Handing over the power
Recently I had a brief conversation with a colleague and out of the blue she made a comment that came across as a threat – at least it felt that way on my end.
To give you some context this is a person I have a professional relationship with, not a personal friend. I would tell you that until this, I felt we had a good professional relationship, which is why her abrupt comment caught me off guard.
My knee jerk reaction was to blame myself and feel crappy for creating a situation where my professional performance was less than perfect; Generally agreeing that she was right and that I deserved the reprimand/threat, and that I wasn’t good at my job.
It was certainly a power move, one designed to keep the balance of power in her court – and make me feel small. And it almost worked had I not taken the time to slow down and peel back the layers of that onion.
When we feel compelled to say something that makes someone else feel small, it’s because we are afraid. Fear never comes from a place of love.
The fear could be anything – fear of looking stupid, being judged, losing a relationship, losing respect, or it could simply be fear of not feeling in control.
Why using fear to get people to do what you want doesn’t work
Getting people to do what you want out of fear is a little bit like kicking a dog to get it to do what you want. The dog will probably do what you want (out of fear) when you are standing over it, but the dog feels no love or loyalty to you in the long term.
I’m pretty sure Lassie would never have never gotten Timmy out of the well if she was afraid of him…After all, if she got him out of the well, he might kick her again!
In the situation with my colleague, she got what she wanted regarding my reaction to her comment– I stepped it up (out of fear) and got the job done.
Unfortunately because of this exchange, the level of respect I have for this person isn’t what it used to be. Someone who will use threats to get what they want is not someone I want to collaborate and/or work with.
You catch more bees with honey
There is a reason this old adage has stuck around for so long (get it – stuck in honey-bahaha!). When we come from a place of sweet compassion the person on the other end feels love. And when we feel love we want more of it, we will act in a way that gets us more honey! A-ha the good stuff!
When we act with compassion and without fear we create relationships where people want more of what we are giving out. In other words, these people would come save us when we’re stuck in a well.
So why then do we try to catch bees with vinegar? Because we don’t recognize we’re acting out of fear.
I would tell you the person I had this exchange with is a compassionate person, who takes pride in looking out for the people around her. But when fear came up for her, she lashed out. Who knows what her fear was/is – maybe it was a fear of not being respected, or judgment by someone… who knows, it doesn’t matter.
What matters is rather than take a moment to breathe and recognize she was feeling fear, she choose to use the fear to create a temporary sense of safety (and unfortunately a long-term lack of respect on my end)
Living life from a place of fear puts you constantly on the defensive. You struggle to feel in control. Living in fear makes you feel like you have to force your agenda, your opinion and your authority in every conversation and interaction with someone. You are always looking to get the balance of power in your favor. Fear makes you want to prove someone else is wrong, so you can feel in the right. It makes you quick to point out the faults of others, so no one sees yours.
Living in fear takes you away from gratitude. It doesn’t allow you to let-go of things that aren’t important. Fear isn’t love, and they can’t co-exist. Living in fear keeps happiness at arm’s length.
Until you address the fear, what it is and where it comes from you are always fighting a battle you can’t win. It’s like fighting your own shadow, you are the only one in the ring and it’s your own demons hitting back.
How you can reduce the fear and increase the compassion
The next time you feel yourself wanting to make a comment to shift the balance of power or to make the other person feel less than awesome, check in to see if fear is motivating your actions.
Ask yourself – “If I don’t say (fill in the blank) what will happen to me?”
Your answer could shed light on your fear. For example if you feel like you need to make a comment that reflects your financial status while being introduced to a new group of people, your fear may be that without that qualifier they won’t respect you or that you feel you need that to establish your power.
Begin by start noticing when you feel compelled to say something out fear and see if there is a pattern to your fear. Then you can decide to change your words and come from a place of compassion…. Otherwise known as the honey pot!
The other side of this fear is when someone you interact with (like my co-worker) comes at your from this place of fear. When we can see that someone is lashing out out of fear it is easier to come from a place of compassion. Try to see their actions as fear based and it’s easier to take the gloves off and not feel like you have to strike back.
Being humble in your communication and compassionate in your connection to others and you will become the person everyone wants to be around!
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