If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too ...
Incongruent Communication & Maturity
Consider someone who says, "Yes!" while shaking the head
slowly from side to side. Has someone told you, "I love you"
while coughing and scratching the nose? Such a mismatch between words and
body language is often called incongruence. You may not notice the body
signals consciously, rather you may feel that something is wrong.
Do you try to hide your thoughts? Do you fake smiles? The more you try to
lie, or hide
your truth or your conflict, the more your body signals this
wrongness. When people react to your incongruence, inner conflict may
become outer conflict. Quickly.
A family therapist, Virginia Satir, described communication
styles to help therapists and counselors recognize three common
types of incongruence. Here we can match those styles with the emotions and
relationship problems that drive them.
Assertive does not mean Aggressive
Are you what you communicate? Probably not - although other
people may think so. If you want to communicate more effectively or if your
preferred communication style doesn’t fulfill your goals, choose a different communication style!
Virginia Satir described four communication styles that trigger conflicts:
Blaming, Placating, Computing, Distracting; and one style that solves
conflicts: Leveling. These styles can be associated with
habitual emotions and body language mannerisms.
Blamer (Chronic Anger)
Some people give an impression of chronic anger and suspicion. They
are more likely to initiate conflicts - they want to blame someone -
to express their anger and feel powerful. They may suspect that nobody will
listen to them unless pushed.
When they feel under stress, they may exaggerate complaints and try to dominate by bluff and threats.
If they trust you, they may describe hidden volcanoes of anger inside them -
often related to an adult family member who acted like a victim.
Blamer Body Language
- Head tilted slightly down with tense jaw muscles
- Body square on, leaning forward slightly, one arm extended towards you
- Finger on extended hand points at you (attack) or at the ceiling
Placater (Chronic Fear)
Some people give an impression of fear and a desperate desire to
please. You may hear, "It's not my fault" as they avoid uncomfortable
truths. They may apologize for everything - even the weather. (They often
seem afraid of being blamed!)
Under stress they often avoid
discussions, instead seeking approval. They worry about
how other people perceive them. If they trust you, they may describe a childish
anxiety - often related to an adult family member who was not allowed to show fear.
Placater Body Language
- Palms facing up (humble petitioning)
- Body facing forward, with shoulders and hips level and legs slightly
- Head vertical or slightly tilted back with eyes wide open and eyebrows
Mourner (Chronic Melancholy)
Some melancholic people
depress other people. You may hear, "Life doesn't make sense" and sad stories. They may want you to
share the sadness - for your own good. They often seem afraid of being
happy! (Not mentioned by Virginia Satir)
Under stress they may seek support. They worry about
other people getting sick or dying. If they trust you, they may say that their
important goals can only be fulfilled after death. This is often related to a family member who
died before they were born.
Mourner Body Language
- Palms facing down with limp wrists
- Body tilted forward, with shoulders drooping and hollow chest
- Head tilted down with eyes wide open and looking at (or into)
Some people want to be perceived as correct and helpful, without risking
their own opinions or credibility. They may appear unfeeling or emotionless. They may state
philosophy or abstract values (e.g. "Everybody
should ...") without personal language. (They often seem afraid of their own emotions).
Under stress they try to seem reasonable. They want
people to agree with their empty abstractions and neither blame nor placate
them. This may be the result of being punished by parents or teachers for
Dissociated Body Language
- Forehead skin wrinkled
- Body square on, head tilted backwards slightly.
- Arms crossed, perhaps with with one hand under chin or touching a cheek
Distracter (Mixed emotions)
Have you ever held a live eel? Distracters are just as slippery, rarely offering
fixed opinions. Rather than taking action, they quickly express different
emotions while avoiding confrontations, perhaps hoping to motivate people to treat them nicely.
Under stress they may quickly change between Blamer, Placater, Mourner and
Computer styles, while not finishing sentences. If they trust you, they
may describe a childish panic - often related to chaotic childhood relationships.
Distracter Body Language
- Body is generally asymmetric and constantly moving
- One eyebrow often raised and smiling on one side of face
- Rapidly changing postures, erratic gestures and expressions
Levelers want to achieve goals and solve problems. They show emotional
balance and can relate to many kinds of people. They are usually described as mature.
They show few inner conflicts or threats to their self-esteem. Their words,
voice tone, body movements and facial expressions all say:
"This is what I believe".
Under stress they may be brutally honest, hoping that their truths
will solve problems (and perhaps deter people from blaming, placating, mourning and distracting
Leveler Body Language
- Head vertical, shoulders back, chin up, relaxed face and forehead
- Hands held level and apart, fingers out flat, slightly wider than the
- Body faces other person, shoulders and hips level and legs slightly
Leveling is honest, direct language that summarizes situations.
Leveler body posture communicates that this person is being to true to what
they believe and value. A leveler attitude is a basis for solving
problems - creatively and cooperatively.
Levelers' words and bodies are mostly congruent - such people appear to be
‘on the level’, centered, factual and cooperative (all good leadership qualities). A Leveler communication style is useful for discussing goals
and solving conflicts.
- Goal oriented
- Solution oriented
- Has supportive beliefs
- Has strong personal values
- Flexible communication styles
- Builds trust before trying to influence
- Has a sense of mission and purpose in life
Are you at peace with your emotions? Can you achieve your goals and solve
your problems while remembering others people's
perspectives? Are you a mature
Do you want to better manage your emotions
and solve relationship problems?
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