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Appeasement Versus Fawning in Response to Verbal Abuse

February 15, 2024 Cheryl Wozny

Two common responses to verbal abuse include fawning and appeasement. Although they share some similar characteristics, each is unique and can produce alternative results. I used to think appeasement was the same as fawning, but I was wrong. 

The Appeasement Response to Verbal Abuse

Some may also characterize appeasement as people-pleasing. An individual will behave a specific way or do things another person wants. This behavior is often a reaction to verbal abuse. The receiver wants to do everything they can to avoid confrontation with an abuser or give an abuser a reason to lash out. 

Appeasement can be an excellent survival tactic for anyone in a verbally abusive relationship. It's a submission response to abuse, which can lead to less hostile relationships. I've used appeasement in many situations to get an abuser to calm down and diffuse a potential attack. 

Individuals using appeasement believe by following the demands of an abuser, they won't rock the boat to encourage further verbal abuse. If they can keep an abuser happy, life will remain tolerable. 

The Fawning Response to Verbal Abuse 

Fawning shares some elements with appeasement but is less in tune with the abuser's needs or wants. It is also a submission response but can result in different reactions and results. Like a baby fawn, this response is more common in young children with abusive parents. 

Over-apologizing or accepting responsibility for an abuser's feelings are fawning reactions. An individual may mirror their abuser's feelings. If the abuser isn't happy, neither are they. Not only are they people-pleasing, but they neglect themselves in the process. 

While fawning could neutralize a confrontation, this behavior often displays weakness to the abuser rather than compliance. Individuals may put themselves in more danger when abusers capitalize on their fawning reactions.

Someone in a verbally abusive relationship using the fawning response can make themselves more of a victim unintentionally. Abuse can escalate if an abuser focuses on their weakness rather than their passiveness. 

Unfortunately, I remember times when I would use fawning against an abuser only for them to attack me more for my lack of courage or self-esteem. This behavior gave my abuser more reasons to pick on me later. 

Appeasement and Fawning Are Common Trauma Responses

Both appeasement and fawning are common trauma responses. Individuals in verbally abusive relationships may develop these and other coping strategies to deal with confrontation. Although there are some perfectly normal situations where appeasement and fawning can help diffuse conflict, they shouldn't be standard behavior. 

Do you notice any appeasement or fawning behaviors happening regularly in your relationships? It could be time to re-evaluate the current dynamic between you and the other person. They may not be verbally abusive to you, but your appeasement or fawning behaviors may come from past relationships. 

It's critical that you take care of yourself, and learning your needs are also important. Even with my healthy relationships, I sometimes fall back on appeasement or fawning. Thankfully, it's becoming less and less. I am still a work in progress and hope to continue on my healing journey away from verbal abuse and its negative effects

APA Reference
Wozny, C. (2024, February 15). Appeasement Versus Fawning in Response to Verbal Abuse, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 15 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/verbalabuseinrelationships/2024/2/appeasement-versus-fawning-in-response-to-verbal-abuse



Author: Cheryl Wozny

Cheryl Wozny is a freelance writer and published author of several books, including mental health resources for children titled, Why Is My Mommy So Sad? and Why is My Daddy So Sick? Writing has become her way of healing and helping others. Find Cheryl on TwitterInstagramFacebook, and her blog

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