Elizabeth Nyblade, Ph.D.
Gateway Centre
1313 E. Maple Street
Bellingham, WA 98225
P: 360.647.8295
Why Trump Won't Give Up the Verbal Abuse
Donald Trump is many things. . . businessman, entertainer and politician. But did you know that he is a verbal abuser?
The Verbal Abuse of Donald Trump

The presumptive Republican Candidate for President is a verbal abuser. Donald Trump has called his political opponents names like “hypocrite,” “weak,” “a pathetic figure,” “liar,” “choker.” And he relishes repeating nasty nicknames for his opponents: “Crooked Hillary,” “Lying Ted,” “Low-energy Jeb.”

I have seen and treated many targets of verbal abuse over my last forty years as a practicing psychologist. With Donald Trump as a candidate, we can all see the cycle of abuse playing out on the national stage.

Part III: How to Take an Adult Timeout
The abuser is in a timeout from you when you can no longer hear, see or pay attention to the abuser. Your goal is to take a timeout as rapidly and as consistently as possible when your partner says something that is verbally or emotionally abusive.
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Part III: How to Take an Adult Timeout
05/12/2013 Elizabeth Nyblade, Ph.D.

Steps to Take an Adult Timeout

The abuser is in a timeout from you when you can no longer hear, see or pay attention to the abuser. Your goal is to take a timeout as rapidly and as consistently as possible when your partner says something that is verbally or emotionally abusive.
  1. First spend a couple of days or a week writing out the things you’re calling verbally abusive and putting them on a sheet of paper under a magnet on the refrigerator. Write down the date, the time, and exactly what the abuser said. While you’re doing this, feel free to break off the conversation with him, if there has been a conversation.

    Excuse me. I’m keeping track of the abusive things you say, and that was one.

    Writing the words down will give you practice in rapidly recognizing what things you are calling abuse and rapidly reacting in a different way to what the abuser says.

  2. A Level-1 timeout consists of leaving the conversation. If the two of you are at home together, begin by turning your face away. Go out of the room and go about your business somewhere else in the house. If he tries to follow you, lock the door and turn on loud music or the TV so that you can’t hear him any more. If you can’t block him from following you, put on earphones and tap into your iPod. Your goal is to take your attention somewhere else and to make him aware that you are not thinking about him or attending to his words. You have ended the abuse by ending your attention to the abuse.


If the abuser breaks down the door or snatches the earphones off your ears, then you are dealing with a batterer, not someone who is only a verbal abuser. If he demands attention by physically inserting himself into your space against your will, you are dealing with someone prepared to use physical force to hold on to you as an audience and a target. You are not safe with that person. Read about battering and talk to local resources for battered women. Get ready to call the police if he violates your state law and commits domestic violence.


If you are on the phone with the abuser when he starts to verbally abuse you, first warn him, then hang up.

If you want to talk to me, lower your voice and don’t call me names. Otherwise, I’m hanging up.

I’m through with this conversation. Call back when you can talk without calling me names.

We can talk again when you aren’t drunk. Goodbye.

If the abuser will accept a timeout in the same space with you, that is, if he will let you go about your business without following you, then you have solved the problem for the moment. If the abuser promises to leave you alone in the house, you can believe him once, but if he doesn’t leave you alone after promising, even one time, don’t offer him the opportunity to promise again. Just leave. Begin to exit all conversations when he gets abusive and you will train him not to call you names and not to get obnoxious. If you treat your companionship and your attention as privileges, he will recognize that he has to earn them by good behavior.

  1. If the abuser continues to shout at you through the door, follows too closely to lock him out of your room, or manages to keep your attention, then you need to take a Level II timeout, by leaving the house. Tell your partner where you’re going and how long you’ll be there, then leave. 

    I won’t listen to this any more. I’m leaving. I’m going to Denny’s and I’ll be back in two hours. If you won’t let me alone then, I’ll go to a motel overnight.

    I’m out of here. I’m going to my mother’s overnight. I’m not going to answer you on my cell phone until tomorrow.

    I’m going to my meeting and I’m headed to the library afterwards. If you haven’t settled down four hours from now, then I’m going to stay on Juliette’s couch for the night.

