PREVIOUS : P Dynamics
⬅️ “Dynamics of Power”
∼ Evangeline Bradley
Everyone’s first encounter with power is in the family. Our experience left a very bad taste in the ‘mouth’, leaving us with fear & rage at all ‘authority’ figures, because the original ones misused their power, & -now- we think we don’t have any! Not true!
POWER (P) itself is not evil – only some of the actions that result. Like any form of energy, it’s not the action of changing another person’s attitudes or behavior, only the potential to do so.
The proper use of power is the ability to get things done safely & respectfully, such as positively affect the outcome of a social interaction, rather than ‘lording’ it over others.
Power can be an effective tool in coordinating & promoting harmonious relationships, solving conflicts, & enhancing performance. It’s not only needed to get certain direct results, but also to form negative decisions or non-decisions.
“The use of influence is not automatically a negative. Like any strong force – from powerful medicine to nuclear power – it is the morality-motive behind the desire to harness it that makes all the difference.” R.L. Dilenscheider, 1990 (“Power and influence: Mastering the art of Persuasion“)
• CONTROL P : the ability to achieve something. To persuade, manipulate, coerce OR work together to achieve a goal, adapt, prevent injury….
EXP: Acquire the knowledge to name or define events, people, pattern, things
• EMOTIONAL P : Power-related feelings signal basic survival needs — who is a threat, who is an ally, who can be counted on, and who is in the way.
• FRAMING P : the stories ‘explaining’ why things are the way they are, which can control or direct the outcomes of social-change- efforts (homelessness….), If limited or one-sided, will drive responses in a skewed direction
• LANGUAGE P : Research identifies several features, such as –
– Powerful talk makes speakers seem confident & knowledgeable
– Powerless talk suggests the speaker is unsure, tentative & submissive
• MANIFEST P : having the intention of using power, or actually use it – when A wants something from B
• LATENT P : the ability to exercise power but not use it, perhaps not even consider its use. Qs:
= Does person B behave differently because they’re anticipating what A could do?
Yes, often to please or protect oneself
= Does the power-holder’s (A) intention matter in an interaction?
No, yet there can be an unintended effect – if A’s very presence causes a change in B’s attitude & actions
• POWERLESSNESS P – resistance to act in ways not desired, such as delay tactics in biz / law / politics…, or sullen pouting / door-slamming / tears by adolescents…..
OR as sacrifice, such as ignoring personal “status” (boss, star, leader….) to belong to a group, or giving up some personal desires to be a good parent
• STRUCTURAL P : the ability of a person / group to shape their social environment, to set the agenda, & determine rules of the game
EXP: “Living next to the United States is a little like sleeping with an elephant. You always wonder if they will roll over on you.” ∼ Pierre Elliott Trudeau
Family therapist David Kantor lists 4 power-dynamic interactions seen in business meetings (& other groups) :
a. Move – to initiate // b. Follow – someone else’s move
c. Oppose – disagree with, or correct another’s move
d. Bystand (positive) – notice when the group gets stuck, name it & make a helpful suggestion for moving forward.
A successful group or family unit uses all four in complementary, positive interactions.
And one way to assess how ‘well’ a group is doing is noticing the pattern of their conversations – how they talk to each other.
Unhealthy groups include the dysfunctional bystander, (lack of moral courage). EXP: Enabling addicts & narcissist, knowing about abuse, watching a crime take place…. & choosing to not intervene.
NEXT: Personal Power (+ / -)