The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Verbal Self-Defense: Summary & Review

the complete idiot's guide to verbal self defense

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Verbal Self-Defense teaches readers words and techniques to defend themselves against verbal bullies.

Bullet Summary

  • Verbal abuse has physical consequences: never tolerate it
  • Prevent abuse with good posture, confidence, self-love, and spotting abusers as early as possible
  • Some techniques for dealing with abuse: stare at them in silence, laugh about yourself, yell and scream, and tell them their behavior is unacceptable

Full Summary

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Verbal Self-Defense also deals with the very basics of voice confidence, body language, and posture.
But since you can find that information anywhere else, we will skip it here.

Verbal Abuse Has Physical Consequences

Lillian Glass blurs the lines between verbal and physical abuse.

Indeed, if physical abuse has psychological and emotional consequences, verbal abuse also has physical consequences.

There Is No “Only Kidding”

Abuse is abuse, and there are no jokes when it comes to verbal abuse.

The “it’s only a joke” line is just the way with which people hit you while covering their backs.

By adding “just joking” they are denying their own attack, basically robbing you of your ability to hit back or get offended because, “hey, they didn’t mean it, it was just a joke”.

Verbal Vampires Want to Know Everything About You

For Lillian Glass verbal vampires are those people who want to get as much information and energy out of you but give nothing back.
The author says you should stop sharing about yourself.

Level One Abusers: The Annoying Ones

Glass differentiates between two levels of abusers.
The first-level abusers are annoying but not necessarily destructive.

Here are the types of level-one abusers:

  • Shock ’em and rock ’em: say something crazy to get a rise out of you. They may actually like you but are psychologically immature
  • Sarcastic/sadistic: they use irony, but they also know there’s nothing funny with it because they are always dark and gloomy
  • Verbal hammers: they never let up
  • My dog’s bigger than yours: they need to get a leg up on you by parading their bigger wins
  • Trashers: sarcastic/sadistic they’re gloomy and dark, but they’re direct about it
  • Sugary fawner: make you lots of compliments to get something from you
  • Backhanded complimentors: say something nice followed by something nasty
  • Self-consumed: only discuss what they care about

Level Two Abusers: Dangerous Ones

The level of two abusers are not just annoying by can be dangerous for your health

  • Interrogators: never stop asking your questions
  • Meddling: enjoy telling you what to do
  • Condescending/dismisser: they know it all and brush off your recommendations
  • Sneaky underminers: undermine you behind your back
  • Yellers/screamers/ragers: they communicate like an erupting volcano
  • Guilt-producing accusers: they use guilt to try to control you
  • Liars: not telling you the truth communicates disrespect toward you
  • Verbal icicles: they withhold their words and you never know how they’re feeling and what they’re thinking

Also, read:

Why People Abuse You

Glass lists a few reasons why people would abuse you, including:

  • Envy
  • Self-sabotaging behavior: this is the case of people with low self-esteem
  • You remind them (unconsciously) of someone
  • They mistrust people (including you)
  • They don’t like you/you don’t like them (and it shows)
  • They’re miserable and want everyone to feel the same
  • Competition (for example when one partner improves)
  • I had it bad, now I want you to have it bad too

Love Yourself

Glass stresses a lot the basics of prevention, going from good voice to posture.
And one of those basics is loving yourself.

When you love yourself and you have high self-esteem, you are less likely to become a victim. And you are more likely to naturally stand up for yourself and enforce your boundaries.

Verbal Defense Techniques

  • Silent, expressionless stare
  • Silent, expressionless stare + look of disgust
  • The naked truth: tell him the real truth about him
  • Fight fire with fire: use the same techniques
  • Laugh about yourself: if you laugh about yourself, he won’t have anywhere else to go
  • Hugh-hush: if he keeps talking and criticizing, hush him like a little baby
  • Excuse me? Are you talking to me?
  • Verbal explosion: start yelling
  • “This is unacceptable”

The author makes the point that you never go physical, threaten to use violence, or threaten their livelihood (Ie.”I will ruin you”).

the complete idiot's guide to verbal self defense

Real-Life Applications

Don’t Verbally Abuse Children
Be especially careful not to sound too critical or harsh to children. It can mark them for their lifetime.

When You Improve You Make Enemies
I found particularly deep the point that when a partner improves the other might get abusive because he/she feels threatened. This can happen with partners and friends.

Don’t Stare: Move Your Gaze
The author makes a good point that you shouldn’t be staring on end into people’s eyes. But move your gaze from one eye to the other, then to the whole face, then to the face then again to one eye.
Indeed, people who keep staring at you without ever moving their gaze are weirdos.


Diagnosis from Afar
Recalling interactions from her clinic the author often makes diagnoses of people she’s never met. That’s not how diagnoses are supposed to be carried out.

Too Many Overlapping Categories
The categories of abusers and abusive styles are too many in my opinion. They overlap a lot and it’s not helpful to just add more and more categories.

Too Diluted
There is a lot of repetition that is highly unnecessary in my opinion (what the chapter will be about, key takeaways, what we have just talked about, etc.)
Furthermore, I don’t think it’s very helpful to go into voice tonality, voice exercises, and posture in a book on verbal self-defense. Yes, those parts are important, but anyone who’s serious about self-development will tackle those independently and they want a book on verbal self-defense to be deep and strictly about verbal self-defense.

Bad Advice on Voice
The author recommends you breathe from your mouth, which my favorite voice coaches discourage.


Some Very, Very Good Stuff
There is a lot of great stuff in the book. The idea of never going nuclear and threatening to take someone’s livelihood for example was genius.

Sounds Important Warning on Verbal Abuse
I appreciated a lot that Glass is very serious about verbal abuse and the consequences and dangers it entails.


A bit diluted, but overall it’s a good resource to learn about verbal abuse.
And it’s an OK resource to learn how to deal with verbal abuse in terms of power games.

There were some really good gems that I used for Power University, and that’s always the greatest compliment I can pay to an author.

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