Communication

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Coping Stances and Communication

Written by Amanda Averbeck, MS, LMFT Associate on 9/14/21; Based on the work of Virginia Satir as presented by John Banmen

How you learned to cope as a child may be preventing you from developing authentic adult relationships now.

There are 4 main coping stances, placating, blaming, super-reasonable, and irrelevant. We use all of them sometimes. We might use placating with our spouse, blaming with our children, super-reasonable at the office, and Irrelevant when we feel burnt out. Each of them diminishes emotional connection in our romantic relationships, with our children, parents, siblings, friends and colleagues.

Over the next few weeks, I will describe each coping stance in detail and identify how it prevents connection.

Stay tuned for the final post about coping that enhances connection with self and others.

Please note: These posts are intended to inspire personal insight. If you experience personal or relationship distress while building insight into your coping stance, please seek out therapy with a mental health professional. Or contact me to set up an appointment for individual or couples counseling.

Coping by Placating

Written by Amanda Averbeck, MS, LMFT Associate on 9/14/2021; Based on the work of Virginia Satir as presented by John Banmen

When you use placating to cope with a stress, you are ignoring your own needs and desires and do everything you can to meet the expectations of another person or situation. Even to your own detriment. Some people like to call this people pleasing.

To feel safe, you automatically value other people’s perspectives above your own. Often you don’t even know what you want, need, feel, or think. You are, however, excellent at picking up cues from others and meeting their needs and wants before you are even asked.

When placating, communication lacks clarity. Instead of directing asking for that you need and want, you beat around the bush. People don’t feel connected to you because you don’t share your thoughts and feelings. As you near burnout you may rely on passive aggressive communication, which continues to sever connection, increase stress, thus perpetuating the cycle of your unhealthy coping.

In a MARRIAGE placating sounds like apologizing for thoughts, feelings, needs, and wants. It looks like giving in when you sense tension because keeping the peace is more important than getting your way. It sets you up for burn out, depression, anxiety, feeling trapped in your relationship, resenting your partner, and divorce.

In PARENTING, placating looks like anticipating your children’s needs before they even speak up and robbing them of the opportunity to learn how to speak up for themselves or learn to wait. It sets you up for enabling your child and delaying their emotional and social development.

At the OFFICE placating looks like busting your butt, working overtime, and doing whatever your boss tells you because you fear you will lose your job if you don’t. It sets you up for burnout, resenting your boss and colleagues, and thinking the only way to find balance is to change jobs. (However, it’s just a matter of time before you set up similar patterns in the new workplace.)

If you use placating to cope with stress, the first step to finding balance is getting in touch with your self compassion. Defense mechanism are in place to protect us even if we don't like how they protect us.

Become aware of when you want to say “no” but say “yes” instead. What feeling(s) prompted you to say “yes”? What thoughts prompted you to say “yes”? Is there any truth to the thoughts or are they based in fear? What are you afraid would happen if you said “no”? Do you feel comfortable sharing that fear with the other person? Give it a try! “I want to say “no”, but I fear you may…”

When and if you say, “No” when you mean “No” pay attention to how it feels. What do you have time for that would not have been able to do if you said “yes”?

When you communicate, know you are important. Your thoughts and feelings matter. You deserve to have your needs met and your wants considered. Start by respecting yourself and others will follow suit. If they don’t, maybe they need to work on unlearning their own coping style. That is not your responsibility.

Want help changing your coping style? I help individuals and couples learn to new coping and communication skills. Make an appointment here.

Coping by Blaming

Written by Amanda Averbeck, MS, LMFT Associate on 9/14/2021; Based on the work of Virginia Satir as presented by John Banmen

Coping with stress by blaming others or yourself is common. Sometimes the blame is obvious and explodes with aggression and yelling. Other times it’s more subdued and sneaks out through passive aggressive comments. The subtext is the same. It’s all somebody’s fault. Whether that someone is you or not depends on the situation.

In a MARRIAGE it looks like holding out for the other person to change so the relationship can improve, all the while nagging to communicate your expectations. It will feel like you are in a power struggle because you are! Emotional intimacy suffocates quickly in this type of environment. Neither you nor your partner will feel safe opening up.

In PARENTING it sounds like “What were you thinking!?” Often a blaming stance in a parent activates rebellious behavior in the child. Or the child might silently withdraw to create emotional distance. Either way, children are reluctant to ask for help if they feel like the problem is all their fault.

In the OFFICE blaming activates power struggles between co-workers or superiors. Or it could look like beating yourself up when you make a mistake, even if others don’t notice the mistake. Creativity and collaboration burn out quickly when this coping is used.

Blaming tends to come with a lot of figurative and literal finger pointing. So take note of your body language. Are your hands on your hips? Are you wagging your finger? Are you hitting yourself over the head?

Another way to catch yourself in the blame game is to become aware of how many times you say the word “you” in an argument. As in “You do this...” “You don’t do that...” “You make me feel…” “You can’t do anything right” (Hint: Are you saying these words to yourself?)

To get out of the blaming stance first take some slow, deep, breaths. I prefer ratio breathing, but you can use any breathing technique intended to calm the nervous system.

