So much of what happens between people relates to the power dynamics between them. It’s rare that in our lives, that we face no situation when we are on the downside of a power relationship. During such times it’s not unusual to have flashes of insecurity as we relate to others, especially in untested relationships. When that’s going on, you use some of your emotional energy anxiously worrying about how the other person feels about you and whether they will respect you as equal.
Many years ago, I went into the office of the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, wondering, “Will he think I’m too young?” “Will he immediately discount what I say because I appear to be 10 to 15 years younger than I am?” “Will he think I’m well educated and experienced?” “Does he have a bias against African Americans?” And then the moment comes when he shakes my hand in such a manner that immediately puts me at ease. Then I can focus on my presentation and stop worrying about putting the other person at ease because of my concerns about how he perceives our differences. He had the job to offer; he outranked me; so, he had the power. This dynamic plays out every day based on our many identity dimensions that include:
- Social class
- Where you got your education and how much of you have
- The region of the country you came from
- How much money you have
- Your sexual identity
- Where you are from in the world
- Whether you are the student or the teacher
- What level you are within your organization what floor you are on and the size of your office
- Your values and
- Your birth order in your family
- Your family name and reputation
- Your personal charisma and presence
- Your ability to intimidate and coerce others
MultiDentities understand that because we are multidimensional, our power shifts from being power up to power down throughout the day based on the situations we encounter. But in a MultiDentity World, you’ll be better off assessing your power before you settle into critical interactions and relationships. You must think strategically about how you interact with the many others in your life, and managing the power dynamic between you and others is the hidden element to establishing trust and productivity. How sensitive you and others are to any dimensions of others identity is an individual matter. For some, they may have gone through life, developed a thick skin and learned how to ignore or deny how others treat them. But I find this to be very rare.
You probably have developed radar about the identity dimensions that matter to you the most, and like me, you can tell when you’re at risk.
Sometimes people’s radar is broken, and they see everything and everyone as a threat based on a few key dimensions of their identity. The important word here is dimensions, meaning if you are power down on more than one identity aspect, you probably have a more difficult time maneuvering through society. Imagine what it would be like if your survival instincts were activated all day every day. It’s very stressful. The opposite is also true. Some people were born into several power-up identity dimensions. They have the advantage of moving through society facing far few barriers and stress.
Taking action when you are in power down position means balancing the energy between protecting yourself from harm, disarming power-ups, so they treat you with respect and strategically asserting your rights when they mistreated you. You must be able to do these things in a MultiDentity world. Taking action also means not closing the door on those who mean you no harm because you have become overly defensive. Being in a power-down position means you use more of your psychic and emotional energy to make it through the day, which increases your stress level. So an important part of positioning yourself for success involves managing your stress.
When you’re in the power-up position, MultiDentity thinking means making a commitment to being fair and open to your stakeholders and making sure your ego is in check, so you’re not abusing your power. You can do that by learning from times when you were or still are in the power-down position to bring forth greater empathy for those who are power-down in their interactions with you and within the society.
People have the ability to show acceptance to others and put them at ease in any interaction through the simplest of gestures. Power is an important dynamic in the Age of MultiDentity, with so many kinds of people competing for it. Gain the awareness, skills, and wisdom to manage the power dynamic in your life.