I’ve told you about our women’s group, right? It’s informal and fun, but we also meet with an agenda to work on issues that affect us as Millennial women. We take turns introducing topics or activities. At our last meeting, my friend Shanti brought up the issue of claiming power in her relationship with her mom. It was a great topic, as we all feel we could stand up for ourselves more with someone in our lives.
For me, it’s about working with overpowering clients. For others, it was boyfriends, bosses, or housemates. Whatever the relationship, there are basic guidelines to help claim your own power without disempowering or overpowering the other person.
Spot the Give-Away
By definition, reclaiming power means you’ve given it away at some point. Learning to spot when you have or are about to give someone else your power is key to nipping these struggles in the bud.
For example, do you hear yourself saying, “I don’t know/care; you decide.” Or, “What do you want me to do?” Especially when accompanied by feelings of regret, resentment, or resignation, statements like these can be a sign you are giving power away.
Being passive, indecisive, or waiting for someone else to do something for you can be disempowering. Of course, any of these things may be appropriate and legitimate, too, depending on the situation. It’s subtle, so observe the situation carefully.
State the Facts
In a situation where you feel that you need to (or should have) stood up for yourself, get the facts straight. What actually is happening? With Shanti’s mom—who she lives with—arguments quickly got overblown with drama from past events. By getting a grip on what was going on in present time, Shanti was able to stay out of old patterns and away from past drama triangles. Both parties should take a time-out to get objective about what is happening.
Own Your Actions
The key to mastering communication and staying empowered is to own what you bring to the table. Spot your own shortcomings (without getting all victimy or judgy on yourself) and tell the other person—honestly. With one client, I have to own that I am triggered by negotiating my rates. I’m able to say, “When clients try to negotiate rates, it kicks up some survival issues, so that’s why I may get defensive.”
If your partner shames, belittles, or tries to “will-bend” you, staying strong by owning your feelings in the moment can help him see how his actions affect you—without pointing fingers. For example, “When I feel like someone is trying to make me do something, I get defensive and stubborn.”
Let Them Own Their Stuff Too
Often, the more aware person in a relationship will end up taking responsibility for a whole challenging situation because they are the ones who can own their stuff. But don’t let this happen! Ask your partner/mom/friend what they are feeling, what is going on with them, or what they need. You don’t have to give it to them, condone it, or like it—whatever “it” is. But give them a chance to own what they’re experiencing.
We aren’t responsible for other people’s feelings (yeah, I know, you’ve learned otherwise). That doesn’t mean you should be mean or don’t have to take responsibility for the consequences of what you say/do. But if you speak your truth as consciously as you can and someone doesn’t like it—well, ultimately, that is their problem.
In other words, don’t care-take other people’s feelings and reactions. Let them come up with their own “owning.” You giving them a list of the stuff you’d like them to do feels like finger-pointing and blame.
Often owning our power—especially when we are new at it—feels like a battle to win. It can get kinda competitive and aggressive if you don’t watch out. If that happens while you are learning to stand up for yourself, don’t beat yourself up. But do look at why it happened and how you’d like things to go differently. Creating boundaries is essential to feeling empowered, but it’s not necessary to build and defend a fortress.
Cultivate Compassion and Self-Love
Learning good communication and practicing empowerment come when we love ourselves and are compassionate about our weaknesses, foibles, and fears. That love and compassion can be extended to the other people in our lives, and we learn to give and take in ways that feel good for everyone. Understanding that whoever we’re interacting with has similar fears and flaws helps open the door to empathy. If you can model this sort of compassion, others may follow suit.
Claiming your power in difficult relationships or situations is a practice that takes time. You may feel fine with some people and terrified of others. That’s normal. You can reflect on the relationships where you feel empowered to understand what qualities you can bring to those where you don’t feel that way. And remember, we’re all works in progress. Have patience with yourself as you face fears, develop new skills, and learn ways to consciously and compassionately develop your own personal power.
Do you have tricky interactions with loved ones? Want to stand up for yourself more? Advisors on Keen can help you navigate relationship challenges with more ease. Call to get support today!