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Fawn Responses to Trauma in Your Business

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Our textbooks define trauma as serious or significant events that cause emotional, mental, or physical disruption or damage. But recently, we learned that trauma is also those little things that happen over time that teach us how to look at the world in a different way, especially when we don’t recognize and process what’s happening in the moment. This expanded definition of trauma was described to us by Dr. Lee C. Cordell, expert anti-shame coach, and founder and CEO of the Institute for Trauma and Psychological Safety. This more broad definition of trauma allows us to discuss and uncover our responses to things that are going on in our businesses and with our clients with more understanding and empathy. 

Today, we’re sharing a snippet of our workshop with Lee because we found so much value in it that we couldn’t keep it to ourselves. We’re unable to share the entire workshop with you here, but all Haven members have access to the replay of the workshop in their member Resource Library to be watched when it’s most needed and convenient. 

There are four main ways that our past painful experiences are brought into the present by our brains and impact our businesses. 4 threat responses are fight, flight, freeze, or fawn. The two that we’re probably most familiar with are fight and flight. So, in this piece, we’re sharing a tidbit about faun. 

Fawning is a people-pleasing response to avoid conflict. Here’s how you might see it impacting your business.  

3 Examples of Fawn Responses in Your Business:

1. Saying yes to something when you want to say no. 

Can turn into resentment when your needs aren’t met in return and can turn into a fight response. 

Try this instead: Don’t say yes or no in the moment. Say you need to check your calendar first or confer with your team and let them know.

2. Going along with ideas you don’t agree with. 

Creates an imbalanced relationship, resentment, and shame. 

Try this instead: Say you’ll think about it and get back to them so you can provide yourself time to think a decision through and share your thoughts.

3. Expecting others to save you. 

I don’t have the answers…can you just tell me what to do. Coach or someone famous on a pedestal and follow their advice to the letter. 

Try this instead: If you’re a coach or someone who’s giving the advice, remind people that you aren’t perfect so you don’t get clients that expect you to be and solve all their problems overnight. If you’re the one seeking advice, remind yourself that all of the answers are in you already and your coach or mentor is there to help guild you to those answers, not give them to you. 

Since none of the four trauma responses (fight, flight, freeze, and fawn) are conscious choices, don’t berate yourself if you notice yourself responding in any of the ways we’ve described. Once you’re more aware of your responses, it becomes easier to recognize when you’re experiencing one and how to adjust for it. It can take time to recognize your own patterns and as humans. Lastly, we typically use all four responses when dealing with trauma in different situations. Just because you sometimes fawn does not mean that you don’t respond with fight sometimes too. Humans are complex beings and while our brains are incredibly advanced, they misinterpret situations in an attempt to protect us when it’s unnecessary. Look for your patterns and you can consciously alter your responses to improve your business relationships.

For more great content and support from Dr. Lee C. Cordell, visit the Institute for Trauma and Psychological Safety website. To watch the full workshop replay as well as gain access to even more resources like this to help you and your business thrive, sign up for membership today. 

Written by Danielle Lim


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