In my previous post, I wrote about how to look at ourselves based on Virginia Satir theory of self. For this post, I’d like to continue basing my writing on her theory but this time it’s about pattern of communications.
In our every day life, we often encounter stress in our interaction with people – your boss demands you to get your work done NOW, your children nag you to get everything under the sun, your SO disapprove of your spending, etc. All of these stress often impact our self-worth. We start to question whether we have been a good employee, parent, or partner. Virginia Satir, drawing for her many years of experience in helping people, saw that people have four universal patterns of communication while reacting to perceived threat.
The four patterns of communication:
- Placate – appease the other person to avoid anger
- Blame – the fault is on the other person
- Compute – hide behind words and intellectual concepts
- Distract – ignore threat, hoping to go away if done long enough.
I will do whatever you tell me to do. I am here to make you happy.
A placater talks in a way that is pleasing to the other person. She does not disagree, does not stand for herself, apologizes for things that are not her fault. A martyr parent or a “yes man” employee is an example of a person who is taking this role. The recipient is happy at the moment but later on resentment will brew.
If you want to learn more how this stance affects our body and mind, assume the position as shown in this picture for 60 seconds and check with your body how this feels, check with your thoughts and feelings as well. It is uncomfortable, isn’t it? And after while, we get tired of having to do this.
It's your fault. I'm the boss. You cannot do anything right.
A blamer finds fault in others. He thinks that he is superior than everybody else, and that others have to obey him. A blamer is a dictator.
In reality, a blamer often does not feel good about himself. This stance makes him feel better because it often gets people to obey him. When people obey, he feels good and effective.
Just for fun, assume this stance, tighten your neck muscles, curled your lips, and criticized everybody and everything else for 60 seconds. Can you imagine how this impacts one’s health in the long run?
I am ultrareasonable, calm, cool, and collected. Rational thinking is superior than feeling.
This stance is unfortunately often thought as the ideal goal for many people. A computer is very correct, very reasonable, very logical. He does not show any feeling of vulnerability though she often feels it. He uses long, abstract words with a dry delivery. He is detached.
Don’t mistake him for a person who is centered, grounded, and calm. The latter is radiating with presence, warmth, and compassion. You know you are dealing with a computer because you will not feel understood.
To see how it feels, assume a sitting position that is rigid, push away your feeling, don’t move, not even muscle. See how you feel in this stance in comparison to other stances.
Du.du.du.du.du.. the Martian is coming...
A distractor talks about unrelated subject while under stress. She does not talk to the point and very unfocused – who cares is the attitude. She is hoping that by doing this, the problem will go away.
If one is doing this stance for a while, the feeling of loneliness and purposelessness often emerge. Though it seems that nothing bothers her, it is actually a lonely and meaningless place to be.
So what is a good stance? Virginia Satir called this stance leveling or flowing.
A leveler responds to situations congruently. In this stance, our body, voice, facial expressions are all of a match. The relationship feels easy, free, and honest. A leveler apologizes when she makes a mistake. If an error has been committed, she will evaluate fairly without blaming. Sometimes she will be talking intellectually as when she is lecturing or explaining something but her feeling is still intact. There is no machine-like feeling when dealing with this person. When there is a problem, she will deal appropriately rather than shoving it under the rug. A leveler conducts life with integrity, commitment, and creativity. She is able to work out problems in a real way. Satir found that when people start to level, they found their hearts, feelings, bodies, and brains. As a result they found their souls and humanity. What a wonderful finding, don’t you think?
Well, that’s it for this installment of pattern of communication. What do you think? Can you find of an example for each of the stance? Which stance do you use the most?
*If you are interested in learning more, I recommend Virginia Satir’s book: The New Peoplemaking