What Is The Fawn Response? Let’s Find Out.
Let’s try a fun little quiz. Allow me to set the scene.
Your manager walks up to you and says “Hey, we need to talk about your last report. Your numbers are way off. I’ve noticed you’re spending a lot of time on unimportant stuff. What’s the deal?”
How are you most likely to react?
- A. Respond with “I’m sorry, what did you say? It sounds to me like you think I’m a slacker. And you know what, bud, every time I walk into YOUR office, I see you searching for craptastic stuff to buy on Ebay or Craigslist or bullshitcollectors.com. I’d like to know who’s watching YOU more closely.”
- B. Respond with “sorry!”, then run off to a make-believe meeting.
- C. Say nothing while staring intensely at the ground, hoping a black hole will open up and suck you into another dimension so you never have to talk to this schmuck again.
- D. Say “I’m sorry, I’ll be better from now on. No need to worry about me anymore. Is there any extra work you need me to do right now? I know you’re so busy. Are those new shoes?”
Fun stuff, eh? Where my fighters at? I see you, “A” answerers. And “B”? Classic flight response. “C” is the also popular freeze response. But the fourth you may not be aware of, even though it’s an extremely common response to high pressure situations. If you answered “D”, you may be the fawn.
As described by Psychology Today, “The fawn response involves immediately moving to try to please a person to avoid any conflict.”
It is an instinctual response associated with a need to avoid conflict and trauma via appeasing behaviors.” It is usually developed in childhood as a means of protection from an aggressive, intimidating or even abusive parent, guardian or authority figure. Over time, the response becomes an instinctive habit, peeking it’s head out any time the threat of conflict or uncomfortable discussions is sensed. Eventually, this behavior becomes more than a habit; it becomes your identity at home and at work.
You become the adult who may look to others for cues on the right way to act in emotional situations; you instinctively accept the thoughts, beliefs and feelings of the people around you as true without noticing your own; you are uncomfortable when asked to give your own opinion; or you feel sad, angry or guilty about something more often than not.
Now, I’m not a psychologist or mental health counselor. I value the knowledge and judgment of experts, and if you feel you need one, please head on over to Psychology Today and see about finding someone to work with.
I’m not here to diagnose or treat anyone on specific childhood traumas or psychological issues, but I am here to help you live a better, more empowered, fulfilled personal and professional life. Oftentimes, the first step in changing and growing yourself as a person is having an awareness of where you are right now. My goal is to help you find that awareness and adjust certain thoughts, habits or practices to allow you to thrive.
If you recognize yourself in the fawning answer, you are not alone. Research has found this behavior to be HELLA common in women, especially those who describe their households growing up as male dominated. Now, my sweet, sweet men in the room, please do not think you are being singled out, blamed, or that I’m saying this behavior doesn’t affect you. It does. I see you, and I encourage you to scoot on over to https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/therapists as well if you want to see about learning more.
What I can promise to each and every one of you reading this is that with awareness, practice, patience and understanding, this shit gets easier. The four responses above are based on our instincts, and instincts exist to help us survive, not thrive. Regardless of what your response to the question at the beginning was, you can learn and adapt and grow yourself into whatever kind of person you want to be. You can thrive.
Check this out to learn more about the four responses.
If you’re interested in growing your communication skills and not relying on your instincts for the rest of your life, I encourage you to hit me up and schedule a free discovery call. We can discuss ways to change your thoughts, feelings and behaviors today to move your life and career forward.
That’s all for today, friends. Take care of yourselves.