I am a giving person. My natural instinct is to be the fixer, helper and resolver.
I am in the early part of my career and I often feel the need to prove myself. Most of these feelings are subconscious. In the past, they crept into conversations where I should have stood my ground.
Over the last year or so I realized I was giving my power away. In the course of conversations with clients or colleagues, I found that I responded to “power- grabbing” questions with explanations rather than an inquisition. What’s a power-grabbing question or statement? Here are a few examples:
How much do you earn?
How old are you?
How are you paid?
You can’t earn more and have more flexibility.
Power-grabbing questions or statements can come up in many different ways, these are just examples of what I have experienced. If you look back on conversations with colleagues or clients I bet you can find a few instances where someone asked you something inappropriate or just off…. People use power-grabbing language to gain control.
I have encountered these situations with men and women. For a long time I wasn’t great at responding to power-grabbing questions. Many times I would simply explain, fix, help or try to resolve. Here is the thing… I don’t have to tell anyone how much I earn, how I am paid or even respond to such probes. It’s none of the other person’s business. Pointing this out is OKAY. Granted, there is a way to do it.
I talked to a mentor and PHD in behavioral science about the best way to respond to someone seeking to take “control” in a conversation. She said a simple way to get your power back is to simply inquire why the person is asking. This can be a non-defensive way to stop the cycle. If someone wants to know how I am getting paid given the freedom I am allowed, I don’t have to answer. I can simply ask why they are asking. Potentially, this could lead to a productive conversation about employee incentive and performance rather than me going into any detail about how I am compensated.
I am still learning how to take my power back in productive, healthy and positive ways. For some, responding with quick-witted quips that disarm others is second nature. This is not the case for me. I’m sure I’m not alone in being occasionally surprised by the statements of power-hungry professionals. My goal is to learn how to stop this behavior in its tracks so we can focus on work rather than dominance.
Difficult people are a part of everyday life, both personally and professionally. Rather than giving away power by trying to fix or getting defensive let’s take control of us. When people are trying to “win the conversation” be aware and don’t give in.
In retrospect, I can see that people who take the path of control have the issue. Their strange remarks aren’t actually about me. I have nothing to prove. After talking to a respected mentor I feel like I have taken off the rose-colored glasses. Before, I didn’t realize people asking the types of questions I mentioned were controlling or that I was giving my power away by explaining.
My New Mantra: Their issue isn’t about me. Don’t give away power.