you feel while on the receiving end of this listening is much like a puppy being called to the carpet. You know the drill of how he simply has to get it out. He needs you to “cooperatively” receive his person/character assault.
You may go along with it because you see no other options. And all you really want is to get to the other side of being “talked at.”
Talking With You
“Talking with” is more fun. It’s warm, inviting and friendly. The words and the delivery lure you into communion with your partner. And the magic of “us” becomes palpable.
Listening is easy and understanding is effortless. You feel present in the conversation and are aware that you, indeed, count. Your value is not in question, and what you and your partner want from each other is up for the giving.
Why “Talk At” Rather than “Talk With”
Verbal abusers carelessly slip into the “talking at” mode with their spouses often when they themselves are feeling vulnerable and insecure.
It’s a clear barometer for me in domestic abuse counseling that the precursor for verbal emotional abuse is in play. My sensitivity to it opens the door for facilitating the abuser’s awareness of his/her interpersonal and intrapersonal needs, wants and beliefs.
Why “Talk With” Rather than “Talk At”
We “talk with” people that we seek to bond with; not control. We talk with people as a way of being with them. We know our talking with engages collaboration, cooperation and communion.
It carries a higher level of energy around the interaction. You can feel the uplifting experience of interpersonal communication wherein people talk with one another.
Changing Interaction Through Domestic Abuse Counseling
Acknowledging this subtle distinction opens doors for significant transformation in the way couples interact with one another. It’s so simple, yet so profound. It has the potential to serve as a highway into the operative psychological dynamics of battering behavior characteristic of abusive relationships.
Both abusers and abused appreciate the insights they individually and jointly gain through identifying this “talking at” vs. “talking with” interaction pattern. And as an added benefit, they grow to cooperatively work on improving their communication and their relationship.
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Dr. Jeanne King is a licensed psychologist and domestic abuse consultant. Feel free to contact us if you need help with physical and/or emotional pain, stress-related illnesses, or relationship abuse issues at home or in court. Contact Us to reach Dr. King.