How we change what others think, feel, believe and do
Satir's Stress Responders
Family therapist Virginia Satir identified five personality types in situations of stress.
The Placater is first of all concerned about how they will be perceived. Their center of attention is on themselves and particularly on their perception of how others see them.
Their response to stress is largely to avoid it. If there are any 'uncomfortable truths', then they will generally try to avoid talking about them (and may in fact go to extraordinary lengths to avoid any such confrontation).
The Blamer feels powerless and uncared-for. All alone in the world, they feel that nobody will ever do anything for them.
When they feel stressed, their feelings of isolation increase further. As a result, they compensate by trying to take charge, bluffing their way out, hiding their aloneness in attempted leadership.
The Computer feels exposed when showing emotions, perhaps because they have difficulty controlling them or they may have been criticized as a child for showing emotion. Men, in particular, tend to be Computers.
To avoid having to confront emotion, when faced with stress, the Computer resorts to logic, becoming super-rational about the situation and working hard to appear super-cool on the outside (although they may be churning like mad on the inside).
The Distracter easily becomes confused by stressful situations. Instead of taking some positive action, they are not sure what they should do and so grasp at straws.
In practice, they may well respond to the stress by shifting between the three previous types of Placater, Blamer and Computer. In doing so, they are trying in vain to find some solace in different practices.
The ideal respondent to stress accepts it as normal. They are comfortable with ambiguous and uncertain situations and even engage with threats rather than fighting them or running away.
They thus 'tell it as it is', without exaggerating or minimizing the situation. They are comfortable with their own feelings and are able to discuss them.
So when confronted with stress, know your own situation and seek to become a Leveller.
When working with other people, spot their stress response and react accordingly.