    You tell the other where you’re going during the timeout because you’re an adult and he needs to know how to get hold of you in an emergency. However, you aren’t giving him leave to contact you during the timeout and you shouldn’t respond if he tries. Don’t answer a phone call or talk to him until you have returned to the house. If he sits down next to you in the booth at Denny’s, or interrupts your timeout in some other way, let him know that if you ever have to give him a timeout again, you won’t tell him where you’re going. If you drive somewhere and he tries to follow you, drive to a police station and ask the police to speak to him while you drive away out of sight.
    You should tell the abuser how long you’ll be in timeout so he understands how long the ‘punishment’ will last. Open-ended timeouts and open-ended punishments don’t work. They cause unrelated anxiety. You are trying to give a specific duration of punishment related to the size of the offense. If you’re forced to leave the house for a timeout, two hours is a good starting time to stay gone. If he doesn’t own the house and you do, or if his name is not on the lease, tell him to leave for at least that amount of time. Your company includes the use of your house, so you can forbid him the use of it while the timeout is occurring.

    Avoid the situation that you often see parents getting into, namely, threatening a timeout then renegotiating and renegotiating until the child has had ten times as much attention just for misbehaving as he would have had if you hadn’t threatened the timeout. Don’t ever threaten to leave more than once. If you threaten once and the behavior you’re objecting to doesn’t stop, leave immediately.


Threatening a timeout isn’t a negative reinforcer. Threatening a timeout gives him attention and an audience for whatever he’s doing you don’t like. You are not trying to avoid giving him a timeout, you’re trying to give him a timeout consistently and rapidly when he is emotionally and verbally abusing you.


During your timeout, take the time to sort through your wishes and your needs and be prepared to promise (not threaten) what you will do in the future.

I don’t want to talk about the schedule. I didn’t leave because we couldn’t agree about the schedule. I left because you were cursing me when we talked about the schedule. I don’t care how much you want your way. If you call me names, I’m not talking to you anymore. For now, I’m doing the schedule the way I want it. If you want it different than that, you’ll need to talk it over with me another time without acting like that. But I’m not talking any more tonight. I’m going to bed.

I’m glad you’re sorry, but I don’t want an apology. I want you not to call me names again. Apologies don’t make up for you calling me names. If you don’t call your boss names to his face, you can stop yourself from calling me names no matter how you feel.

I don’t care how angry you were. You don’t treat your family that way, and you get just as mad at them. If you can keep from dumping on your father when he orders you around, you can keep from dumping on me when you don’t agree with me. Your anger is no excuse for how you treated me.

  1. Remember that the point of the timeout is to terminate your contact with the abuser, to become distant from him, deliberately and without his permission or approval.

    If you ‘negotiate’ with the abuser by getting his permission or approval for the timeout, or you keep postponing the timeout because you keep giving the abuser more ‘chances’ to behave himself, you are losing any hope of getting distant. You are, instead, simply making the relationship more negative and closer, which is exactly what he wants. When you are intending to take a timeout, you are trying to remove the closeness. Be sure to read my article on The Two Dimensions of a Relationship to fully understand what I am recommending and why.

Above all, remember that taking an adult timeout is not a quick fix for problems that are habits that have lasted for years. It would be nice to be able to promise you that if you just get up your nerve to leave the house once, your partner will be fixed forever, but that is unrealistic. To stop someone from verbally or emotionally abusing you, you have to change and you have to stay changed. You have to be consistent and rapid in your response to abuse. You have to be determined and you have to persist in refusing to tolerate abuse.

If you decide to end your relationship with the verbal or emotional abuser you’re with now, you will still be glad you learned these skills. Even if you promise yourself that you don’t intend to have another partner, you’re likely to change your mind over time. And you may have children to raise who have learned too many negative things from the abuser before you left him. Your refusal to tolerate abuse and your ability to leave an abuser are important to you for your own health.

Your refusal to tolerate abuse is your best guarantee of happy relationships. You can’t have happy relationships unless you end unhappy relationships. And you can’t have a happy relationship with your current partner unless you refuse to tolerate his verbal and emotional abuse.

Related Articles:
  • Defining Verbal (and Emotional) Abuse (04/05/2013)
    Most victims of abuse are more likely to minimize or deny the problems, taking the blame themselves for the abusive behavior. Any behavior that threatens, intimidates, lowers the victim's self-esteem or curtails the victim's freedom is abusive. Dr. Nyblade defines and discusses verbal and emotional abuse
  • Part II: When Not to Take an Adult Timeout (05/11/2013)
  • Part I: Why to Take an Adult Timeout (05/10/2013)
    A timeout for an adult is meant to accomplish the same goals as a timeout for a child. You can only be in control of yourself. One adult can’t effectively control another adult (except with approval) but an adult can go on a timeout for herself without permission from the other adult. One adult can deny another adult the pleasures of her own company, attention and approval. Therefore, an adult timeout can be an effective response to verbal or emotional abuse.
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