Here is another “Marriage Minute” from my book, available at Amazon.com I hope this encourages you in assertive communication.
Marriage Minute #198 Free From Game Playing
Let’s take a minute to look at another thing Virginia Satir told us about marriage. She describes four universal patterns people use to avoid the possibility of rejection. Of course, rejection may sound like something you would want to avoid, but these are patterns of avoidance that may actually bring it about. These are ways of concealing weakness, bluffing one’s way through the fear of intimacy, and rejecting the other person before the other person rejects us. No, they aren’t healthy. They are the avoidance that ought to be avoided.
Satir says that faced with rejection a person may, “ . . . 1) Placate, so the other person doesn’t get mad; 2) Blame so the other person will regard one as strong (if the person goes away, it will be her fault or his fault- not one’s own); 3) Compute, so that one deals with a threat as though it were harmless, and one’s self-worth hides behind big words and intellectual concepts; or 4) Distract so one ignores the threat, behaving as though it were not there (maybe if one does this long enough, it really will go away).”
The Placater is always fishing for approval. With ingratiating words, the placater avoids rejection by avoiding their own wants, and their own individuality. On the inside, however, this person feels empty and worthless. Soon, this person begins to think that the worthless feeling is coming from other people, when it is really coming from inside their own self.
The Blamer tries to keep the upper hand by disagreeing. A lot of phrases begin with, “You never” and “You always”. Answers become unimportant, or perhaps only a nuisance. The blamer is looking for the proverbial pound of flesh. The blamer doesn’t necessarily feel worth anything either, so if they can get someone to obey them, maybe they will think they count for something. Inside, they feel lonely and unsuccessful.
The Computer uses words that are ultra-reasonable. Calm, cool, and collected on the outside, they may feel quite vulnerable on the inside, but they won’t let you know it. This computer has a major problem, however. Unlike the electronic computer you have at home, this human computer doesn’t receive new data, doesn’t offer “What you see is what you get” to the outside world, and doesn’t “network” with others.
The Distracter uses words that are irrelevant. The don’t respond to the point. These words don’t make sense, or they are about an unrelated subject. This person feels dizzy on the inside, and they hope the feeling is contagious.
Satir then offers a fifth option; one that works, is honest, and builds relationships. She calls it Leveling. The person who levels with others may even fall into one of the traps above, but they admit it as soon as they become aware, and admit it, take the consequences, and seek to be level again. The leveler seeks the truth, rather than perfection. The leveler doesn’t enjoy rejection, but neither do they let fear of rejection make them into someone manipulative or false. The leveler knows that they will make mistakes, and that some people will neither approve, nor disapprove, and this is O.K. The leveler stands on their own two feet, gets the jokes that we often play on ourselves, and tries to embrace the uncertainty of relationships without game-playing.