Relationship Help: Are You Getting Diatribes When You’re Wanting Dialogues?

Sometimes, we’re afraid to open up conversations about troubling issues for fear it will only make matters worse.

We’re afraid that we’ll be met with a diatribe and there will be no dialogue. Sound familiar?

What’s a diatribe? Well, that’s when someone holds forth and seldom takes a breath while giving you all the reasons, justifications and excuses he or she can muster for why his or her behavior, values, attitudes and words are absolutely OK.  The dictionary adds that a diatribe may be prolonged, bitter, abusive and/or sarcastic. So, do are you experiencing diatribes or dialogues?

Dialogues are wonderfully benign in comparison. They are simply exchanges of ideas and opinions between two people. Often called a conversation. Nothing scary there.

So, how about at your home or workplace? Diatribes or dialogues?

If you’re having dialogues, you probably are on good footing and don’t need insights from me. However, if you’re either the unlucky recipient of a diatribe, or the unfortunate deliverer of diatribes, there is very little positive about that. Read on….truly for “goodness” sake!

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Deliverers of Diatribes:

  • are fearful of being wrong
  • are fearful of change
  • are fearful of not being good enough
  • are insecure
  • have poor communication skills
  • have poor conflict management and/or negotiation skills
  • value themselves more than they value the relationship
  • want to win
  • think outshouting–sheer volume- will take the day
  • think over-talking you will beat you into submission

NOTE: Not all Deliverers of Diatribes have all these attributes!

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Receivers of Diatribes need to:

  • have strong boundaries, express and maintain them
  • stay calm
  • realize that it is all about “the Deliverer of Diatribes”, not about you (no matter what the other says)
  • express their desire for a conversation when both parties can both speak and  listen
  • recognize the insecurity that is behind someone who needs to prove something so vehemently
  • clearly state their desire for equity in the conversation
  • clearly state that the conversation will end if equity is not immediate
  • be prepared to be respectful during the diatribe but take action following it

NOTE: ALL Receivers of Diatribes do need to follow this advice, if they want things to change.


The truth about all this is that everything that happens in life comes down to one thing: Who Are You? 

When I’m teaching my weekly Anger Management classes, invariably new folks will use the phrase, “S/he makes me so angry.”  At that point, the others in the class say in chorus, “No one can MAKE you angry.”  That surprises the new person, for sure. They want to believe that they would have been their perfect, cool, calm, collected, and reasonable self if it just had not been for that other person.  Wrong!


That means that when someone does something that causes you to recognize that you’re angry, you have to choose how to respond, demonstrating YOUR values and beliefs by what you DO. You show people who you are by what you do. If you are living your life reacting to what other people do rather than responding from your values, that other person has power over you…and you’ve given it to him or her!

Same with the Deliverer of Diatribes. You choose how you respond, actively, consciously and purposefully.

  • If you let them hold forth and rant, you are teaching them it is fine with you. They may do it again…and again…and again.
  • If you return the favor by outshouting and over-talking them, you establish that you are two of a kind. A real waste of energy.
  • If you fall silent, feign disinterest and become passive, you are demonstrating a low-level step on the Anger & Violence Ladder yourself. That’s the “cold shoulder” approach. It only makes them more likely to continue venting, but you’ve probably noticed that already.
  • If you tell them that you were hoping for an equitable conversation, a dialogue, you have begun to teach them what works better for you.
  • If you tell them in a quiet diatribe-free moment on another day that you have learned that problems are best solved by mutually-respectful conversation, you’ve made a good start.
  • Follow up that good start, in the same conversation, with this: “Can we make an agreement to have mutually-respectful conversations in future?”  This does not make them wrong for previous behavior and gives you a criteria for new situations.
  • Follow that up with one more sentence: “If I feel that we have slipped away from a mutually-respectful conversation, I want you to know that I will leave and hope to have such a conversation at a new time? I will tell you I’m leaving the conversation, and you will know that I am open to rescheduling as I’m telling you now. ”  Giving this kind of pro-active notice prevents their being surprised when you quietly say that you are leaving and do it.  AND, you have to do it or your words have no meaning!

Whether you are having this difficulty with a spouse, partner or colleague, it is all the same skills set.  Yes, the boss may be a different kettle of fish, although teaching your boss what works to make things better for both of you is worthwhile.

If it is your spouse, you may have already established a pattern that is unproductive. Following the ideas above will represent quite a change, maybe even a very unwelcome one. Be prepared!

You are responsible for teaching people how to treat you. You are responsible for demonstrating your values and beliefs in action.

Nothing will change until you do! So, if you recognize yourself here as a Receiver of Diatribes or a Deliverer of Diatribes, it’s time for self-examination, new skills and a different approach.  You are not in the relationship to be outshouted, over-talked, dismissed, under-valued or worn down.  Get relationship help.  Step up and stand up for equity in your relationship.

If you need better communication and conflict management skills, join one of my online webinars or in-person classes in Escondido, Ca.  

What folks have said…
You have no idea how much that helped – thank you so much – I wish you love., peace and a night filled with stars and sweet dreams xx Thank you for this excellent video. It was so helpful. Hard subject matter that you explained clearly and truthfully. I appreciate you and the knowledge that you are sharing.
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