A bit earlier I had the opportunity to chat with a former boss of mine. As we laughed together I started reflecting on the way he was using to add fun to our exchange. All the jokes he made were based on something we two could understand based on a personality type model we both use frequently. It meant, that all his jokes involved an idea of power, I associated them with him testing his power over me.
In a way, he was reassuring himself and trying to recognize our relationship. In doing so, he was also showing that it is one of his ways to relate with others.
Humans have an ingrained need for survival, tied into this, is the necessity to know who in the group is the most powerful. It is a constant quest for security and thus for someone who may give us this security. In this realm, we will find four ways to relate to one another. Two of them are related to our ability to win whereas the other two will link with our desire to avoid losing.
Competition and power are on the winning side. The quest to know who is the best leads to relate with others via competition. Relating through power, on the other hand, is about our ability to win a fight.
When seeking to avoid losing, people will either retreat from the other or avoid the other. When people retreat they don’t engage but remain present. Avoiding the other is a way to flee from them.
These ways we relate to one another will show in subtle details, and much more in the energy we will sense within the experience. It shows in the movement we feel.
It would be shortsighted to use these modes to evaluate the relationship. And yet, it might be our first reaction, when we experience them, especially when it is an uncomfortable experience. It is by making ourselves aware of the context as well as of our associations with the experience that our first judgment may be transformed into a different assessment of the situation.
Competing, fighting, retreating, and avoiding are very useful habits for our success. There are dangers we’d better avoid as long as we are not fit to deal with them. Competitions will train us to deal with them and to assess how we compare with others. In other situations, we need to be present and observe the situation long enough to learn how we’ll be able to win. The way in which we relate to one another thus can also serve our long-term learning purpose. It’s when we forget that the situation we are in, isn’t about survival or winning, that things can become stressful.
Coaching for example is a situation that is based on power. It is established via the coaching agreement. Once an agreement is found, the coach will have received the authority to guide a coachee and the coachee will have acknowledged that the coach will accompany his journey. The agreement will work, once both feel comfortable engaging in it. However, it is to be noted, that another part of the agreement involves how the work will be done. The latter is a way to relate I didn’t mention yet, as it is outside of the need to win. It is one of relating via cooperation or collaboration. And one, that is only accessible when there is enough wellbeing in the relationship, that is when both partners feel safe enough with one another. And that’s when we know where the power is and when it becomes accessible to both.