Chetana: A journey with more possibilities and perspectives. An enriching experience, thanks to the participants being so open to sharing and learning. Grateful and wishing all of them the best!! 🙏
There was a time when my life at work was mired in political battles which caught me unawares. Work was a pretty mean place and I could have done with soft and huggy animals. 🙂 I felt really powerless, helpless and anchorless in a lot of situations, repeatedly. Once I got benched on a project – overnight, I went from a star performer to sitting on the bench. I remember being in tears, struggling to understand the reasons for the drastic change and pleaded with my boss to treat me fairly. I was politically naive because of which I did not anticipate what was going on and I felt I wasn’t in control.
In order to remedy the situation, I bought a few books on power because I realised I didn’t understand how power worked; “48 laws of power”, “The Art of War” and “Machiavelli” became an integral part of my library. I tried to gather as much wisdom as I could through those books so that I could be in control, understand what to do to get one up on situations and to be able to wield power in order to have an upper hand.
I thought acquiring and using power was the only way of working. To be politically savvy I had to have the power over someone by means of information, talent, connections or hierarchy. This spilt over in the other parts of my life, too. I began hoarding things that would help me be in a better position of power over another person. Power made me feel invincible. Yes, as Spiderman puts it, ‘with great power comes great responsibility’. To me, power over someone was a necessity to survive in this pretty mean world.
I didn’t think there could be another way of working with people power-with instead of power-over. A quote by Marshall Rosenberg helps explain what the difference in the outcome would be when we use power-with instead of power-over. “Power-over leads to punishment and violence. Power-with leads to compassion and understanding, and to learning motivated by reverence for life rather than guilt, shame or anger.”
Power over as I understand it is the use of overt or covert force, threat, rewards to get someone to do something for you. It can come from the “victim stance” or from the stance of position or elevation. The strategies for power over usually come from the place of satisfying only one’s need and ignoring the other person’s needs. It is characterised by explicit or implied use of phrases such as, “You should”, “you must”, “you have to”, “I don’t know what’s happening”, “I am like this only”, “nothing will change, I will never get out of this”, “no one ever helps me. I need to do everything on my own”, “I will never ask you for anything ever again, there is no point”, “If you don’t do this there is no point in this relationship”, “I will talk to you only when you do this”, etc.
Power over can also be in instances where these phrases are not used but respectfully or politely asks someone to do something for you while ignoring the other person’s need. A mother could say to the child, “Can you please do your homework now, or else I won’t buy you the train set you wanted for your birthday?” when the child does not want to do the homework.
The idea is not that one “should not” or “will not” use strategies of power-over. There are instances where power-over could be the choice for many of us, and we’d do it to get some things done. The key is to be aware and to be conscious in our usage of power-over. As there are consequences to using power-over – there’s some form of violence that is created and it is important for us to take full and complete responsibility for the consequences of power-over. Usually, when we use power-over or when it is used on us, it doesn’t leave us with a good feeling even if the manner of speaking used was extremely respectful and polite.
Power-with, on the other hand, is about being aware and valuing our own needs, while also becoming aware of the other person’s needs and valuing them equally. Power-with strategies look for ways to satisfy both peoples’ needs. It respects and values the needs of both people, instead of one person yielding to another. Power-with is a non-violent way of engaging with a person.
The space we come from matters a lot in power-over and power-with. In power-over, we betray ourselves because when we use force or violence (overtly or covertly) to get something done, we are not meeting some need of ours which causes us to be in a vicious cycle of operating from the space of not seeing our needs and using strategies that are violent for both us and the other person involved.
In power-with, the other person is not seen as a person with absolute power or no power. He/ She is instead a person who has certain roles to play and the roles come with responsibility. You’d see the person as somebody who is role-playing and not as the role per se. For example, being a parent comes with a set of responsibilities, but that is not the only role you play in life. You may be a boss, an employee, a mother, a daughter, a spouse, a friend, etc. All these roles have their own set of responsibilities attached to them. If you are able to see yourself as just playing a certain role in a situation, then you aren’t getting attached to the role.
