NLP Satir Categories
Virginia Satir is one of the world’s first family therapists, and developed several techniques that were used cofounders Richard Bandler and John Grinder in the model for Neuro-linguistic programming. After her death in 1980, many of her disciples across various countries continued to use these techniques to heal dysfunctional families.
Satir developed five categories, now known as Satir categories for handling different language behaviors. Neuro-linguistic Programming adopts these categories for enabling better communication between individuals.
The five Satir patterns, also incorporated in Neuro-linguistic programming, are Blamer, Placater, Computer, Distracter and Leveler. These categories give the description for the styles used in major portion of communication, and provide valuable information on the preferences and mannerisms of people when involved in a conversation. These patterns are also taught in Neuro-linguistic courses.
Five Satir Categories included in NLP Techniques
As per Neuro-linguistic training, the Blamer tries to find someone who can take the blame when things go wrong. The blamer will thrust his thoughts and feelings on others. Some trainers lecturing on Neuro-linguistic courses also call them “skunks”, since the blamers always “spray” criticizing language on others. The blamers use firm gestures and point fingers at other people. Blamers use general statements, complex comparisons and missing proofs to confuse the other person, and then place the blame. Such people usually end up alone, since nobody wants to be at the receiving end of the blame.
As per Neuro-linguistic courses, the Placater also wants to place the blame somewhere else, so in a way he is mirroring the Blamer. They attempt to shift responsibility of a mistake in a diplomatic fashion, so that people think they are nice. In fact, the Placater may accept the blame for everything, just so that people perceive his as a good person. The Placater used the Neuro-linguistic Programming Meta model, by using the cause and effect violations, modal operators and unspecified verbs. In contrast to the Blamer, the Placater does not use forceful or threatening language or gestures. In some Neuro-linguistic trainings, the Placater is referred to as a turtle since he will go back into his shell if things go wrong. They try to instill a feeling of guilt within you, by calling themselves “poor me”. These people think that they care so much about everyone else, but nobody cares about them.
As per Neuro-linguistic training, the Computer are more like machines, they use language that hide their inner emotions. Their best defense is that they never let anyone else know what they are up to, or what they are thinking. Some trainers of Neuro-linguistic courses call them Mr. Cool, or a mirror of Mr. Spock of Star Trek. They are always logical and under control, and do not exhibit any emotions. Some might think that they are cold hearted and have an insensitive personality. In cases of a marriage or other close relationships, the spouse or partner of the Computer personality will find them cold, detached and aloof. The spouse will not be able to obtain any emotional attachment, necessity or love from this type of person causing several problems. As per Neuro-linguistic programming, the Computer type person is always dissociated from what is happening. They employ words as buffers in conversations, not as a means of expressing emotions. The Computer type person deflects any responsibility, by using words such as “Someone needs to do it”. The Computer type uses the Neuro-linguistic Meta model by using generalizations and omitting references. Usually accountants and bureaucrats operate in the Computer type.
As per Neuro-linguistic courses, the Distracter is a mix of Blamer, Placater and Computer. One moment, they might be blaming someone using threatening language, the next moment they might show their Placater characteristics. Then they will jump into the Computer type and shut off all emotions. This habit of switching in between types and from one behavior to another, confuses everyone, and hence the name Distracter. They keep on talking about different things, and the other person is unable to understand how to respond. They also use generalizations, and omit references as per the Neuro-linguistic Meta model.
As per Neuro-linguistic training, the Leveler does not really have many distinguishing characteristics. The most important characteristic of the Leveler is that they do not have the characteristics of any other Satir category. A Leveler is seen as a congruent person, and always states facts. You can depend on the Leveler, because he remains true to his perceptions. The body language and physiology of the Leveler also display congruence. The only negative aspect of the Leveler is that they speak the truth as per their understanding, which makes many people uncomfortable. Hence, people respond in a negative manner to the Leveler.
The body language of any person can be used to identify the Satir category that they use. As per Neuro-linguistic training, the Blamer uses visual features in their breathing, posture and gestures. The Blamer will point fingers often with the palm facing down. The Placater on the other hand uses kinesthetic features. Their palms will be turned up as if they are begging for attention. The Computer will use auditory digital features. They will usually fold their arms. The Distracter will adopt any one of the three physiologies at any time, since they will keep switching from one pattern to another. The Leveler will have both palms facing down as if trying to level the situation.
We can identify the preferred Satir category of any person using Neuro-linguistic techniques. However, the preferred category of a person will be different when under stress as compared to the one when totally relaxed. We need to adjust our sensory acuity when we are trying to find out a person’s preferred Satir category. Only after spending sufficient amount of time with the person can we judge and reach a conclusion. In fact, we might use different Neuro-linguistic categories depending on the situation and context of the conversation.
When you are in a conversation, you can adopt a particular Satir category depending on the category chosen by the other person. In this case, we must not match the Satir category of the other person, since this will break the rapport and enhance the pattern that is being used to a point beyond control. Satir recommended that we should always mismatch the category, except when the other person is a Leveler. As per the Neuro-linguistic techniques on rapport building, the physiology and volume of the angry Blamer should be matched, but the aggressive and threatening tone and words should not be matched. If you use a Blamer type when talking to a Blamer, you will end up in a heated argument. If you use a Placating pattern for a Placater, you will keep whining endlessly. If you use a Distracting pattern for a Distracter, there will be utter chaos. Using a Computer pattern with a Computer might work, but the conversation will be boring and you might not reach any decision. An example of such a conversation is a committee meeting where everyone is in Computer mode, leading to long, boring discussions without any productive results. Therefore, the only Satir category that can be matched is the Leveler.
Satir noted that sometimes the physiology of a person might not reflect their inner feelings. A Blamer might point fingers, and project a confident and judgmental stance, but they might be feeling lonely and unsuccessful inside. The posture of the Placater might reflect vulnerability, but they might be feeling worthless inside. The Distracter might act confused, but they might be feeling uncared for inside.
How to Use Satir Categories
The best way to handle a communication using Satir categories is to start with the Computer mode. Since Computer does not take any risks, remains dissociated and communicates minimum substantial information, you can start with this pattern. Once you receive a response from the other person, you can analyze their Satir category and then choose your next category. It is advisable to avoid using the Distracter category at all costs, since it will confuse the other person and you will be perceived as a complex and obnoxious person.
Satir categories are also useful in public speaking, as it helps the speaker create a rapport with everyone in the audience. For building a rapport, you can adopt the physiology and tone of each of the Satir categories during your speech. Use the Blamer mode briefly for a short guilt trip. Use the Placater mode for sympathy and the Computer mode for a logical perception. Go into the Distracter mode to grab the audience’s attention. Finally use the Leveler mode to convince the audience with sincerity and truth.
Satir categories can be used to understand the nature of other people involved in a communication. Usually stress takes us away from our natural Satir categories into an unfavorable one. In fact, sometimes we might need to be proficient in other categories in order to handle the other individual. Therefore, in order to be a good communicator, we must learn the aspects and stances of each of the Satir categories. Using all the categories efficiently will open new doors to conversations or public speaking.