14 Jul Communication Patterns | Part A’ (V. Satir)
After many years of listening to interactions among people, I gradually became aware of certain seemingly universal patterns in the way people communicate. Over and over again I observed four ways people had of handling the negative results of stress. These four patterns—which I call placating, blaming, computing, and distracting—occurred when one was reacting to stress and at the same time felt one’s self-esteem was diminished—that “the pot got hooked.” In addition, the “hooked” one could not say so.
When one is doubtful about one’s worth, it is easy to use another’s actions and reactions to define oneself. For instance, if someone called us green, we would agree without checking and take the other’s comment as fitting us. We are green because the other person said so.
It’s easy for anyone with doubts about self-worth to fall into this trap. I recommend you treat everything that comes to you from the outside as something with which to cope, not as a way to define yourself. Likewise, stress alone need not feel like an attack on self-worth. Feeling stress might be painful or annoying, but that isn’t the same as doubting your own worth.
What goes on in a moment between two people has many more levels than are visible on the surface. The surface represents only a small portion of what is going on, much in the way that only a very small part of an iceberg is visible.
Thus, in this interaction:
“Where were you last night?”
“You are always nagging me!”
something is happening to each person in relation to herself or to himself. Something is happening to the perception by each of the other.
The relationship can go toward distrust, personal low pot, or frustration. On the other hand, this can beginning of new depth and trust. Outcomes depend on the responses one chooses.
Let’s take a closer look at the four universal people use to get around the threat of rejection. Feeling and reacting to the threat, the individual who doesn’t want to reveal weakness attempts to conceal it in the following ways:
1. Placate so the other person doesn’t get mad;
2. Blame so the other person will regard one as strong (if the person goes away, it will be her or his fault—not one’s own);
3. Compute so that one deals with the threat as though it were harmless, and one’s self-worth hides behind big words and intellectual concepts;
4. Distract so one ignores the threat, behaving as though it were not there (maybe if one does this long enough, it really will go away).
Our bodies have come to portray our feelings of self-worth whether we realize it or not. If our self-worth is in question, our bodies show it through some form of physical manifestation.
With this in mind I have devised certain physical stances to help people get in touch with parts of themselves that are obvious to other people but not always to themselves. I’ve exaggerated and expanded each facial and vocal message into the whole body so nobody can miss it.
Please note that these responses are used by men as well as women, by children as well as adults.
Words agree: “Whatever you want is okay. I am here to make you happy.”
Body appeases: “l am helpless” -shown in victim’s posture.
Insides: “I feel like a nothing; without you I am dead. I am worthless.”
The placater talks in an ingratiating way, trying to please, apologizing, and never disagreeing, no matter what. This is a “yes man” who talks as though he could do nothing for himself; he must always get someone’s approval. You will find later that if you play this role for even five minutes, you feel nauseous and want to vomit.
A big help in doing a good placating job is to think of yourself as really worth nothing. You are lucky just to be allowed to eat. You owe everybody gratitude, and you really are responsible for everything that goes wrong. You know you could have stopped the rain if you used your brains, but you don’t have any. Naturally you will agree with any criticism of you. You are grateful that anyone even talks to you, no matter what they say or how they say it. You would not think of asking anything for yourself. After all, who are you to ask? Besides, if you can just be good enough, it will come by itself.
Be the most syrupy, martyrish, boot-licking person you can be. Think of yourself as being physically down on one knee, wobbling a bit, and putting out one hand in a begging fashion. Keep your head up so your neck will hurt, your eyes will strain and in no time at all your head will ache.
When you talk in this position, your voice will be whiny and squeaky because you don’t have enough air to project a rich, full voice. You will be saying yes to everything, no matter what you feel or think. The placating stance is the body position that matches the placating response.
Words disagree: “You never do anything right. What is the matter with you?”
Body accuses: “I am the boss around here.”
Insides:”I am lonely and unsuccessful.”
The blamer is a fault-finder, a dictator, a boss who acts superior and seems to be saying, “If it weren’t for you, everything would be all right.” The internal feeling is one of tightness in the muscles and organs. Meanwhile the blood pressure increases. The voice is hard, tight, and often shrill and loud.
Good blaming requires you to be as loud and tyrannical as you can. Cut down everything and everyone. Think of yourself pointing your finger accusingly and starting your sentence with “You never do this,” “You always do that,” “Why do you always,” ‘ ‘Why do you never,” and so on. Don’t bother about an answer; that is unimportant. The blamer is much more interested in throwing weight around than really finding out anything.
When you are blaming, you breathe in little tight spurts, or hold your breath altogether, keeping your throat muscles tight. Have you ever seen a really first-rate blamer whose eyes were bulging, neck muscles and nostrils standing out, skin getting red, and whose voice sounded like someone shoveling coal?
Think of yourself standing with one hand on your hip and the other arm extended with your index finger pointed straight out. Your face is screwed up, your lips curled, your nostrils flared as you yell, call names, and criticize everything under the sun. Your blaming stance looks like this:
You don’t really feel you are worth anything, either. So if you can get someone to obey you, then you feel you count for something. Given their obedient behavior, you feel effective.
The New Peoplemaking