Every relationship involves a balance of power. Between two friends, two business associates, two family members or two lovers, that balance is often tipped in one direction. One person feels more powerful and the other feels less powerful. One of the reasons we adore our precious pets and our developing babies is that we have an enormous sense of power and control – at first. However, if you do not develop the 10 essential relationship powers, you may soon start to feel powerless – no matter how that relationship began.
Today’s post was inspired by a special continuing education lecture sponsored by the Mental Health Association of Southeast Florida. Dr. Scott W. Allen, psychologist and negotiator, shared with us his knowledge, experience and unique insights into the best ways to handle crisis and hostage negotiation. In this type of dangerous crisis situation, the negotiator has to be clear, decisive yet empathetic, curious and non-threatening to the perpetrator. The skills he talked about are no different from the skills required to build lasting, fulfilling and satisfying love relationships, business partnerships, parent-child relationships and friendships.
1.The Power of YES
When we say “Yes” and know we will figure out how to do it, we feel energized and empowered. We may have to reach out to others, do some heavy research, study, plan and step out of our comfort zone. When we say “Yes” we are expanding our horizons, developing new skills and getting into creative flow. However, if we tend to say “Yes” to everything, to more than we can handle, to more than we really want, then our energy gets watered down, drained and eventually depleted.
2. The Power of NO
We don’t often think of saying “No” as being in a state of power. I remember hearing a quote from the super trader Warren Buffet. When asked what he does differently, he said in no uncertain terms: “I say NO more often.” Saying “No” enforces our sense of self, our boundary of what we find acceptable vs. unacceptable. Saying “No” gives a strong signal to others that we know what we want and we know what we don’t want. Unless we have a consistently negative mindset, saying “No” affirms that we are being true to the values, beliefs and principles by which we live.
3. The Power of Letting Go
There is certainly strength and courage involved in going after what we want. And then there comes a time when enough is enough. We have tolerated emotional abuse for just so long and now we are ready to leave. We have tried to get this other person to love us but finally we realize it is a losing battle. We have pursued a certain occupation and we have had no luck in securing a position or attracting enough clients and customers. At some point, if we follow clearly evaluate our outer circumstances and our inner guidance, we may decide it is time to let go and allow a new vision, a new partner and a new goal to emerge, one that is more aligned with our life purpose.
4. The Power of Curiosity
When we are curious, we ask questions. And when we ask open ended, curious questions, we learn what is available for us to learn. We discover what our partner desires, needs, fears and wants. We learn what our boss, co-workers, employees are willing and capable of being and doing as well as what they want and need from us. Curiosity leads to discovery which leads to creative problem solving and mutual satisfaction.
5. The Power of Self-Disclosure
In some sales techniques we are taught to ask questions, to get as much information as we can about the other person without revealing anything about our own self. That may work in some sales situations, at least for a short while, but it does not work in long term relationships. When we disclose our fears, our doubts, our strengths, our past confusion and our future hopes and plans, we open the possibility for the other person to feel safe enough to share personal information with us. A bond develops that strengthens over time if we continue to share what is true for us with an open heart and mind.
6. The Power of Listening
Most of us are listen-starved. Everyone seems to talk at us, to tell us about them self if we give them a chance. Everyone’s favorite subject of conversation is Me, Myself and I. Knowing that truth, become willing to listen, really listen, without the need to jump in with your own opinions, perspective, judgements and personal stories. Listen first. Pay attention. Hear what is being said. Ask questions to clarify your understanding. Allow the other person to feel listened to, heard, and acknowledged. There is a boomerang effect. The time may come when that person is eager to hear what you have to say, and able to sit and listen attentively. If not, you can reconsider whether this is someone you want to spend your time with. Listen and learn. It will serve you well in all your relationships.
7. The Power of Clear Communication
So much of our daily communication with others is unclear, murky, and not quite upfront. We often share only a piece of a story, leaving out some significant detail that could drastically alter the message heard. Not being clear about what we want and how to ask for it, we may drop hints, harbor secret expectations and then build resentment without ever actually telling the other person. We may hide the truth in the moment to not hurt another person, but we are laying the groundwork for a break in trust. At some later point, when this person accidentally discovers the whole truth,a bond that has taken years to develop can be instantly severed. Develop clear communication skills. Practice telling your truth without apology or backing down.
8. The Power of Saving Face
As you learn to be more direct, authentic and truthful with the other people in your life, there are times when you may cause someone to feel hurt, embarrassed or even humiliated. If you cause others to feel backed into a corner, they will naturally get defensive and either lash out at you or shut down. A better approach is to always begin with something positive before telling the way this other person’s words or behaviors have affected you. Safeguard the other person’s sense of self as you attempt to push them toward more open and honest communication.
9. The Power of Body Language
Pay attention to the sensations and symptoms in your own body. Do you sometimes feel a sudden jab in your back, in your stomach or in your neck when your partner or boss speaks to you? Observe the non-verbal responses of the people around you. Does your partner stand tall and speak clearly or cross arms, tense up and look away when you are asking or telling something you feel is important? Our bodies reveal to us what is really going on, even when our words are saying that all is okay. Your body is your friend. Listen to it. And observe what is not being said but is apparent in another person’s facial expression, posture, movements, breathing and eye contact.
10. The Power of Modeling, Mirroring and Reinforcement
Would you rather learn how to love from someone who is so loving that you can’t resist feeling good around that person or from someone who is angry, judgemental and easily upset? If you want your partner to treat you in a certain way, begin treating yourself and everyone in your life in that certain way. Become of model citizen of what you want and expect in others. Mirror, imitate and reinforce the positive and loving actions of others. Do not mirror, imitate or reinforce their unloving behaviors. Pay much more attention to what is working. Let the non-working, difficulty, upsetting behavior patterns gradually dissolve in your loving presence.