Friday, March 19, 2010

Principles of Powerful People Part One

A while back I started writing about the attributes of powerful people. I wanted to share these with you. I believe it is important to feel powerful, no matter what race, gender, age or personality you are. One of the worst feelings in the world is feeling powerless.

For this blog, we'll start with 1-5. I hope you enjoy!

I. Powerful people know who they are. Their identity is not wrapped up in what they do. People who have identity in the wrong thing will be territorial, insecure and lost. Powerful people don't horde power, they spread it around. They don't want to be responsible for everyone, they want everyone to be responsible! A good example of this for me is King Arthur. I love the concept of the round table approach. The best leaders are ones who are confident and not afraid of other's successes. William Wallace (of the story of Braveheart) once said, "Men don't follow titles, they follow courage." To be full of courage, you have to know who you are. If you don't know who you are, you may spend your entire life fighting for something that was never supposed to be yours.

II. Powerful people understand a culture of freedom. They embrace internal control, and they don't require external control (law or fear of punishment) to make good choices. So many of us were raised in an environment of external control. From the outside our parents tried to make us do what they wanted using intimidation and fear. We didn't learn how to control ourselves because our parents did everything for us. They told us how to think, what to believe, how to act, how to behave, and how to "be." People don't flourish in a culture of control. They just get really good at hiding who they really are and what they're really doing.

III. Powerful people don't have secrets. They have courage to be honest and transparent. People who have secrets usually have a lot of shame and guilt they are living with. They are afraid, afraid if people really knew who they were they would be punished. Again, this is the manifestation of a belief system that says I can control others, and they can control me. When we believe we have the right to control others, we believe we have the right to punish them, and be punished. In a culture of freedom, there is no shame or guilt in making mistakes. With freedom, there is room to make bad choices, and there is room to clean up our messes. We learn more from failure than we do from success. There is no shame when we reveal what we are tempted to hide. Powerful people don't fear failure, they learn from it. Abraham Lincoln said, "My great concern is not whether you have failed, but whether you are content with your failure."

IV. Powerful people don't attack when they are feeling threatened or powerless. They articulate their needs and don't try to get their way by using fear and intimidation. People who are afraid or who are feeling powerless will often times go into an argument with "arms swinging." I remember one time I asked my husband Jon to go to the store for me. I was busy and didn't have time to run the errand myself, I was really hoping he would do it. When he said no, I immediately felt the need to attack. I started threatening him because I felt powerless. It went something like "if you don't do this for me, then I won't do that for you..." He looked at me with kind eyes and said, "I don't respond to threats, but I do respond to need. Tell me why you need me to run this errand for you." I know I have shared this before but I felt it deserved a repeat. That moment was a turning point for our relationship. I pulled myself out of attack mode, and went on to explain why the errand was so important to me. Powerful people believe their needs are important.

One rule of communication with this principal is: I will tell you what I am feeling and what I need. You will have to decide what to do with that information. Will you validate me, will you protect my heart? Or will you ignore me? For example: "I am feeling overwhelmed and stressed right now with all that is on my plate. I need you to pick up stamps for me at the store so I can finish what I'm doing here, and bills can be paid on time. Can you please do that for me?"

V. Powerful people confront in love, they don't hide from or avoid healthy confrontation. Confrontation requires trust. It is very difficult to confront someone you don't trust. Likewise, it is very difficult to confront someone who doesn't trust you. People who are afraid, hide. People who want to preserve friendship and protect connection confront what is threatening that relationship, even when it is scary. Powerful people don't protect ideas or information, they protect people and relationships.

Some good questions to ask yourself when confronting are:
  • Have I invested enough into this relationship to take an emotional withdrawal that confrontation will require?
  • Will confronting this issue bring this person closer to me, or push them further away?
  • What is my goal in confronting? Do I want to preserve this relationship and fix it, or do I really want to just set healthy boundaries because this person is out of control?
  • If someone had to confront me about this issue, how would I want them to present it to me?
  • What is this person's love language? (If you have not read about love languages, google "the five love languages") When confronting someone it is important to speak to them in a way they will best hear it.
Words of affirmation: this person will be extremely sensitive about negative sounding words. Try to use the most positive, uplifting words when confronting this person.

Touch: this person will feel much more disarmed if you can touch them on the shoulder or the arm (when appropriate) while confronting them.

Acts of service: this person will probably hear them best if you start out the confrontation with, I just did this thing for you, oh and I wanted to know if we could talk about...

Gifts: bringing a love offering (like their favorite coffee) is a small but meaningful gesture that would help this person hear what you are saying better.

Quality time: making sure you spend quality time with this person before and after the confrontation will make them feel valued.


  1. Nicole,
    Can you clarify this for me please? Below is a quote from this blog. Depending on the situation, are not each of these acceptable thoughts?
    "What is my goal in confronting? Do I want to preserve this relationship and fix it, or do I really want to just set healthy boundaries because this person is out of control?"

  2. Yes, they are both acceptable thoughts. But it's important to identify which one you are trying to do, because how you confront will be different for each situation.

    In some situations (when protecting the connection) the confrontation has to be filled with love messages and dripping with acceptance etc.

    Other times however, there is no connection or relationship left to protect, and you are simply and matter-of-factly setting down some ground rules and some boundaries with a person.

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  4. wow...I have just read several of your blogs... I think you should write a book... you have a way with words that truly captivate my attention.... helpful blogs by the way. keep on writing... God bless...

  5. Thank you! That is really encouraging. I do plan on writing a book....someday :)