Communication Stances are body positions that indicate the style of communication being used by an individual. There are five distinct stances, the leveler, the blamer, the placator, the computer, and the distracter (Satir, 1988).
The leveler is the only one of these stance that is congruent, which is when internal states match what is communicated externally (Satir, 1988). The leveler has an open stance, arms open, legs in a relaxed open stance, and facial expression and tone match internal happenings.
Blamers defend by pointing the finger at someone else. They use words like “you should have” or “if you would try harder, then I wouldn’t have to…” Placators defend by trying to marginalize conflict. They sound like “please, won’t you just listen” or “now, it wasn’t that bad,” and the posture is one of pleading. Computers often position themselves with their arms crossed and words they use are super reasonable, like “I tried to tell you”, or “according to so-in-so.” They defend by ignoring feelings and other information, relying on logic to sound all put together. Distracters attempt to derail the conversation when they are uncomfortable, the postures being more like rapid movements, or perhaps laughing at inappropriate moments. Words they use sound like “not to change the subject but” or “did you see that new movie?”
Satir saw these stances as protective of the self when it feels threatened (Piddocke, 2010). Instead of asking to be loved, the stances say ‘I’ll do anything’ (placating); ‘I’ll make you feel guilty’ (blaming); ‘I’ll detach from reality’ (be “superreasonable”); ‘I’ll deny reality’ (be irrelevant). When a person has high self-esteem and the self is threatened, they may say ‘I am loved by self and others’ and maintain a congruent stance. They will do what fits, respect differences, and accept the context. Systemically, stances are indicative of how the system functions when the status quo is threatened.
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