Then get in touch with your self compassion. Defense mechanisms, like blaming, are in place to protect us even if we don't like how they go about it.

Next write down what you were hoping for in the situation. What did you expect of yourself? What did you expect of others? How do you feel about these expectations not being met?

Now sit tight. I’ll explain how to openly communicate what you have discovered soon.

Want help changing your coping style? I help individuals and couples learn to new coping and communication skills. Make an appointment here.

Coping with Super-Reasonable

Written by Amanda Averbeck, MS, LMFT Associate on 9/15/2021; Based on the work of Virginia Satir as presented by John Banmen

Using the super-reasonable coping stance disengages you from yourself and others, stifling emotional connection, making it easier to depersonalize communication if things get heated. Your focus becomes what SHOULD be. Often you communicate messages a way that sounds like a Wikipedia description. To feel safe, you like to remain detached and above the situation.

In MARRIAGE super reasonable coping sounds like “In order for a marriage to remain healthy each person needs to continue to date each other.” Or stating something as the ultimate truth even if it isn’t. “People who love each other will want to go on dates every week!”

In PARENTING it sounds a lot like lecturing and is the quickest way to get children to disengage. Or nod blankly while everything you say goes in one ear and out the other.

At the OFFICE a super reasonable stance is often highly valued. By using this stance you’ll seem cool, calm, collected, and confident. In collaboration or one on one communication, this stance can get in the way by giving you the appearance of haughtiness. You might find it hard to feel like a teammate in the workplace.

While a bird’s eye view is helpful in certain situations, it’s important to know how to move in and out of being super reasonable.

The first step to getting out of this coping stance is to get in touch with your self-compassion. Defense mechanisms are in place to protect us even if we don’t like how they go about it.

Then get in touch with any sensations you are experiencing in your body. Do you feel tension in your shoulders? A tightness in your chest or jaw?

What emotion goes with the sensation in your body? Do you feel comfortable sharing that feeling with the person you are speaking with? Give it try. Notice how you feel as you share.

Want help changing your coping style? I help individuals and couples learn to new coping and communication skills. Make an appointment here.

Coping with Irrelevance

Written by Amanda Averbeck, MS, LMFT Associate on9/15/2021; Based on the work of Virginia Satir as presented by John Banmen

Irrelevance is all about distraction. You want to be anywhere but here. You want to feel anything expect what you are feeling. You want to drown out unwanted or racing thoughts. The problem is, we cannot choose which experiences, thoughts, or feelings we numb. If we numb one, we numb them all. So while irrelevance may get you through a rough afternoon, making a habit of it may eventually lead to depression, isolation, and disassociation from yourself, others, and the world around you.

In a MARRIAGE using the irrelevant coping stance often looks like addictions. Any addiction will do, alcohol, drugs, social media, television, video games, food, sex. The list goes on. In an argument you may use ill-timed humor to deflect the tension of the discussion or simply walk away and engage in something more immediately satisfying (and distracting).

In PARENTING if you use irrelevance, you may have won the tittle of being the “Fun Parent”. However, you’ll probably also have a hard time setting limits with your kids or teaching them about time management.

In the OFFICE you may have a hard time focusing and get overwhelmed easily on busy days. Your boss and co-workers may view you as irresponsible or as a procrastinator.

The first step to getting out of an irrelevance stance is to get in touch with your self-compassion. Defense mechanisms, like irrelevance, are designed to protect us even if we don’t like how they go about it.

Next focus on your surroundings. How does the chair feel against your back? How do your feet feel in your shoes? What color are the walls? What can you see out of the window? What do you hear? What do you smell? Really savor the next sip of your coffee.

Do you notice any sensations in your body like tense shoulders or jaw? Breathe slowly. Close your eyes. If the tension could talk, what would it say? What does it feel? What does it think? What does it expect of you or others? What do you hope for?

Do you feel comfortable sharing those insights with the person you are with? Give it a try!

Want help changing your coping style? I help individuals and couples learn to new coping and communication skills. Make an appointment here.

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Connecting Conversations

Written by Amanda Averbeck, MS, LMFT Associate

Do you ever get dressed up for a date night, excited to finally have uninterrupted conversation, then settle in for a nice meal only to realize you don’t know what to say to your partner? Are you stuck in a conversation rut that always circles back to the kids and your busy schedules?

Many couples fear that after so many years of being together there is nothing new and exciting to talk about. This is a COMMON experience! It doesn’t mean your love is dead! This doesn’t have to be your new normal. With just a bit of effort you can spice up your date night conversation.

Check back monthly for new topics. Or follow me on Instagram for updates. No subject is too sacred or taboo. Expect conversation starters that cover sexuality, spirituality, fantasy, yearnings, and more! Drop a comment if you have a topic idea! I’ll see what I can come up with!

Please note: These “Connecting Conversation” starters are meant to be lighthearted and inspire emotional intimacy. If you and your partner discover these topics bring about distress, please discontinue immediately and consider couples counseling to smooth out the rough spots before proceeding. I am available for appointments or I am happy to make a recommendation to help you find a therapist who is the best fit for you.