What is the Interaction Model?

Someone asked us recently, “What is the interaction model and why is it useful?”

Steve gives his answer:

It’s another gift from Virginia Satir, a pioneering family therapist. Her Interaction Model helps you update your own internal communication, which changes your external communication, so you can interact better with others. The updates change how you treat your perceptions, interpretations, feelings, and past experiences.

Satir viewed an interaction as a process. She carved it into six phases where internal communication typically breaks down. Analyzing an interaction using these phases enable me to slow it down and use both logic and emotion to shape how I respond to someone.

Satir was aware of the critical impact that feelings on communication. For instance, when I feel angry, I know exactly what the other person is thinking. If I succumb to my anger, I may stop the other person in mid-sentence and say, “You mean X. Say no more (shut up). Let me tell you…” If I think of the Interaction Model, I can stop myself from saying something I’ll regret later by asking myself, “What other meanings can I make from what I heard and saw?” That question helps me recognize I can’t recall a single thing I heard or saw and I have interpreted only one single meaning, which means I’ve missed literally everything. My internal dialog will often change my feelings. Being aware of the breakdown, I might say, “I was angry. I’m not sure why. I missed what you said. Would you please repeat it?”

We all learn and grow through our interactions. Not only does the Interaction Model help me be a better communicator, it helps me be congruent, which helps me feel better about myself, which helps me take more risks, which helps me change my rules, which helps me be a better communicator… The model shows how all these qualities are connected.

I love the Interaction Model.

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