Understanding Power Dynamics in Relationships

Sometimes in the work environment things do not run smoothly and you may find yourself up against someone trying to undermine you or your position.

Someone might have more power than you because they are physically stronger, bigger or more aggressive than you. They may not have the same value on the relationship as you; this then might give them more power in the relationship. They may know how to upset you, make you feel guilty, play games and manipulate you.

They may be in a position to control access to someone you love or a group you wish to join by being able to discredit you or get other people to dislike you. They may be more intelligent than you.  They may have an impact on your financial situation or be in a position to terminate your employment.

Dealing with power dynamics

Recognise your own power; we all have internal power which we can draw on.

I have been using the following example for years with clients and it works.

The other person may have organisational power and be in a senior position to you, but they may not have much internal power which in my view  is truth, integrity and courage.  I started to notice that whenever I moved away from my truth I lost my power. I could reclaim it if I said what I was really thinking (within reason).

The reason I say courage is because you have to want nothing from the other person in order to take your own power.  You could stand to lose a lot; on this you have to make your own call. Nevertheless, you will normally stand to gain a lot more.

We also often operate from a position of fear which is usually more to do with our childhood response. We imagine there will be all sorts of consequences which a child is unable to deal with. However, as an adult you are in a lot stronger position to be in control.  For instance, you are frightened in case you are fired so you do not protect yourself from your manager’s unfair criticisms.

You would have to consider the worst which could happen if you were fired, could you cope with this. You have a mortgage to pay, bills, children and other dependants to consider. Could you get financial help or a new job? Would it be likely that you would be fired for speaking up for yourself?

I do like the quote “All anxiety is caused by a projection into the future.”

Nothing works in all situations all the time, but here are some useful ways to deal with difficult situations. 
  • Pick your battles wisely.
  • Ask yourself can you win the battle?  Is the battle worth fighting?
  • Be aware that you have a choice, for instance you can stay or leave the situation.
  • You can disengage for a time or end the relationship.
  • Be willing to go above the head of the person.
  • If necessary discuss with management, the Union or human resources staff.
  • You can set boundaries regarding what needs to be done in order for you to continue in the position or relationship.
  • If necessary get professional help to support you in making changes and to take care of yourself emotionally.

For more information visit my website at www.etiquetteandmanners.co.uk The courses are also certified for continued professional development (CPD) if required.

Good Luck

About the author

Ellen is our Business & Social Etiquette Blogger. You can reach Ellen on: Etiquette and Manners, Facebook, Linked In

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