When you give another person the power to define you – you also give them the power to control you

Leslie Vernick

The issue of power

When we talk about power in this context we are thinking about our inner self.   The self which makes decisions, gives a sense of identity and personality.  When you allow someone else to define who you are, then you are giving away your power to decide.  You are allowing another person to decide for you.  This results in you giving away your identity to another.  When I was small, I remember being bullied by someone at school.  They would throw insults at me saying I was ugly and a horrible person.   At that early age, I didn’t have the inner resources to refute their attack on me.  The result was that I believed them and my emotional state was insecure and self-shame.

Many of us give away the very essence of who we are when we are younger because we lack the inner confidence or self-awareness to counter any negative actions or words used against us.  As adults, we can choose whether to identify with their assertion about us, or whether to form our own positive opinion about ourselves.  Self-awareness is imperative to be able to remember and identify those times when we gave away our power.  Once we know and recognise what we did, we can rewrite the script and reclaim our power.

As an adult, I was able to reclaim my power by realising that the bully was wrong.  Their tirade against me was because of their insecurity.  I was neither ugly nor a horrible person.  I was a child with goodness and some mischief inside me.  It’s all perfectly normal.  Recognising this allowed me to move past the negative feelings the experience of being bullied formed in me, and I was able to release them.

10 Ways To Reclaim Your Power When Someone Tries To Control You

1. Setting Boundaries

Establishing clear boundaries is essential in reclaiming your power. When someone tries to control you at work, it’s important to communicate your limits respectfully yet firmly. This includes stating what you are willing to tolerate and what you aren’t. For example, if a colleague regularly oversteps by assigning you tasks without your consent, address the issue directly. Explain that while you are open to collaborative work, decisions about your workload should be a mutual discussion. Setting boundaries is not just about saying no; it’s about making it clear where your professional responsibilities begin and end. This self-advocacy fosters a culture of mutual respect and understanding in the workplace.

2. Assertive Communication

Assertive communication is key to maintaining your power. This means expressing your thoughts, feelings and needs in a way that is direct, honest, and respectful. If someone is trying to control you, communicate your perspective without being aggressive or passive. For instance, if a supervisor micromanages your work, you might say, “I appreciate your guidance, but I would like the opportunity to handle this project more independently.” Assertive communication demonstrates confidence and self-respect. It also opens the door to healthy dialogue and problem-solving, rather than conflict or submission.

3. Building a Support Network

Having a strong support network at work can empower you in challenging situations. This network might include colleagues, mentors, or even a human resources representative. These individuals can offer advice, provide a different perspective, or act as advocates in situations where you feel controlled. For instance, if you’re facing a particularly difficult situation with a controlling co-worker, a mentor might provide strategies to address the issue or even intervene if necessary. A support network reassures you that you’re not alone and that you have resources and allies to turn to.

4. Understanding Your Rights

Knowing your rights in the workplace is fundamental. This includes understanding your job description, employee rights, and any relevant workplace policies. If someone is trying to control aspects of your job that don’t align with your role or rights, this knowledge provides a solid foundation to push back. For example, if a colleague insists on you performing tasks that fall outside your job scope, you can refer to your job description or workplace policies as a basis for your refusal. Understanding your rights also helps you recognize when it’s appropriate to escalate an issue to higher management or HR.

5. Maintaining Professionalism

Maintaining a high level of professionalism is crucial, especially in tense situations. This means staying calm, composed, and respectful, even when you feel you are being controlled. Reacting emotionally or impulsively can undermine your position and give more power to the person trying to control you. Instead, focus on being solution-oriented and calm in your responses. This approach demonstrates your maturity and ability to handle difficult situations, which can be very empowering.

6. Developing Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence (EQ) is a powerful tool in navigating workplace dynamics. It involves being aware of your own emotions, as well as the emotions of others, and managing them effectively. When someone is trying to control you, using emotional intelligence can help you understand the underlying reasons for their behaviour and respond appropriately. For instance, if a colleague is overly controlling due to their insecurities, recognizing this can guide you in how you respond to them, perhaps with more empathy or firmness, depending on the situation.

7. Focusing on Personal Growth

Focusing on your personal and professional growth can help shift your perspective from feeling controlled to feeling empowered. Take initiative in your development by seeking new skills, knowledge, and experiences. This not only enhances your confidence and competence but also demonstrates your commitment to your role and your career path. When you are focused on growth, it becomes easier to navigate controlling behaviours at work because you have a stronger sense of your own goals and values.

8. Practicing Self-Care

Self-care is crucial in maintaining your power. This includes taking care of your physical, mental, and emotional health. When you’re well-rested, healthy, and mentally clear, you’re better equipped to handle stressful situations, including dealing with controlling individuals. This might mean ensuring you get enough sleep, taking breaks when needed, or engaging in activities outside of work that rejuvenate you. A well-cared-for individual is more likely to stand up for themselves effectively.

9. Seeking Feedback and Reflection

Regularly seeking feedback and engaging in self-reflection can be empowering. Feedback from trusted colleagues or supervisors can provide insights into your strengths and areas for improvement, which can help you in dealing with controlling behaviours more effectively. Additionally, self-reflection helps you understand your reactions and feelings towards being controlled. This self-awareness is a key component in reclaiming your power, as it allows you to make more informed and intentional choices in your responses.

10. Knowing When to Escalate

Sometimes, despite your best efforts, the controlling behaviour may not change, and it can be necessary to escalate the issue. This means bringing the issue to the attention of someone in a higher position, like your supervisor, human resources, or even external bodies if necessary. Knowing when and how to escalate an issue is crucial. It should typically be done when you’ve tried other strategies without success, and the behavior is significantly impacting your work or well-being. Escalation should always be done professionally, with a clear explanation of the issue and any steps you’ve already taken to address it.

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