During our weekly staff meetings, we at Bourke Accounting are allowed to express ourselves. Whether it’s a suggestion for a new type of file folder or an elaborate concept for marketing, we are able to speak freely without fear of ridicule. It’s nice to bounce infant ideas off of others and examine them from a different perspective; when you know that an idea will be met with serious consideration rather than derision, you are, obviously, more likely to share with the group.
However, not all personal dynamics are as equitable – and some are downright toxic. For example, right now someone (probably multiple someones) is suffering as a victim of perverse communication. Self-esteem is being quietly eroded, anxiety levels are inching ever higher and, quite possibly, a slight sense of dread colors everything in this poor soul’s life. The most insidious attribute of perverse communication is that it’s subtle; it’s so subtle that the victim might not recognize that it’s even happening.
It’s likely that you, yourself, have experienced perverse communication. No, this doesn’t mean that you’ve been bombarded with obscene language or suggestions. An example of perverse communication goes like this: while at work, you mention that you baked a cake. Before anyone can ask what kind you baked, a co-worker quips that it’s a wonder that you didn’t burn your house down. Everyone else – yourself included – laughs lightly (this isn’t comedy gold, but everyone is polite) and you go about your day. However, in the middle of the night, you find yourself returning to the exchange. This is not the first time that this person disparaged your abilities. You tell yourself that it doesn’t matter and no real insult was intended. Perhaps you even fantasize about the clever come back you should have responded with. By the time you fall back to sleep, you feel just a little less capable and vaguely foolish.
ExploringYourMind.com defines perverse communication as “psychological torture towards a peer” that generally occurs in front of an audience. Mild insults disguised as “just a joke” work to elevate the speaker while softly crushing the victim. In short, this is the arena of high school bullies and “frenemies.” At first, the victim might chalk the understated abuse as the perpetrator having a bad day. As it continues, the victim wonders if s/he did something to offend the culprit. Finally, the target might come to believe that the slander is based in truth.
Before deciding on how to stop this muted evisceration, victims must first acknowledge their own responsibility. When you use self-deprecating humor or put yourself down, you must understand that you are inadvertently giving others a free pass to do the same. After all, we teach others how to treat us.
Once you have determined that this aggression will not stand, it’s time to pick a course of action. Ignoring the situation won’t work. If you tell yourself that snide comments don’t bother you, you are lying; even if you don’t respect your tormentor, no one likes hurtful words. Escalating the issue is an option. If someone insults your cooking skills, you can easily mention their new and contentious divorce! If this interaction follows the logical trajectory, both you and your opponent will be in a holding cell by nightfall. To avoid court fees, you can always try talking to the person. Without an audience and in a firm way, tell the person that you do not appreciate the shoddy treatment you have been receiving. If this doesn’t work, the only option left is to completely separate yourself from the other person. It might not be easy, but it would be worth it for your mental wellbeing.
Bullies are not happy people. We must pity those who can only find peace when kicking someone else. While it’s hard to feel sympathy when being kicked, remember that you are the bigger person and you are important.
Bourke Accounting doesn’t practice perverse communication. Bourke Accounting experts care about your mental health as much as they care about your finances. If you are guilty of an expensive blunder, Bourke Accounting bookkeepers and tax preparers will help you get through it, not waste time insulting you. Bourke Accounting pros are too classy and happy to bully.
Written by Sue H.