Managing abusive phone calls – SBT Podcast #5

There’s a strange phenomenon associated with the phone. Some people find a bravery on their cell phone that they lack in person. Words get spoken that otherwise should go unsaid. In fact, the phone can be a horrible instrument of abuse.

There’s a few reasons why this is so, but in the end knowing why is no comfort to the person being manipulated or abused by someone calling them and shouting down the phone at them. As with all things in Separated But Thriving our goal is to take the high ground, and meet this kind of attack with a precise and thought out response. Over the years we’ve helped many clients get through situations of extreme abuse, including emotional abusive via the phone. So, here’s a few tips that will help you manage those horrible moments.

The first thing to remember is that the person who is delivering this deluge of calls is not in any state to be reasoned with or educated into the error of their ways. That is going to have to wait. Perhaps in a few months or years there may come a time when explaining that “You can’t speak to me like that!” will serve a purpose, but if their calls are vicious or unreasonable they are certainly not yet at that stage.

With this in mind, there’s not a lot of point reasoning with them. Forget that – as much as it might seem fair. The reality is that they are simply not yet ready to hear – and not yet ready to listen. While many people respond that they just want their tormentor to ‘understand’, you’re best advised to forget that for a while. It’s simply not happening.

The person who calls incessantly and says mean and aggressive things is going through their own personal stuff. You’re well advised to ask yourself, if you were to explain the error of their ways, would they staop and then say “Oh, you’re right! I get it now!”

Probably not. OK. So here’s what you do.

I am going to assume that you run an Android phone, although there are equivalent pieces of software for Apple (though not Windows). There are two very cool pieces of software out there that are going to be a big help to you. So start off by downloading:

  1. Call Recorder Pro for Android.
  2. Phone Warrior.

Once these are installed you are going to use them as tools that will end the problem of abusive phone calls.

Here’s how you use these tools.

Phone Warrior gives you the option to block a phone or texts automatically. You call still see the history of calls that come in and are blocked – but you won’t be troubled by them. It’s likely that you won’t want to block all calls, particularly if there’s a situation of joint custody of children, but it does give you the option, if necessary.

Call Recorder Pro records every call into or out of your cell phone. You can set it to delete the recordings after a month, or a week or any other period. You can also save the calls externally, and sync them to Google Drive – a very useful function. They can then be emailed as an attachment. This is an important feature that you should familiarise yourself with.

So, the process for managing abusive calls goes like this.

  1. The call comes in, and starts to go bad.
  2. You keep in mind that it’s being recorded, and that others may hear this later.
  3. Say as little as possible.
  4. Allow the other person to rant.
  5. Don’t stoke the fire – if this call is listened to by other people you have to sound like the reasonable person.
  6. Ask them not to speak in a threatening manner. (Likely this will inflame them).
  7. When you’ve had enough, use the phrase, “I am going to hang up now, please don’t call me like this again.”
  8. End the call.
  9. Sync the recording to Google Drive. This is a feature of the Pro version, for which you pay about $6.00.
  10. Email the phone call recording to your lawyer.

When people hear themselves ranting they tend to think twice about doing it again. However, if you email this to your spouse immediately they will likely go ballistic and it won’t do anything to calm the situation. However, having the recording to let out later, when the dust settles is likely to encourage the antagonist to think a little before they speak. Of course, how you time this is also likely to affect what they say – it’s a good idea to let them rant awhile before they are aware that their calls are being recorded and can be distributed to your lawyer, their parents etc..

Their parents? Yes. Here’s why. As a husband or wife you were welcomed into the persons life and their family. With the end of marriage comes the end of not just the relationship with a partner, but also their family. Sometime letting your in laws know the extent of the problem can help them understand why the marriage is ending, and maybe that their son or daughter needs some help. It’s important not to do this to antagonize the situation, but to illustrate it clearly to those who need to know.

It’s a good idea to keep in mind that in their own, unpleasant way, your former partner is suffering. They are trying to spread that suffering about – and it’s horribly unfair – but that’s humans for you! Your personal safety and that of your children is always the most important factor at the end of the marriage. Using a little technology to make sure things are under control is a very good idea.

If the abusive call continue it’s simple. Block them with Phone Warrior. Email them to let them know that in future all communication will have to take place via email. They will tell you how unfair it is, etc. Do not be drawn in and do not respond outside of email. If they chose to be abusive via email, the written record will not look good in court. They will likely be aware of this and either they will tone down their aggressive nature, or they will stop communicating except by their lawyer (which is quite expensive for them).

So, that’s how it’s done. If it helps, think of it as training them. Most humans can be trained.


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