Aug 30, 2012

The Problem With Using Power

You can force your daughter to stay in college. You can insist that your subordinate dress differently.  But, as most of us know, power tactics are often a costly way to preserve relationships.  They’re also unlikely to have any positive effect on the other person’s values. In fact, the use of power practically guarantees being "fired" as a consultant.  
Using power to influence the outcome of a values collision can be tempting, particularly as a shortcut if other available approaches are complex and time consuming, and you hold most of the power in the relationship.

When you act as an influencer through modeling and consulting, you're offering people an opportunity to change by encouraging an evolutionary process.  The adaptations in their lives may be slow and gradual, but they will be lasting because they’re not imposed; they’re part of that person’s learning and growth.

By exercising your influence, you’re saying, in effect:

"I have no power over you, but here are the facts and figures that support my position. I leave responsibility for change with you. I won't hassle or nag if you don't make the changes I've suggested. I want to be influential and, above all, to preserve a good relationship with you. I accept the fact that the outcome of my consulting efforts is uncertain."

 When you use power methods in a values collision you are denying people a chance to evolve at their own pace, in their own way. You're applying a "revolutionary" approach-instant change through coercion. The message you send comes through like this:

"I don't trust you to make this change on your own. I'll use whatever power is available to me to force the change after all, it's for your own good."
Using power to alter another's values is frequently justified as being in the other's best interest. But consider what people throughout history have been forced to accept in the name of their "best interest"! That should give us pause when we set out to coerce change in others. Non-power methods that people can adapt to their own needs and experience are more likely to yield change that's desired by  you and truly accepted by the other person.

Author Unknown, Posted by Selena George, P.E.T. Program Manager

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