Super Powers - Being powerful and resolving conflict in relationships and organizations


Super Powers - Being powerful and resolving conflict in relationships and organizations

"I feel powerless" 
"I want more power and influence"
"I want to be respected"
"I am powerless" 
"I feel scared of asserting myself" 
"I avoid making eye contact"
"Someone embarrassed me at work, and I did nothing"
"We have a workplace bully"

A blog on power by a mediator and conflict coach

Mediate to Go - Super Powers - Being powerful in relationships and organizations

What does power mean to you? Do you feel comfortable using power? Maybe power makes you uncomfortable. Do you avoid eye contact with people? Do you hesitate when making requests of other people? Do you start some of your sentences with “I know this is a stupid question, but…”? Most people don’t realize this, but we exercise power on a daily basis. This blog is all about power in relationships. In order to be an effective self leader in conflict situations, we recommend the use of empowerment. Read more about power below.

Definition of Power


Power is defined as ”The ability to influence the attainment of goals sought by yourself or others.” (J. Dan Rothwell)



Other definitions of power include” the ability to do or act; great or marked ability to do our act; strength; might; force; legal ability, capacity, or authority; the possession of control or command over others; authority.” (Dictionary.com)

Synonyms for power


The items of power include the following: “capability; skill; dynamism; gift; talent; effectiveness; aptitude; efficacy; qualification; influence; potential; virtue.” (Thesaurus.com)

Antonyms for power


Antonyms of power include powerless, ”incapacity; weakness.” (Dictionary.com) “in aptitude; inefficiency; incompetence; uselessness; surrender; yielding; impairment.” (Thesaurus.com)

Introduction to power


In order to effectively resolve conflict,  and to be a self leader in conflict situations, one must learn how to manage their own power and interact with the power of other people. Power is all around us, and is not something that can be avoided. Even if one feels powerlessness, it is not possible to be completely powerless. 



Given our interdependence in human relationships and groups, everyone has some form of influence. (J. Dan Rothwell) That is a form of power. In fact, in order for people and groups to achieve their goals, they must exercise power. (J. Dan Rothwell)

Forms of power


Hollander and Offerman, (1990) explain that there are three forms of power;  dominance, prevention and empowerment.

Dominance


He who has great power should use it lightly.

Lucius Annaeus Seneca



Dominance is a form of competitive power, where someone’s gain is someone else’s loss. This type of power is most obvious in organizations or governments where are hierarchy is present.  Dominance can be exercised within given situations. Sometimes, dominance is Express verbally through interruptions, Contradicting someone else, berating them and monopolizing or dominating discussions. (J. Dan Rothwell)

Prevention


The only power you have is the word no.

Frances McDormand

Prevention is another form of power, which is also competitive in nature. Prevention Power takes place when someone is attempting to react to the power of dominance. Prevention power is common as a form of resistance. (J. Dan Rothwell) In the context of workplace conflict, if you’ve been a manager and your employees have resisted some form of change, this is known as prevention power. If you’ve been an employee, and someone has asked you to do something that goes against your values or the values of the organization, you may have exerted prevention power in managing this conflict.

Empowerment


The purpose of getting power is to be able to give it away.

Aneurin Bevan

Empowerment is much more positive out of all of these forms of power. Empowerment is all about helping others increase their capabilities and improving the influence of both groups and individuals. (J. Dan Rothwell) empowerment is all about collaboration: everyone in the group is given the tools they need to succeed together as a team. Empowerment is seen as a proactive means of helping oneself and others seek their goals. (J. Dan Rothwell)

Power games


Some people view power as a game. What is the power game? A power game is the interaction of dominance and prevention within different areas of life. As mediators and conflict coaches, we encourage people to seek empowerment, as empowerment is a form of collaborative power. We believe that through working together, people are more likely to have both of their needs and interests met.  This is not to say that we should not seek any form of power. Studies have shown that people using powerful language achieve credibility and are more persuasive than others. (J. Dan Rothwell)

Power in Communication


Passive Communication


Each underestimates her own power and overestimates the other's.

Deborah Tannen

Passive Communication means “not expressing genuine emotions, views, and values or sharing them with apologies, excessive justifications, and self-critical statements such that other people can discount what you think and feel. Passive communication conveys that your beliefs and emotions do not matter to others. The aim of passive communication is to avoid direct expression.” (U of New Hampshire) Powerless verbal communication is another term for passive communication.



In some ways, passive communication might be easier, as one might avoid taking responsibility for themselves and others. However, there are many problems and not asserting power in communication. Passive communication can create a great deal of resentment over the long term, as one might feel that they have compromised there needs to the benefit of someone else.

Assertive Communication


Respect your efforts, respect yourself. Self-respect leads to self-discipline. When you have both firmly under your belt, that's real power.

Clint Eastwood
Mediate to Go - Super Powers - Being powerful in relationships and organizations
Also, see our blog on being a Self-Leader in Conflict Situations


Assertive Communication meansExpressing thoughts, feelings and values directly, honestly, and respectfully. Assertive communication clearly conveys someone’s opinions and emotions and perspective. The goal of assertive communication is mutual acknowledgement and respect and compromise when there is disagreement.” (U of New Hampshire) If you are a self-leader and conflict situations, you are an assertive communicator.



There is a great deal of Power in assertive communication. Others some people might have a negative association to the term assertive, assertive communication is collaborative in nature. To be assertive is to be authentic and open about what you need, while respecting the boundaries of others, and wanting the best for them as well.

Aggressive Communication


Power is dangerous unless you have humility.

Richard J. Daley

Aggressive communication means “expressing opinions and emotions directly but dishonestly and/or disrespectfully. Aggressive communication conveys that what the other person wishes, feels and thinks is unimportant enough to be dismissed. The goal of aggressive communication is to win and dominate.” (U of New Hampshire)



Aggressive communication is all about competitive power and the power games. How can I win? What can I do to dominate the other person? How can I take revenge? Another problem with aggressive communication is that a “win” does not lead to positive relationships in the future. While one might feel that they’re powerful on the circumstances, this might backfire.

Conclusion


We have all heard the terms, power game, powerhouse and power up. For some,  especially passive communicators, asserting power is uncomfortable. For others, especially aggressive communicators, asserting power is almost too comfortable, given that it is at the expense of others. As mediators and conflict coaches, we recognize the importance of power in human relationships.



Power is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, groups and their members required power in order to achieve their goals. How can groups achieve their goals and effectively manage conflict? The most appropriate form of power is empowerment, which is based on collaboration. The best way to achieve empowerment is through assertive communication.

Power and powerless quotes


Knowledge is power.

Francis Bacon



Satire is traditionally the weapon of the powerless against the powerful.

Molly Ivins



Washing one's hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral.

Paulo Freire



We mostly feel fearful because we feel powerless. We feel powerless, I contend, because of a style of thinking that splits information in two poles that makes us lose all the operative information we need to solve the problem.

Patricia Sun



People who are powerless make an open theater of violence.

Don DeLillo



References



J. Dan Rothwell, In Mixed Company: Communicating in Small Groups and Teams, Thompson Wadsworth



The article by the U of New Hampshire was “Adapted from Lange & Jakubowsk (1978), as well as handouts from Missouri University of Science and Technology, University of Wisconsin Eau Claire, Massey University, and the University of Kansas.”


Mediate to Go - Super Powers - Being powerful in relationships and organizations



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