Recognize yourself or possibly a partner -- in these communication styles?

Blamer: "You never do anything right," or "If it weren't for you, everything would be all right." A fault-finder and a dictator, the blamer controls, nitpicks and criticizes relentlessly.

Principle: The best defense is a good offense, or, demolish the enemy before s/he can demolish you.

Symbol: snake.

Placater: "Whatever you want. Without you, I'm nothing." Ingratiating, eager to please, apologetic, a syrupy "yes man," the placater tends to be a bootlicker and a martyr.

Principle: I'll demolish myself before you do.

Symbol: rabbit.

Computer: "Upset? I'm not upset. Why do you say I'm upset? Everybody knows . . . " (followed by statistics or quotations of authorities). Calm, cool, collected, super-reasonable, the computer carefully chooses the right (often abstract) word, avoids admitting mistakes, denies feelings.

Principle: Maybe you won't get me if I don't show I'm vulnerable.

Symbol: computer or robot.

Distracter: "Problem? What problem? Why don't we go to the movies?" Talkative, irrelevant, frantically active and unfocused, the distracter avoids direct eye contact and direct answers, is quick to change the subject or ignore the point being discussed.

Principle: If I ignore the problem, maybe it will go away.

Symbol: turtle or ostrich.

People tend to rotate styles, says family therapist Virginia Satir, author of Peoplemaking, from which this outline of couples' communication styles was adapted.

The ideal style, claims Satir, is that of the Leveler, who says, "I will tell you what I think and feel, without blaming or placating you, without denying my feelings or yours, and without ignoring the problem. And I invite you to do the same."