How to be the Most Powerful Person in the Room
I used to say that only an insecure person shows up to a water gun fight with a machine gun. I'll refine that a bit for our purposes here-only the unregulated person shows up with a machine gun. And, sure, they may "win" the fight, but they obliterate everything else in the process. When our anger is the lead emotion in an altercation, it may appear as though we win, but it is a lie. We will lose every time. With our children, we teach them fear and to be passive. With coworkers, we teach them acquiescence, and lose the benefit of their expertise. With lovers, we teach them the limit of our capacity to connect, and end up lonely. What feels like power in the moment is not. What feels like getting our way, is not. And what feels like dominance is often simply destruction, cocooned in pride and ego protection.
So, how do we feel powerful when we have been wronged or have angry feelings, and wish to express them? Our power comes from feeling secure in our right to have the feelings we have, expressing our feelings in a responsible manner, setting boundaries
and observing them, and de-escalating rising tensions and tempers. Read that over again: Our power comes from feeling secure in our right to have the feelings we have, expressing our feelings in a responsible manner, setting boundaries and observing them, and de-escalating rising tensions and tempers. Notice anything? Our feeling of power has nothing to do with the other person. Our power comes from exercising control over ourselves, and observing and interacting thoughtfully as the room responds. This idea may leave you with a couple of questions, such as:
The answer? You take a beat. And here is why:
Have you ever been in angry confrontation and you can feel yourself shaking? You are activated! The chemicals running through your body are pumping you up! The blood is rushing away from the very parts of your brain that need it! Your parasympathetic nervous system is off line. And, you think this is a good time to engage? When your brain has less blood in the very centers of communication that you rely on to express yourself? Um, no. This is a terrible time to engage because you are locked out of the room in your brain that has all the tools you need. You don't have access to the watergun closet-all you have are machine guns. So, to avoid the massacre...
First step- Work off the energy that is coursing through you to help you return to parasympathetic dominance. Here are a couple of simple exercises to get you started:
Stack four sheets of paper. Tear them in half. Restack them (you'll have a thickness of 8 now). Tear them in half again and restack, tear... You will notice that as the stack thickens, you are needing more strength to rip them.
Feel in your body where the anger is coursing. Arms tight? Foot bouncing? What ever it is, amplify it. Bounce that foot wildly. If you are clenching your fists and pacing, clench and pace, my friend. Do it until you don't need to anymore. Do it until you return to a state of regulation.
Second step- Ask yourself if this is really the time to address the issue that has you ticked. Do you want to miss the movie fighting with your boyfriend about being late, or do you want to see the movie? Know your goal. If it can wait, let it. Let the moment pass without exploiting it. When you are out of the situation and have had time to contemplate your feelings, then you can reconnect, and talk about what you found upsetting. If it turns out that NOW is the time to express, use de-escalation techniques. I'll cover some of those in next week's post!