Role playing gives you the grounding you need to see that you as a person have your own needs and you will value them. Once you become aware and accept that you have your own needs, you will also begin to realise that the other person is also role-playing and has his/her own responsibilities. You are able to appreciate the vulnerability of the other person and their needs. Once you are in a space where you are able to value and acknowledge your needs and other’s needs you can work out strategies that meet everyone’s needs. This is called power with – working with self and the other.
The book “Anatomy of Peace” explores this in great detail, and it is worded as a self-betrayal – the space where you do not meet your needs. The book states that there are two states in which you engage with the other person – your heart at peace or your heart at war. Heart at war is essentially the space where you don’t value and meet your needs and the other person too. In his space, you see the other person as an object, as things, not as people. When we operate from that space, it leads to conflict and each person tries to gain power over another person.
A heart at peace is the space where you value, accept and work towards meeting your needs and the other person’s too. In this space, you see the other person as a person and not as an object or thing. Operating from that space results in an environment where there is less conflict, more understanding and deeper relationships. This is the heart of power with another person and the essence of non-violent communication.
This is not about saying that we should always have our hearts at peace. We are human beings, we are vulnerable and we will choose a different response based on the situation. If we are choosing a power with or power over response it is important to be aware and to accept responsibility for our choices.
As Dumbledore says, “It is our choices, not our ability that determines who we are.”
And, we do have the ability to make different choices at any given point of time.
Grateful for the opportunity given to address parents of the St. Joseph boys High School on 13th July. It was an unforgettable experience addressing 800+ parents. The warm welcome from the teachers and meeting Rev Fr Melvin Lobo SJ was an exciting experience. Thank you to Latha for being with me and helping with the pics. Gratitude 🙏
Thank you to Cilre for giving an opportunity to have a session for the facilitators. Many thoughtful moments and insights were part of the process.
Mandala session@ magichive. We were exploring, expressing through our creations. Some of us setting an intention, some without and going with the flow. All we needed was some resources and we were good to go. There was celebration and reflection. Enriching, enjoyable session. Thank you.
How to Connect With Someone (Even If There Is a Real Chance of Rejection)
In his book, “Never split the difference”, ex-FBI Hostage Negotiator Chris Voss talks about how
negotiation is an emotional practice. In 1979, the Harvard Negotiation Project was founded with
the goal of improving the practice of negotiation. The outcome of the project was a treatise
whose core assumption was that the “emotional brain – that animalistic, unreliable, and irrational
beast – could be overcome through a more rational, joint problem-solving mindset”.
Of course, when the FBI implemented this in their hostage negotiation situations, they were met
with abject failure. It caused them to rethink this “rational problem solving” approach to resolving
crisis situations because these situations were anything but rational. Voss remarks, “I mean,
have you ever tried to devise a mutually beneficial win-win solution with a guy who thinks he is a
messiah.” It was glaringly obvious that reason, rational, logical thinking wasn’t saving the day.
In our everyday lives, we face crises of a smaller yet of no less intensity.
Our crises can range from getting your toddler to eat the food that he is refusing to eat as you
get late to work, your 14-year-old refusing to change into appropriate clothes for a function you
are taking her to, your 10-year-old son refusing to listen to you, but would willingly listen to
everyone else. These are such emotionally charged situations where the connection with your
child or partner is the last thing on your mind as you try to negotiate your way from one situation
But there is a deep yearning to connect with another person. You want to experience the feeling
of deep connection that comes with a close relationship with a child or a partner or a friend. So
what happens when the connection is a casualty in day to day living. How can you build a
connection where there is no time? How can you build a connection when there is a lot of
resistance? How can you build a connection when you want someone to get things done your
Before we explore how to connect, let’s explore three reasons which stop the connection from
happening with another person. As you read this, take a pause and think of a situation where
you wanted to connect with someone and the connection didn’t happen.
