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A destructive force


Recently I was reminded yet again how the tongue can be a destructive force in relationship. In a conversation, one party focused solely on the other person and would not or could not reflect on personal actions and remarks.

Miller et al. (1991) labels this as a Style II Communication which includes control talk, fight talk, and spite talk as well as reactive listening. Style II communication is exercised through power and control with an agenda of getting compliance. The focus is always on the other person and trying to get her or him to change and "get with the program."

Fight talk and Spite talk are especially negative. Control talk which is brief and efficient can be useful at times when directives are appropriate. This type of talk can also lead to misunderstanding and tension. Fight talk is aggressive and reactive. The person is not in control of self and lacks self-awareness.

Fight talk always focuses on the other person. The surface feeling is anger, but behind the anger are feelings of fear, hurt, or resentment.

Spite talk also presents with anger but from a passive or powerless position seeking to invoke shame and guilt. Also behind the anger are feelings of resentment and hurt.

Types of Control Talk: directing, evaluating, establishing boundaries, advising, cautioning, closed and directive questions, advocating, assuming/speaking for others, praising.

Types of Fight Talk: demanding, blaming, attacking, labeling, using loaded words, defending, interrogating, judging, challenging, lecturing, bragging, diagnosing, cursing.

Types of Spite Talk: zingers, poor me, nagging, foot-dragging, complaining, pouting, withholding affection, withholding information, withdrawing angrily, denying, sarcasm, placating, martyr or victim, putting self down, gossiping, keeping score, lying/distorting, guilting.

After examining these lists, if you find yourself engaging in destructive speech, please seek help to change these habits. If you realize that someone else habitually speaks to you this way, seek support in how to set appropriate boundaries and protect yourself. Fight talk and Spite talk are not only relationship destroyers but attack the image of God created in each person.

Source: Couple Communication I: Talking and Listening Together

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