I came across this article and thought it was worthy of sharing as I myself got something out of it. I always wonder what to say in those tricky moments when you may come across who exerts “more power” over you… Hope you find this helpful.
‘ As long as you are speaking from compassion, you can say anything’. An anonymous psychotherapist.
1. I agree with you that…
2. You probably won’t…..
3. You’ll really have to…
1. I agree with you that…
- We are really angry about this
- This is important to both of us
- We seem to be on opposite sides of the fence about this
- We don’t see this the same way
- We both want the best for ….
Your disagreement seems impossible to resolve. Find the common ground – something that is true for you both. Maybe it’s nothing more than that you’re both really angry about it! If that’s the only common ground, stand on that.
If that’s true, then it’s also true that it’s important, that there is something about it that really matters to you both – something to be gained, or lost. It is probably true that you both have the best of intentions – assuming that you both do have the best of intentions can help you move forward.
Having established the common ground, it is easier to move on into a calm and respectful attempt to fully understand the other’s position. Listen attentively, try to achieve such a complete understanding that you can explain it back to the other in a way that lets them know you really do understand.
One thing this is likely to do is to lead to reciprocation: an attempt on their part to understand your position.
Now you may find that you can begin to look for ways that both of you could get the outcome that you each want, or find it easier to compromise, or realise that there are misunderstandings that can be cleared up, or that it doesn’t matter as much as you thought.
But maybe this doesn’t happen. Maybe you that no matter how carefully you try to state what you understand their position to be, everything you say is greeted with ‘no, that’s not it’.
If the person you are arguing with can’t take ‘yes’ for an answer, you are in the territory of.
2. ‘You probably won’t…
- Agree with this
- Believe this
- Want to do this
- Care about this
It is surprising how many people seem locked into a need to disagree. We assume that people will choose to agree with some things and disagree with others, but many of us feel trapped or threatened by going along with what another person wants or suggests. If you find that almost everything you say is met with disagreement, even when it is something clearly true, important or necessary, it is quite a surprise to find out how easy this can be overcome.
If the person you are speaking with is almost compelled to disagree, then the phrase ‘you probably won’t’ becomes your most powerful tool in getting along with them.
If you preface your statement with ‘You probably won’t agree with this’, or ‘you probably won’t want to do this’, you have actually freed your friend to consider whether they might, after all, think your suggestion is a good idea.
They certainly don’t want you telling them what not to believe, do, or care about. You will be surprised at how quickly a closed conversation opens up again.
But there can be emergencies when you really need to stop someone with formal power from doing you harm. This is the time to go to the next step: 3. “You’ll really have to”
3. You’ll really have to….
- Do whatever legal action is being threatened. They are in the same position you are, you are both being forced to do something by an outside authority.
- Do what they threaten to do. Threats must be carried out, not doing so is a sign of weakness. You know they have no choice.
The person exercising power over another person against their interests, whether in a personal or official setting has a strong psychological need to experience themselves as the one who has power, and you as the person within the sphere of that power. They are exercising power, you are not.
‘You’ll really have to….(said with compassion, a sense of fellowship in their victimhood – ‘I understand that you really have to…’. ‘I do know why you really have to…’) because (the law says they must/they have to stick with their word or appear weak) puts them in the same category as you…subject to an external power. That’s the last thing they want. And now they can only demonstrate their power by not doing the thing you are telling them they must do.
The more serious the situation, the more courage it takes to adopt this strategy. But remember, people whose job it is to impose unwanted constraints on others, and people who are bullies in their personal lives are very accustomed to pleas and protests, and enjoying denying them can be part of their process.
Breaking completely from the ‘begging for mercy’ script powerfully disrupts this process. Compassion – towards them – is the key. Having their victim feeling sorry for them is an unbearable psychological position….they will have to prove they are in control. ‘Don’t you tell me what I have to do!’
Compassion is the most powerful weapon of all.