I came across this video online of a lady cat-walking in a fashion parade when she suddenly trips on her heels and falls on her knees. Instead of the expected embarrassed look, the lady stayed on her knees and made a dramatic pose like she was on a photo-shoot then proceeded to the front of the stage on all fours while the crowd cheered on. She then picked herself and elegantly walked away. Now think for a moment, had this lady ran off to backstage or sheepishly continued cat-walking, wouldn’t the reaction of the crowd be totally different as well?

In any kind of situation, it is how we respond that makes all the difference. You are allowed to feel anger, disappointment, joy, fear or any other emotion. The problem often comes in with WHAT we do with those emotions. When over-joyed, do you go for a super shopping spree and empty your wallet or do you rationally treat yourself with something nice and affordable? When angry, do you break everything in your house or do you opt to go to the gym or go for a walk? When we have faced failure, do we give up on the thing we’ve been working on or do we pick ourselves and soldier on? Most often than not, we do not ponder on the consequences of our reactions.

It becomes a bigger problem when it is conflict involving other people and our responses blow up everything out of proportion. Have you ever thought of how many fights you would have avoided had you just responded differently?

Truth be told, having self-control is one of the biggest challenges for everyone. At the heat of the moment, we are careless with our words, our actions and our body language. We feel under attack and would do ANYTHING to win this battle.

Virginia Satir, a family therapist, identified four defensive communication styles that we will most probably relate to.

1. Placating: In this case, one disregards their own feelings and worth.They say yes to everything and are eager to please everyone involved. One would take the blame for everything and be very apologetic. They also tend to walk on eggshells in their communication with others, and they tend to preface what they are about to say before they say it in the hopes that what they say won’t be misconstrued.  They do this to cover all their bases in order to preempt a misunderstanding that could unintentionally cause someone to be disappointed or angry with them.  To avoid conflict, they give up their authentic voice and opinions just to be safe.

2. Blaming: To protect ourselves, we harass and blame others; sometimes due to our own guilt. Blamers tend to look for and see problems and fault in others, and they tend to boss others around and try to manipulate and control them. Blamers can often be quite narcissistic, and they believe that they are better than everyone else. They do not believe that they are accountable or at cause for any of the problems that they face in their lives. Instead, they see themselves as victims and believe that everyone else is to blame for everything that goes wrong in their lives. They would distort events that have taken place, and their distorted, revisionist memories often serve to protect their fragile egos and preserve their pristine sense of self.

3. Super Reasonable: Also known as computing. This method of communication is whereby one focuses only on the context and superficial communication. They do not allow themselves to fully experience the feelings. Being overly reasonable means functioning with respect to context only, most frequently at the level of data and logic.  They are intent on delivering responses that are dry, cool, and calculated, and they tend to keep their voices even and often make use of abstract language. These individuals are often prone to communicating in a computing style because they’ve often developed a fear regarding expressing their own emotions.

4. Irrelevant: Uses jokes or other distractions to avoid dealing with primary emotions. Those that use this style tend to be clownish or amusing. This is an attempt to distract people’s attention from the issue under discussion. They are known to say or do things that are irrelevant to the language and actions of others; they are not emotionally attuned to others, and they are therefore unable to hold space for others because they’re so disconnected from their own thoughts and feelings. When they speak, they are often prone to being tangential and  jump from one topic to another. 

All the above mentioned styles are unhealthy communication styles because they don’t really deal with the issue at hand in an appropriate manner. One more identified style by Satir is the one called Leveling.

With leveling, it is the healthiest communication style. In this mode, one expresses oneself in an assertive manner so that one’s language and behavior is direct, straightforward, and congruent with one’s honest and authentic self.

People who adopt the leveling approach express themselves in a way where there is harmony between their actions, words, tone of voice, and posture/gestures. They engage in active listening, are comfortable with silence, and are able to properly express themselves.

Levelers seek first to understand, then to be understood.  They also tend to value partnership, and they  look to create win-win scenarios when they’re talking to people. In this mode, one shares feelings rather than trying to conceal them and they try to be empathetic as possible.

It is without a doubt that how we choose to communicate and respond to situations deeply affects the course of our lives. Think about it, how many times have you over-reacted about meaningless things and it is because of your reaction that you ruined important relationships in your life? Or how many times you chose to be heard rather than win an argument and this effectively and positively impacted your relationships?

You should take note that non-verbal expressions like body language and facial expressions still count as communication and how you react, sometimes even without words, does impact the course of what seems like a tragic situation.

So, from the reading, what kind of style do you often use?!





5 Distinguishable Styles of Communication


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