15 Jul Communication Patterns | Part B’ (V. Satir)
Words ultrareasonable: “If one were to observe carefully, one might notice the very workworn hands of someone present here.”
Body computes: “I’m calm, cool, and collected.”
Insides: “I feel vulnerable.”
The computer is very correct, very reasonable, and shows no semblance of feeling. The person seems calm, cool, and collected. She or he could be compared to an actual computer or a dictionary. The body feels dry, often cool, and detached. The voice is a dry monotone, and the words are likely to be abstract.
When you are a computer, use the longest words possible, even if you aren’t sure of their meaning. You will at least sound intelligent. After one paragraph no one will be listening anyway. To get yourself really in the mood for this role, imagine that your spine is a long, heavy steel rod reaching from your buttocks to the nape of your neck, and a ten-inch-wide iron collar girds your neck. Keep yourself as motionless as possible, including your mouth. You will have to try hard to keep your hands from moving, but do it.
When you are computing, your voice will naturally go dead because you have no feeling from the cranium down. Your mind is bent on being careful not to move, and you are busy choosing the right words. After all, you should never make a mistake. The sad part of this role is that it seems to represent an ideal goal for many people. “Say the right words, show no feeling. Don’t react.”
Your computer position stance will look like this:
Words irrelevant: The words make no sense or are about an unrelated subject.
Body angular: “I’ m off somewhere else.”
Insides: “Nobody cares. There is no place for me here.”
Whatever the distracter does or says is irrelevant to what anyone else is saying or doing. This person doesn’t respond to the point. The internal feeling is one of dizziness. The voice can be singsong, often out of tune with the words, and can go up and down without reason because it is focused nowhere.
When you play the distracting role, it will help you to think of yourself as a kind of lopsided top, constantly spinning but never knowing where you are going, and not realizing it when you get there. You are too busy moving your mouth, your body, your arms, your legs. Make sure you are never on the point with your words. Ignore everyone’s questions; maybe come back with one of your own on a different subject. Take a piece of imaginary lint off someone’s garment, untie people’s shoelaces, and so on.
Think of your body as going off in different directions at once. Put your knees together in an exaggerated knock-kneed fashion. This will bring your buttocks out, and make it easy for you to hunch your shoulders and have your arms and hands going in opposite directions.
At first this role seems like a relief, but after a few minutes of play, the terrible loneliness and purposelessness arise. If you can keep yourself moving fast enough, you won’t notice it so much.
You will look like this:
As practice for yourself, take the four physical stances I have described, hold them for just sixty seconds, and see what happens to you. Since many people are unaccustomed to feeling their body reactions, you may find at first that you are so busy thinking you aren’t feeling. Keep at it, and you will begin to have the internal feelings experienced so many times before. Then, the moment you are your own two feet and are freely relaxed and able to move, you find your internal feeling changes.
My hunch is that we learn these ways of communicating early in childhood. As children make their ways through the complicated and often threatening world in which they find themselves, they try out one or another of these communication patterns. After enough use the child can no longer distinguish response from feelings of worth.
Using any of these four responses bolsters an individual’s feeling of low self-worth or low pot. These ways of communicating are reinforced by the way we learn about authority in families and by attitudes prevalent in our society:
“Don’t impose; it’s selfish to ask for things for yourself” reinforces placating.
“Don’t let anyone put you down; don’t be a coward” reinforces blaming.
“Don’t be so stupid; you’re too smart to make mistakes” reinforces computing.
“Don’t be so serious. Live it up! Who cares?” reinforces distracting.
At this point you may well be wondering if these four crippling modes of communication are all we have. Of course not. There is another response that I have called leveling or flowing. In this response all parts of the message are going in the same direction: the voice’s words match the facial expression, body position, and voice tone. Relationships are easy, free, and honest, and people feel few threats to self-esteem. This response relieves any need to placate, blame, retreat into a computer, or be in perpetual motion.
Of the five responses, only leveling has any chance to heal ruptures, break impasses, or build bridges between people. And lest leveling seem too unrealistic to you, let me assure you that you can still placate if you choose, blame if you like, be on a head trip, or be distracting. The difference is you know what you are doing and are prepared to take the consequences.
When you are leveling, you apologize when you realize you’ve done something you didn’t intend. You are apologizing for an act rather than your existence. Likewise, you may criticize and evaluate In a leveling way, by evaluating an act, not blaming the person. Usually you’ll be able to offer a new direction as well. At times, you’ll be talking about intellectual things, giving lectures, making explanations, or giving directions, when precise word meanings are essential. When you are leveling in this area, you are still showing your feelings and moving freely while you’re explaining. You aren’t coming off like a machine. (Many people who make their living with their brains—scientists, mathematicians, accountants, teachers, and therapists—are often motivated by a wish to be objective. They behave like machines and epitomize the computing response.) In addition, you will sometimes want to change the subject. In the leveling response you can say what you want to do instead of hopping all over the place.
The effect of leveling is congruence. When a leveler says, “I like you,” the voice is warm and the person looks at you. If the words are, “I am mad as hell at you,” the voice is harsh, and the face held tight. The message is single and straight.
The leveling response also represents a truth of the person at that moment. This is in contrast, for example, to a blaming response, in which the person is feeling helpless but is acting angry—or is hurting but is acting brave. A third aspect of the leveling response is that it is whole, not partial. The body, thoughts, and feelings are all shown, in contrast to computing, for example, in which nothing moves but the mouth and that only slightly. People who are leveling show an integration, a flowing, an aliveness, an openness, and what I call a juiciness. Leveling makes it possible to live in a vibrant way, rather than a dead way. You trust these people; you know where you stand with them, and you feel good in their presence. Their position is one of wholeness and free movement.
The New Peoplemaking