The whole and its parts

The whole & its parts

Made for power

Despite negative associations with power, humans cannot do without it. It is to keep the negative associations with power that they will rarely make themselves aware of its presence when they use it themselves.

Consider power struggles are everyday events that rarely end in zero-sum games or in becoming bitter enemies.

As members of a group, we’ll regularly be confronted with events requiring us to assert ourselves or inviting us to seek to influence the other. It’s the moment of politeness, the misperception of the other person’s competence, the moment in which we don’t want to give up our place in the line, etc. These events don’t involve much power, but they do occur when there is a threat to our status or our authority. Moments during which we’ll end up defending or asserting ourselves. And also, moments in which we seek to influence the other in some manner, may it be to be seen as a nice person, to win the other over to our position, or to provide us with the help we look for.

Power struggles will not always make us feel bad. They also are those situations that allow several parties to find themselves confirmed in their position. And that may for example include people finding it hard to welcome the recognition that is given to them.

As so often, the presence of power struggles isn’t the problem. It simply is a deeply ingrained mechanism humans have developed since the beginning. Power struggles serve our ability to be a member of a group, to deal with the inherent competition the group brings, and to develop the tools to influence and lead whenever necessary.

There nevertheless are two problems with power struggles. One is the occurrence of zero-sum battles, where the power struggle has become solely self-centered, and people find themselves abused. While they occur, they are rare. The other is when people avoid power struggles out of the assumption that harmony is the overriding objective in a group. As a result, they find it hard to assert themselves when needed.

In a way, power struggles are negotiations. Thus, when people start to use hierarchy or some type of dictatorial command, it is a sign that the negotiation failed.



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