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Relational Intelligence at Work

Here's Why You Struggle with Relationships

Here's Why You Struggle with Relationships

Steve Cockram

on March 6, 2024

Hey, it's Steve Cockram here.

Welcome to the Relational Intelligence at Work newsletter where every Tuesday you’ll receive an email directly to your inbox from either Jeremie or myself.

This newsletter aims to support you on your personal growth journey, and to equip you with the skills and knowledge you need to excel as a leader.

For today’s message, I want to dive into a somewhat controversial topic… understanding power dynamics and the effect they have on our relationships and communication with others.

Let’s dive in…


In every relational interaction, there is an unspoken power dynamic at play.

When there is a significant power imbalance between two people, the one with the higher power rating can easily overpower or disempower the other person.

In the vast majority of cases, it’s not a conscious decision, however, for the person on the wrong side of the power dynamic it can feel like they live on the defensive and that they and their opinions are being constantly critiqued.

The good news is that you can use the “Power Test” to increase your self-awareness and immediately begin to improve your relationships.

Let’s review the 3 primary factors that determine your power rating:

1) Personality Power

Your personality power is a measure of how forceful, opinionated, strong, and challenging your personality is when it speaks into the external world.

For me, as a Pioneer Connector (refer to the 5 Voices if you aren’t familiar with these terms), my personality power is very high.

Now, I’m slightly more charming than the Pioneer Guardian (ENTJ), but I’m still hard to argue with and can be very forceful in persuading people that my opinion is correct! I’m unbelievably good at actually turning anything people bring at me and making them feel like they got it wrong.

2. Presence Power

Your presence power has to do with your physical size, how you dress, how attractive you are to look at, and the relational charisma with which you engage people.

We’ve all known people who whenever they step into a room, everyone knows it. The people in the room naturally gravitate toward them, this is presence power in action.

Somebody who is 6’4”, looks like Brad Pitt and has a high level of charisma will score 10 on presence power!

3. Positional Power

Positional power has to do with your role and status within society. Often, you can hear by the way people introduce themselves what kind of positional influence they have in the world.

  • “I’m the founder and CEO of…”

  • “I’ve written these books…”

  • “People pay me this amount of money to do that…”

If I’m Elon Musk, I have a vast amount of positional power. I’m one of the richest men in the world, founder and CEO of multiple billion-dollar companies including Tesla, and I’m launching rockets into space.

Anywhere he goes, there’s going to be a massive positional power dynamic at play.

In every relationship in your life there is an unspoken power dynamic that you need to be aware of.

Let’s take my relationship with my wife, Helen.

Say I give myself a 9, 7, 9 in the power dynamics scores.

9 - Personality Power

7 - Presence Power

9 - Positional Power

In order to determine my overall power rating I simply multiply the three numbers together.

So my overall power rating is (9*7*9) 567, that’s very high!

Now, let’s look at my wife, Helen. She is an amazing woman but has a completely different personality type to me as she’s a Nurturer Guardian, ISFJ (refer back to the 5 Voices).

Her personality power alone is not high, let’s call it a 4 out of 10.

She never wants to be the center of attention but she has significant presence power in any room because of how she looks and how she engages so intelligently with people. Let's call her presence power a 6.

In terms of positional power, Helen went from being an attorney, where she had a high amount of positional power, to being a housewife who raised our 3 girls (amazingly by the way!).

At that point in her life, positional power would have been closer to 4. However, Helen is now a magistrate (a local judge) and a trustee on the board of various local charities so her positional power is now closer to 8.

So her overall power rating (4x6x8) is 192.

Looking at the difference between our power ratings, her at 192 and me at 567, there’s a duty of care that is required on my part whenever we communicate and seek to collaborate.

If I’m not careful, I can easily overpower Helen through the forcefulness of my opinion, tone of voice and body language.

Looking back I was not that self-aware and didn’t understand the significance of power dynamics in our relationship. I wish I could go back and do it differently but sadly that’s not possible.

What I can do is share my learning and encourage you to make different mistakes from the ones I made. 

The good news is I’ve made a lot of progress, although as Helen points out we started with a low bar!

The key to understanding and learning how to properly deal with the different power dynamics comes back to one of our core philosophies at GiANT… you have to know yourself to lead yourself.

Be honest with yourself and ask what kind of power rating you bring to the table.

Think through your past interactions with others and how those relationships developed. If it went poorly, was it because there was a power dynamic at play you weren’t aware of?

The person with the higher power rating in the relationship must take the primary responsibility for creating the context where differing opinions and perspectives are heard, valued and appreciated.

The greater the difference between the power ratings the more careful you have to be not to overpower or disempower.

It’s certainly possible for people with different power ratings to have a very healthy, synergistic relationship, but it usually requires the person with the higher power rating to be intentional in creating the psychological safety required for the relationship to flourish.

I offer the power test to you as a lens for self-awareness and fully acknowledge it’s not an exact science!

I’ve just found it incredibly helpful in my own relationships and encourage you to give it a try. 


That's all for today's message. I hope you enjoyed!

Until next time,

Cheers from London!

P.S.

In theory, we've never been more connected in a digital world today.

Yet, in a strange paradox, we've never been more disconnected.

The Communication Code will give you the tools and resources to rekindle and strengthen your relationships.

Grab your copy below:

The Communication Code Book

Relational Intelligence is the science of highly-functional relationships (HFRs). Learn how to navigate and manage your interactions with others effectively.

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