We all experience times when we are in our power zone. We feel confident, powerful, at ease, full of possibility and capability. There are other times we feel the exact opposite - uneasy, out of our depth, doubting ourself.
This article today is going to help you understand how relationship dynamics affect our ability to speak up and show up in the way we want to and share strategies that help you master these power dynamics and become unf*ckwithable - comfortable and able to be yourself no matter what, having the kind of influence and relationships you want.
It helps to understand that who we are; how we show up is directly affected by relationship dynamics. This might seem completely obvious now I say it, but we don't realise it when it happens.
I have felt completely confident meeting the Global Head of Market Risk, an incredibly intelligent man and explore problems and challenges with him. Our conversation created connection, rapport - mutual understanding and increasing trust.
Yet meeting a peer of his, to explore the exact same problems and challenges I found myself inexplicably uneasy, a queasy feeling in my stomach. Our conversation was difficult, he was combative and the more I tried to build rapport with him, win him over, the worse it got.
Over a short period of time, our dynamic worsened, I found myself shutting down the more aggressive he became. He bullied me. This assignment sucked and drained my confidence.
Thankfully I came across the model on interpersonal power dynamics that I'm going to share with you now that helped me understand what was happening and solve for the problem we had. I can say this with confidence because I have met and worked with exactly this character since, and not fallen into this ‘bully-victim' trap - thankfully for both of us!
The first thing to realise, is that I believe we all have a type of ‘nemesis' - a particular character type that we find really hard to deal with. Let's start to look at and unpack this incredible model from the work of Emily Alison and Laurence Alison and I'll explain a little.
Above: Alison's Interpersonal Dynamics Model - see book Rapport: The Four Ways to Read People
Exploring the magic of the model...
The horizontal line from T-Rex to Monkey is about connection and comfort. Over in the T-Rex corner, we are genuinely energised by conflict, we love to get into it and spar. We lead, we wonder why the hell people shrink from us and they lose our respect by doing so. We have no time for those we disrespect and we may attack them, become sarcastic and punitive.
This is the absolute opposite for the Monkey who hates conflict. Monkey says like me like me like me and feels safe and energised and connected through friendliness, acceptance.
This creates Bully-Victim Pattern #1 - the more desperate for acceptance or validation the Monkey becomes, the more the T-Rex will disrespect the Monkey, losing patience and become punitive.
Focussing now on the vertical axis, the Lion to Mouse, this is about who needs to lead. The power of the mouse is humility, patience and persevering asking the right questions. The power of the lion is great leadership, being in charge, setting the agenda, welcoming in the we, advising.
Bully-Victim Pattern #2 arises when the Lion is a bit strong, more ME than we, and the mouse is conflict avoidant - remember the 4 toxins of relationship we explored in a previous post? This is stonewalling. The more Mouse retreats, the more Lion becomes demanding and pushes until either the mouse explodes into T-Rex or the Lion becomes exasperated.
Further insights - there are so many we could unpack but this would be overwhelming in one go!
• We are all the full wheel - T rex Mouse Monkey Lion. Different relationships pull us into different power dynamics in which one animal or quadrant of the wheel is more dominant.
• Just being aware of this - where you feel most comfortable by default, where you go under stress - is hugely powerful. Awareness gives us choice.
• Generally all our relationships are great, except some. Take time to reflect, what do the ones you struggle with have in common?
• I bet the ones you struggle with will be on one part of this wheel: this is your nemesis. Do you realise? You are also theirs. You trigger each other into an unhelpful pattern for both of you. Lose lose. Nobody wins.
So what to do about it? How to help difficult power dynamics? How to not get exasperated, destroy someone or get destroyed or shut down yourself?
The magic is OUTSIDE YOUR COMFORT ZONE.
Monkeys - move toward T-Rex. Stop trying to get the to like you and speak up. Be frank, forthright, say it as it is, get to the point, don't shy away from differences of opinion or point of view.
Mice - Speak up. You drive others mad by not speaking up. Know that speaking up will help you avoid more demanding behaviour from others. Lean into Lion. Engage, advise, set or at least contribute your part to the agenda.
Lions - Avoid becoming judgemental, dogmatic, pedantic, overly demanding. That's it. The world needs great leaders. Co-create, involve and empower others, coach and guide as part of your leadership range.
T-Rex - Self-awareness is key. Your path to greater effectiveness is through becoming more curious. If you think they are an idiot, you just don't know them. Challenge yourself to go deeper and understand others. Notice when you shut others down, back off, be kinder.
Being able to be in control and confident when dealing with ‘our nemesis' is a real possibility if we use the wheel to lean into our opposites.
This is the foundation of becoming unf*ckwithable - owning our power, being able to show up and interact in the way that we choose, able to have the impact we want no matter what.
The more we practice, the easier it becomes. Remember our recent article about change? Practicing new behaviours will feel weird at first as we literally grow new grooves in our brain. Over time these grooves become deeper, habits solidify and new patterns become our new normal.
This is how we change the world for the better.
I'd love to know what you think - let me know in the comments: What has resonated with you? Any personal insights you've realised from this? What more would you like to know?
Here I walk you through step by step many useful and practical techniques for emotional intelligence and how to make friends with your mind.
And provide you with other resources that may help you grow including meditation and more.
15 min guided meditation set to soft music to help you calm, soothe and release fear.