Working with a parent
newly separated from a high-conflict marriage, Mum wanted to help her daughter to come out of her shell and be more relaxed.
Mum noticed that her 15-year-old daughter, Emma, often went to great lengths to avoid conflicts, especially with her friends. Whenever there was a disagreement about where to hang out or which movie to watch, Emma would quickly give in, even if she had a different preference. She'd come home sometimes, visibly upset, but would brush it off, saying:
"It's okay, Mom. I want everyone to be happy."
One evening, after Emma had reluctantly agreed to attend a party she wasn't keen on, Mum decided to have a heart-to-heart with her. They sat down with a drink, and she began sharing a story from her teenage years and how she used to be a people pleaser in the hope her friends would like her.
Mum talked about how her own home life was full of drama, and to cope with the stress this caused, she would please everyone to try to keep the peace.
She explained how she thought her reaction was the fawn response, how it's a natural coping mechanism and how it led her to suppress her true feelings. She emphasised the importance of balance - it's okay to compromise sometimes, but it's also essential to voice your feelings and preferences.
They talked about how mum learnt to use "I" statements, such as "I feel" or "I prefer," which helped he to talk without sounding critical.
Over the next few weeks, Mum noticed a change. Emma started voicing her opinions more, not confrontational, but in a manner that showed she valued her feelings. Emma came home smiling one day, sharing how she had suggested an alternative plan of going to a party to her friends, which they all enjoyed, instead of her usual way of keeping silent.
Mums understanding approach, open communication, and practical guidance helped Emma recognise her fawn tendencies and equipped her with tools to choose healthier responses.