Have you ever been driven crazy by a person who refuses to see it your way? It may be a parking lot attendant, the guy at the airline counter, someone in your office, or a member of your family.
You know you have reason on your side, right? You know they are just being stubborn and difficult. And if you can’t reason with them, then maybe you can intimidate them – I’ll never fly this airline again –and “beat” them into submission!
My friend Louise is a powerful, talented, bright woman. Tall and imposing, she can be intimidating if you don’t know her. Before we became friends, I was! Recently she was in a situation that made her feel crazy. And rightfully so. She’s in a low residency graduate program and has to be on campus six times a year. When she arrived back at school this time, she went to the university parking garage, but the attendant told her it wouldn’t be open until the next day when the university officially re-opened after break.
Normally this wouldn’t have been a problem, but a huge snowstorm was forecast and Louise didn’t want her car to get buried, so she explained this to the attendant. The woman looked down at her from the booth and told her again, this time more forcefully, that it would not be possible for her to park in the covered lot because the school wasn’t officially open until the next day. Louise repeated her case with more fervor and got back the same frustrating results. The woman wouldn’t bend. Finally after more words, Louise gave up and drove away. Angry and frustrated, she started looking for another place to park, after using up a lot of energy having (in her words) a stupid fight.
Have you ever been there?
Having stupid fightswe can’t win, even though reason is on our side, raises our stress hormones and makes us feel a lot less yippee.
In Louise’s case, she didn’t know there was going to be a problem. She figured if she explained the situation, the attendant would understand and say, “Of course you may park here.”
So what can you do if the stupid fight arises?
First, realize who has the power in the situation. Regardless of what income bracket you are in, what your title is, or how esteemed you are, you may not have the power to make the other person grant your request.
Second, realize that as you exert your logic and reason about what you feel is rightfully yours, you might incite the other to resist, so they can show you they are in control, not you.
Third, get very clear about your outcome and try to stay clear no matter what the other person does. Louise needed a place to park, that was the outcome she desired. But after a while, she might have found herself just wanting the attendant to see her point of view. It’s tempting to get caught up in the stupid fight and find yourself fighting about how logical and justified your position is, forgetting all about what you really need.
In fact, there’s a secret to getting what you need during a stupid fight: The very people we find sooo frustrating may in fact feel powerless about many things in their own lives. The ONLY power they may have is the power to say NO, and the more you huff and puff, trying to get them to do it your way, the more powerful they feel, and indeed are.
The only shot you have at getting your way is to give them back their own power. The power to grant your wish. Coming from the other person’s point of view and then asking for advice is one of the very best ways to shift the power dynamic. Like this:
I understand the garage is closed. I realize you can’t do anything about the rules, I know it’s not your fault I can’t park here. Of course, with the snow coming I just don’t know what to do. You know the area better than I do. Do you have any ideas where I might be able to park?
With these words, or something similar, you’ve allowed them to have the power. You’ve also created the condition that the only way to prove their power is to grant your request.
Had Louise used this approach would she have gotten to park in the garage? Maybe, or maybe the woman would have told her about another garage close by. There’s also a chance this particular attendant would have kept being annoying, who knows? Either way, there is a higher probability Louise would have gotten what she wanted. And even if she didn’t? She would have avoided a stupid fight.
How do you deal with power struggles? Are you having one right now at work or at home? As always, the comments below are where the yippee continues.
Until next Tuesday. YIPPEE!