The unscrupulous might of the hidden agendas
That’s not the only hidden agenda we are speaking about here, but a subtler form of hidden
agenda. We get into an interaction with our 10-year-old, what is our primary purpose of that
interaction? It is mostly to get him or her to do something our way. In that interaction, the
connection isn’t happening because the hidden agenda guides our actions, words and body
language. We assume that when we interact with another person, connection happens by
default. That doesn’t happen when you are focused on an outcome and not on the process of
connection. The key to connection is when you are focused on the process of connection, and
not the agenda you have in mind.
The fallacy of pseudo connections
Connection happens from the place of present and presence, whereas disconnection happens
when you are either dwelling on the past or looking into the future. When your mind is clouded
by what has happened in the past interactions with that person or is engaged in various
permutations and combinations of what the person is going to react, then you have the perfect
recipe of disconnection, even if you are trying to connect. So the key to creating a connection is
to erase the memories of the past, anticipation of future and to be completely present with that
person in the moment.
Making the choice of no connection
There might be situations that come to your mind when you have been in the present, put your
best foot forward, had no hidden agendas but you weren’t still able to establish a connection
with the other person. This is simply because the other person has made a choice not to
connect with you. It is important to realise that in an interaction that involves 2 or more people,
you and the other people have a choice to engage or not engage in a connection. The idea is to
not take this personally but to let go of it at the moment. You can come back to this at a later
point in time and try to establish a connection, maybe things would be different then.
So having seen three reasons as to why connection may not happen, let’s look at a framework
that we can use in our quest to establish a connection with another person. It can be
remembered easily by the acronym ROAR – Relax, Observe, Acknowledge, Reflect. Let’s go
into a bit of detail around each of these aspects.
Relax: The most underestimated yet crucial aspect of any interaction or connection is the ability
to be relaxed. To relax means to be at ease, to be okay with any outcome of the interaction and
to be completely present. In a practical sense, consciously relax your body, take a few deep
breaths and check in with yourself.
Observe: Then observe the facts, not evaluations or judgements as and when they come up in
the interaction. Observe the thoughts that come up with regards to any specific objective you
want to achieve during this connection. Observe yourself and the other person with curiosity to
notice what is going on. It is important to keep an open mind during the process of observation.
Acknowledge: As you observe check in with the feelings that go along with the observation.
Notice and acknowledge whatever is coming up and stay with the feelings – without wishing
them away or wanting more of it. Stay as a silent witness and acknowledge everything that’s
Reflect: Most of our instinctive response to any feeling or sensation (or situation) is one of
reaction, not a reflective response. So take this opportunity once you’ve relaxed, observed,
acknowledged to reflect on the situation, your objectives for connection and to actively choose
Let’s take a situation where you are meeting a friend after many years with whom things didn’t
end well, and there’s a lot of tension between you. This process of ROAR can be used in
preparation for the meeting or during the meeting, even when things start to turn awkward. Use
ROAR to relax first, observe what’s going on within you and what’s happening in the space
between the two of you, the thoughts that go along with the observation, acknowledge whatever
feelings or sensations are coming up during this process without fighting them and then reflect
on your observations, feelings to choose a response to the situation.
Using ROAR can be an effective way to take a pause in a situation.
And it can be very powerful to give us a range of choices or options to choose in terms of
response to any given situation. This is an active process of listening that’s used by a lot of
professionals in emotionally charged situations, so give it a try for using it with your
child/partner/family/friends/bosses/employees and let us know how it turned out.
Article written by Shirisha Nagendran
We had an interesting session with the students of St Joseph PU college. The session was about how we could develop a mindset on being adaptable to changes. The students were open and enthusiastic about the activities and shared their perspectives.
Our lifeskills classes started in the second week of June 2019. Lifeskills goes beyond academics, it is about being able to work in a team, have a growth mindset, use tools to solve challenges, knowing what can be done to make decisions, creativity etc. Looking forward to working with this set of children this year.
Grateful for having got opportunity to work with children looked after by Surabhi Foundation @Auroveda campus. 😊.
Summer program on growth mindset and problem solving @ IIM (B) Grateful to IIMB alumni office for the support provided. Children showed interest and were enthusiastic and open to all the activities. We wish them the best. 😊