Once we understand the ‘power tools’ that are available, accessible, and limitless in any given situation, we can use them appropriately. As the Austrian neurologist Viktor Frankl stated: ‘Between stimulus and response, there is a space.’ Our ‘real’ power is knowing how to tap into that space and respond intentionally.
‘Power tools’ encompass our conversational style, posture, tone of voice, facial expressions, and body language. However, they also include our mindset, boundaries, fear, intuition, and connection with others.
For example, imagine you’re engaged in an emotionally charged conversation either at work or home. Powering up could escalate the situation, resulting in anger, harsh words, ultimately causing a rift in the relationship. Instead, choosing a power tool that reduces the emotional intensity can help level the playing field to accomplish the task at hand.
In this situation, some ‘power-down’ tools that could be effective include speaking in a softer voice, expressing sympathy, using inclusive language (we, us, ours) using less formal speech, keeping our chin lowered, or taking up less space. The list is endless, but we rarely tap into these tools consciously.
When people feel pushed, they have a natural tendency to push back. When we stop our reactive pushing and pulling and seek out the best way to harness our power and allow others to do the same, that’s when the energy flows and win/win outcomes are achieved.
Other situations may call for powering up to have our voice, opinion, and expertise acknowledged. Some of these power tools include using more formal speech, pausing for effect, making eye contact, injecting humour into a discussion, making declarative statements, standing with firmly planted feet and our shoulders back, showing little to no emotion, using large sweeping gestures, wearing quiet shoes, and taking up more space.