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Satir Modes

Satir modes refer to common types of verbal behavior patterns. Understanding the five most common will be our first step in recognizing the verbal atmosphere around us.

The Placater
Even though the Placater doesn't dare admit it, s/he is frightened that other people will become angry, go away, and never come back.

Typical Placater speech:

  • "Oh you know me--I don't care!
  • "Whatever anybody else wants to do is fine with me."
  • "Whatever you say, darling; I don't mind."
  • "Oh, nothing bothers me! Do whatever you want."
  • "What do I want to do? Oh, I don't know--what do you like to do?"
Hopeless conversation: Two Placaters trying to make a decision.

The Blamer
Because the Blamer feels that everyone is indifferent to his/her needs and feelings, s/he uses a verbal behavior pattern that declares that s/he is the one in charge.

Typical Blamer speech:
  • "You never consider my feelings."
  • "Nobody around here ever pays any attention to me."
  • "Do you always have to put yourself first?"
  • "Why don't you ever think about what I might want? I've had all of this I am going to take!"
  • "Why do you always insist on having your own way, no matter how much it hurts other people?"
Two Blamers talking to each other usually ends in a very nasty screaming match.

The Computer
Think of Data or Spock, and you have a good reference for the Computer. The Computer is terrified that someone will find out what his or her feelings are. S/he wishes to give the impression that s/he has no feelings at all.

Typical Computer speech:
  • "There is undoubtedly a simple solution to the problem."
  • "It's obvious that no real difficulty exists here."
  • "No rational person would be alarmed by this crisis."
  • "Clearly the advantages of this activity have been exaggerated."
  • "Preferences of the kind you describe are rather common in this area."
Computers work hard at never saying "I", unless they qualify it heavily, as in "I suppose it is at least possible that..." They also use a very limited set of hand movements and facial expressions.

The Distractor
The Distractor will cycle rapidly through the other Satir Modes. The underlying feeling of the Distractor is panic: "I don't know what to say, but I've got to say something, and the quicker the better!"

The Leveler
The Leveler is either the easiest or the most difficult to handle. A genuine Leveler is the easiest to deal with--just level back and tell them how you feel about their statement. One of the greatest ironies of verbal interaction is that many people mistake the statements of a Leveler for verbal violence and never suspect that the nice guy/gal down the hall is the one who is really giving them a hard time. Sometimes the difference between a Blamer attack and a Leveler's statement of fact, is the heavy stresses placed on the words by the Blamer:
Leveler -
"Why do you always smoke so much when you're driving?"
Blamer -
"WHY do you ALways SMOKE so much when you're driving?"


A phony Leveler, however, is the most dangerous than all the other categories put together, and very hard to spot. They still use the attack patterns that will be described, with the proper vocal stresses present, but with a different vocabulary, so their attack is not as obvious. Their goal is to deceive you, lure you into a position of trust and vulnerability, and then sock it to you.

One of the best ways to spot a phony Leveler is to look for signs that they are lying. Most of what people "know" about lying is folklore. The two main rules for dectecting lying are:
  • Watch for mismatches between their words and their actions.
  • When looking for mismatches, pay attention to the parts of language behavior that are the hardest to control.
The face (eyes included) is the easiest thing for a person to control, and therefore, the most unreliable focus for detecting lying. Remember, phony Levelers are expert liars. When trying to detect lies, pay first attention to the speaker's voice, then their body, then their face, and least of all their words.

For a more detailed discription of what to be alert for, read the section on phony Levelers, in Chapter 10 of Elgin's The Last Word on the Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense. I am not detailing this here because when dealing with most people, the signs are a lot clearer.

Pay attention to your gut. Sometimes your subconscious will pick up on clues your conscious mind will miss. If you suspect you are indeed dealing with a phony Leveler, PLEASE read Elgin's books yourself. The best defense against a phony Leveler is knowledge, and there is no way I could give you enough of that on this website.

Although most people have a preferred Satir Mode when they are under stress, they are not confined to it. They can choose to use any of the other modes to meet the needs of the situation. The classic mismatch between inner feeling and outer expression may not exist at all. In my (Fribble) humble opinion, you should only suspect the internal conflicts listed, when the person you're dealing with uses a particular Satir Mode or two, most of the time--especially in relaxed situations.

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