Satir Modes

41LRKhOfEmL._SL500_AA300_[1]Virginia Satir was an American Psychologist and Educator and probably best recognised as The Family Therapist.
Her notion was that the “presenting issue” was seldom the real problem and more to do with how people coped.

She published her first book, Conjoint Family Therapy, in 1964 and went on to become an international speaker on her methods.
A Diplomate of the Academy of Certified Social Workers and received the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy’s Distinguished Service Award and probably one of the first Social Networkers.

She founded Beautiful People (The International Human Learning Resources Network) in 1970 and the Avanta Network in 1977

 source Wikipedia


image “I am Me. In all the world, there is no one else exactly like me. Everything that comes out of me is authentically mine, because I alone chose it — I own everything about me: my body, my feelings, my mouth, my voice, all my actions, whether they be to others or myself. I own my fantasies, my dreams, my hopes, my fears. I own my triumphs and successes, all my failures and mistakes. Because I own all of me, I can become intimately acquainted with me. By so doing, I can love me and be friendly with all my parts. I know there are aspects about myself that puzzle me, and other aspects that I do not know — but as long as I am friendly and loving to myself, I can courageously and hopefully look for solutions to the puzzles and ways to find out more about me. However I look and sound, whatever I say and do, and whatever I think and feel at a given moment in time is authentically me. If later some parts of how I looked, sounded, thought, and felt turn out to be unfitting, I can discard that which is unfitting, keep the rest, and invent something new for that which I discarded. I can see, hear, feel, think, say, and do. I have the tools to survive, to be close to others, to be productive, and to make sense and order out of the world of people and things outside of me. I own me, and therefore, I can engineer me. I am me, and I am Okay.”

Virginia Satir 26 June 1916 – 10 September 1988


imageThis article is taken from (aka Miranda Shaw).
  I found it interesting because I am about to start reading Virginia Satir’s book Peoplemaking , as part of a diploma that I am studying:

Satir modes refer to common types of verbal behaviour 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 behaviour 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 Leveller

The Leveller is either the easiest or the most difficult to handle. A genuine Leveller 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 Leveller 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 Leveller’s statement of fact is the heavy stresses placed on the words by the Blamer:


    “Why do you always smoke so much when you’re driving?”


    “WHY do you ALways SMOKE so much when you’re driving?”

A phony Leveller, 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 Leveller is to look for signs that they are lying. Most of what people “know” about lying is folklore. The two main rules for detecting lying are:

·         Watch for mismatches between their words and their actions.

·         When looking for mismatches, pay attention to the parts of language behaviour 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 Levellers 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 description of what to be alert for, read the section on phony Levellers, in Chapter 10 of Elgin’s The Last Word on the Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defence. 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 Leveller, PLEASE read Elgin’s books yourself. The best defines against a phony Leveller 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.



5 thoughts on “Satir Modes

    • Hi Saul
      I am about to find out in more detail but I am sure that there are combinations and these are not ‘pure types’, rather they are general descriptors.

      Given that most human communication results in clarification seeking and perhaps misunderstanding (not necessarily serious) then personality types, Social profile or whatever impact on what we deliver and how it is received –
      – AND therein lies the FUN of communication!

  1. Hi Aypee,

    Now that was an interesting read..Satir is amazing ..present tense becuase her work has been integrated into many fields of therapy…a real top class therapist.

  2. Virginia had a degree in social work not psychology. Resume is available on the Satir global network website.

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