There is a power struggle in relationships that renders us unable to reflect and gain personal insight. The irony is that to stop the power struggle we need reflection and personal insight. It’s a process. Actually, it’s a learning process. The day I first gained insight was just the beginning. You know when you finally develop a skill and you realise it took months, even years to acquire the proficiency? It’s no different from personal reflection and insight.
In the most unlikely circumstances in a micro second insight renders us surprised and can quickly jolt us into personal responsibility.
It doesn’t matter which end of the power struggle you believe you’re on. There’s always something to learn. I’ve had many relationships where the power balance was tipped one way or another. Each time, there was something to learn.
I invite you now to reflect on a situation when you realised not everything about the challenges you were facing with someone else, was about them.
Balance of Power
I believe there a major source of pain in relationships is a balance of power. People fighting to be right and get what they want. It doesn’t matter who the relationship is with, children, partner, sibling, parent, or significant other from work, community or business or even politics. Someone for some reason or other always end up exerting more power, and someone usually feels like they have “lost out”.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Power is an interpretation that we (the person trying to gain power) have the answers. We’re fighting to be right.
What’s really going on?
Each one of us is just trying to take care of what’s most important to us, and in that process, be truly listened to.
The result is often a clash. But when you think about it, if all we’re ever doing is trying to take care of what’s important to us, shouldn’t we each be able to listen deeply to one another without pulling ourselves away to our own thoughts, to truly listen for understanding?
This refreshing way to think about power imbalance will set you free.
When you know this person is trying to take care of their concerns, the things that matter most to them, the things that deeply matter to them, you become a better listener. Through listening you will stop believe it is all about you. Which it rarely is.
Taking Personal Responsibility
Taking personal responsibility is the best thing you can do for yourself and the other person involved in any challenging circumstance. But for a moment let’s put “your part” aside .. we’re not focusing on the argument, at this point. Go back a step.
Focus on your concerns and ask yourself this;
What truly matters to me in this situation?
Whatever it is that you’re trying to take care of is where you should start. You can see by this approach, taking personal responsibility is much less about what you should be blamed for, as it is in gaining personal insight into the things that deeply matter to you.
When you take this kind of personal responsibility, starting with gaining insight into what your own personal concerns are, what truly matters to you in this situation, all of a sudden you develop empathy, and insight into the other person’s concerns. You realise how much they matter and they are driving the behaviour.
The power imbalance dissolves as both people are truly listened to. You will feel an inner calm, which will enable you to have more constructive conversations, and find ways to move forward with this circumstance, together.
You will not feel the pull toward power, and neither will other. You will both find ways to take responsibility for the actions and decide which actions will be best to take.
In a recent email I wrote this ..
On a recent trip to Melbourne I went into the city and was determined to give coins to the homeless. I’d seen a really great series on Australian TV about the homeless which gave me more insight into their world. The trouble was, they weren’t that thrilled with the money.
One man was even angry. He just wanted a cigarette. One other was so taken by my curly hair that he couldn’t have given two hoots about the money.
The Homeless Have Their Own Story
What I realised that day, was that I was trying to take care of my own concerns, the things that mattered most to me, which was also trying to take care of the homeless in some small way. In doing so, I was ignoring what was most important to them. What if I stopped to have conversation? What if I asked what they wanted, cigarettes or money or something different? What if I truly listened.
I felt shocked and a little bossed around if I’m honest. Hurt. But then as I recovered from the shock the jolt came. I realised we never really do know what people want and need until we ask. If we assume we know, 9 times out of 10 we’ll send ourselves off on the wrong track and unfortunately, we’re likely to damage the relationship.
We can’t help but take our emotions into every single interaction. Humans are incredibly emotional but the trouble is, we find it hard to control or manage our emotions in the most challenging circumstances. We’re okay until the conversation changes course or shocks us like my conversation with the homeless man.
We need to be able to identify our emotions. Sometimes this is challenging. Some people find it hard to give emotions words, some find it hard to describe how emotions feel, and some find it hard to identify how they are experienced in the body