Article by Hans Holter Solhjell.

Published 15. september 2020.

This is part 1 of a series of articles about the response funnel.

You can read part two of this article about The Response Funnel here.

The response funnel graphic provides a overview of a range of ways we respond behaviourally to challenges, conflict, crisis and stress.

The model was developed in the context of caregiver-child relationship and developmentally supportive conflict resolution, in families, kindergartens and school, while also being relevant in much broader contexts.

The model is inspired by and based on 25 years of interest in research, theories, practical methods and work in fields such as stress, trauma, child-development, parenting, communication, conflict resolution, crisis management, self-development, embodiment and therapy, martial arts and self-defense, systems theory, integral philosophy, education, educational design etc.

The response funnel model


The response funnel model provides an overview of a range of ways we respond behaviourally to challenges, conflict, crisis and stress, with a focus on both more spontaneous, positive or negative, behaviour, but also and more importantly on learnable solution-oriented regulation-supportive behaviours and relational skills.

Response Funnel

Several versions of the model exists and are also in development. The version currently available for download (Click here for English version ) and to buy in high-quality print (at this point, in Norwegian only) is the most basic one, which you can see in the image to the right.

Purpose and potential uses of  the response funnel graphic


Hans Holter Solhjell presenting the response funnel model.

The graphic can be used in different ways and purposes. I list here some of the ways I use it.

Teaching tool

The first purpose is as a teaching tool, to teach, explain and give an overview of various topics related to stress, trauma, relationships, conflict, conflict resolution, crisis-response, self-development, parenting, self-regulation and regulation-support.

It is meant to give a broad overview of some of the responses we have available to us when we experience challenges, conflict, or stress. Some of the responses are more impulsive in nature, and others require focused learning and practice to acquire.

Supporting and motivating regulation-capacity development

A second purpose of the model is supporting and motivating the development of a broad skill set and capacity to influence and regulate our state to promote our, presumed benevolent and healthy, intentions and health of both oneself, our immediate relationships, our circles of influence as well as our overall social, cultural, political and natural ecosystems.

This includes developing emotional and behavioural granularity, the ability to differentiate between different emotions and feelings, and relational actions, as well as capacity to accept and tolerate disagreement, debate, conflict, discomfort, pain, stress and negative emotions to a certain degree. Extended versions of the response funnel model greatly extends on the variations of the basic model.

Self-reflection tool

The model is also meant to be a self-reflection tool – we can use the graphic to explore and reflect on our own reaction patterns and skills, as well as reflect on what skills we might want to focus on for capacity development.

In a certain relationship, or in a certain situations, do I tend to end up on the lower levels of the scale, ending contact, undermining or worse? Where do I feel comfortable or not? With debate, dialoque or play?  Can I develop more capacity for dialogue, or play?

The ultimate goal of the model is to inspire, support, and motivate in the development of improved, as well as a repair of, capacity for self and co-regulation, and regulation-support.

The model can also be used to explore where we might need more support from a partner, friends, family, learning partner, coach, teacher, or therapist. Typically with regards to situations or topics where one tend to end up in, or get stuck at, the lower leves of the funnel

For partners, teams, and organizations it can also be used to understand our capacity as a group, where we as group members have complementary skills, to support and benefit from the variation of (and not undermine) skills, and which capacities and skills, like healthy debate, dialogue or playfulness skills, we would benefit from having more of in our group.

Both for individuals as well as groups, honestly and accurately appreciating and accepting both our strengths as well as our weaker areas is seen as valuable and important for further capacity building.

The response funnel model can also be helpful to track our development over time. We can then do this on a regular time interval, like a month, quarterly, half-year or yearly schedule, to keep track of your learning or therapy process.

Some points to note about the response funnel model

Funnel metaphor

The visual metaphor of a funnel is used to illustrate that our capacity for learning, conflict resolution and behavioural and cognitive flexibility, in general and broadly speaking, is reduced as stress and feelings of threat, unsafety and negative emotions increase.  Òur capacity, is, in general, larger higher up in the funnel.

Many variations and exceptions

The illustration of the funnel puts the positive emotions at the top, and gradually more negative emotions further down. This is not meant to indicate that positive emotions are always better for all purposes, or a ranking of emotional experiences as such.

Emotions, and life, are complex, and emotions has varied and complex effects on many aspects of our behaviour, thinking, problem solving, awareness and decision making. For instance, some unsafety and anger might make one more ready to act decisively, and also some negative emotion have been shown to be better for rational decision making compared to more positive emotion.

Individual response in relational, social, group, organizational and cultural context

The response funnel model primarily maps one individual’s response options, possibilities, and limitations. It is also meant to support the capacity development of individuals, long term safeguarding of our capacity, as well as repair of capacity limitations due to injury or trauma.

It is important to point out that even with this individual oriented focus, the model is meant to be used in a context that emphasise the importance of context as well as our responsibility, on an individual as well as systemic level, towards each other.

Importantly, the model was originally developed in a context of caretaker-child conflict, with the aim of explaining the importance of co-regulation and regulation-support for the developing child, and for the gradually developing self-regulation capacity of the child.

Also, the model, influenced by Bronfenbrenner’s ecological systems theory and systems theory in general, sees our capacity as individuals, even though we can work to enhance and repair it, as greatly influenced by our immediate as well as long term contexts, in close relationships, wider social group, organisations, cultural, political and legal contexts. As well as our natural, local as well as global, natural environment.

You can read part two of this article about The Response Funnel here.

You can download a basic version of the response funnel here.

If you are interested in more information about the response funnel model you can receive our newsletter by registering your email, downloading the response funnel model below.

We will then send you information about new developments of the response funnel as well as our related courses and training programs.