Power is an emotion-evoking word. We might admire or fear power, depending upon the context. We hope to have power for what matters — to influence others and to make an impact. That said, power takes on many forms.
The idea of giving away our power — especially unwittingly — is not a welcome thought. Yet no matter how seasoned or accomplished we may be, we all have the ability to get triggered into giving our power away at some time or another.
Some ways we give up our power:
- Your boss or supervisor goes on the offensive and you get intimidated and just shut down.
- You are given more than you can manage in the time allotted and you did not negotiate — now all you can do is complain.
- A colleague is not carrying his weight on a project and it’s putting stress on you. You don’t know how to talk to him, so you don’t. You end up working harder and resenting it.
The common denominator in these scenarios is that you’re out of dialogue. (One-way conversations are not dialogue.) Being in dialogue is empowering for everyone. So how do you get back into dialogue?
The kind of power we’re talking about here only manifests in two-way communication.
When you’re in dialogue, you’re in power.
The following two strategies will help you get and stay in dialogue:
Back Pocket Coach Strategy #4: Help me understand...
You think you understand someone and later find you misinterpreted! “Help me understand” is a way of making sure you are both on the same page. It can also help you remain calm, rather than be hijacked by an emotional reaction. For example: “Help me understand the purpose behind this process.” “Help me understand” also lets the person know you value what he says.
Back Pocket Coach Strategy #12: What expectations do you have of me?
Whether we realize it or not, we all bring different expectations to the table. Instead of assuming you are both on the same page regarding, for example, who’s going to do what by when, clarify! By asking this simple question, you are implicitly conveying your commitment and interest in being aligned with what needs to be done.
We would all ideally like to respond with strategies like these in the perfect moment. But sometimes you miss the perfect moment. If this happens, don’t beat yourself up. Instead, schedule a revisit of the conversation with your supervisor, colleague, client or others, using one of the above strategies. Doing so speaks to your strength and actually gives you the ability to fortify the relationship because it shows that you cared enough to think about it.
As one of our colleagues so aptly put it, “Relationships are built one conversation at a time.” Now that’s powerful.