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Behavior Modes of Oral Language -- A Tool for Analysis of Statements under Stress

Behavior Modes of Oral Language -- A Tool for Analysis of Statements under Stress

by P. Neu, 2014, adapted from the work of family therapist V. Satir

Each of the examples after the modes described below must be spoken out loud and heard to be correctly identified.  “Body language” is as much as 90% of the message communicated.

Blamers are speakers who try to gain strength and a sense of self-importance through the humiliation of other people.  Their attempts at power over others are successful of they cause feelings of guilt or embarrassment.  Blaming is different from disagreeing.  Blamers try to claim power by speaking their message.  They also claim power – or think they are effective in doing so – if the other person hearing the message answers with a placating, or with a blaming reply.  

Example:  “Did this frighten you?  Were you worried about getting a low grade?” The teacher’s voice, soft as silk, but deadly, cut through the quiet classroom like the hiss of a snake.  “You have only yourself to blame.  You know that you did not work hard enough to prepare.”

Placaters are speakers who try to take away someone’s own good “face”.  A placater thinks that belittling one’s self, while trying to make the other person feel important or grand, may stop the other person’s bad feelings.  The placater hopes it will also result in that person having a favourable opinion towards him/herself.

Example: A waitress writes down an incorrect order after the restaurant guests change their minds several times.  They do not speak clearly about what they want, since they seem to have had too much to drink., and are shouting loudly and joking stupidly while ordering.  She says to them, “It was my fault.  I should have been listening more carefully in the first place . . .”

Distracter-irrelevants are speakers who will not believe in the possiblility of being strong or decisive with others by clearly voicing their opinion.  They cycle through other modes, avoiding taking the position or stance of those modes by moving to another.  This way, they try to avoid confrontation, putting all energy into confusing others who are hearing them.  The words of one of their statements may also be unrelated to the real situation.  Persons hearing them may ask themselves, “What does this person relly think or feels?”  Or, “What has that got to do with what I’ve just said?”

Example:  A schoolgirl says, “What?  You invited other students from school to the party without asking me who I want?”

               “I didn’t want to worry you,” her mother replied.

               “But those people are not my friends.  They’re complete fools.  I cannot be happy around them.  You should have asked me first.”

               “Oh, I don’t think it matters so much.  I’m your mother, and I love you . . .”

Computer-reasonable people are computer-like and unemotional.  People in this mode have a strong need for controlling both their own emotions and those of others.  They try to get power by pretending to know everything.  Their listeners may then appear to know less in comparison.  They act like blamers in that both try to show superiority.

Example: A marriage proposal: his face looked down at her, his expression cold and unfeeling. “I want you for myself, and I have a very good reason for my choice.  I take what I want, and I do not let obstacles stand in my way.”

Levellers are persons who try to communicate to their listeners with complete sincerity, sharing information that the listener needs to know without any manipulation or attempt to control the listener’s feelings.

Example: “You need to know that John is not trying to hurt you.  He is only doing what he thinks is best for both your futures.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Behavior Mode Worksheet and Peer Marking Process


You can write out your example statements or dialogs using the Modes here.  But your mark will be taken from the way you do it in class.  That is, you need to say it aloud, using appropriate body language, also.  Show the group  that  you know how to transform words in spoken English from one Mode to another, changing the way you say (act?) the words, not the words themselves. Suggestion: write in CAPITAL LETTERS the different stressed words or syllables for your “Original”, and for the ”Changed into” examples below. When you say these, you must show the different stress for each different Mode example. How will you do this?  Using your voice (speed / loudness)?  Or other body language (facial expression, how you stand and move, hand gestures)?


Original Mode: ____________            Statement(s):_________________________________________________



Changed into Mode:  _________      Statement(s): __________________________________________



                                                                           Not appropriate       à                       à       Appropriate

               Speed / loudness:                                                               1             2             3             4             5

               Other body language: facial expression,

               how you stand, hand gestures:                                           1             2             3             4             5



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