Monday, June 15, 2015

Dominance in Relationships: Are We Doing It?

Dominance is a destructive trait when it comes to relationships. Extreme dominance in a relationship is pretty obvious, but aggression in a relationship is a form of dominance as well, and can be harder to recognize.  

For example: withholding emotion is one type of dominance through aggression. Withholding emotions or love is a form of aggression but is tricky to recognize. It usually feels like you are being ignored or put off.

A client in this situation asked, "What am I doing wrong?”  

Wanting to know more I asked, "What happened?”

The client began to explain. "I want to be on a team. It's the purple team and I love when I’m working with this team.”  

I asked, "What did your parents say?"

They responded, "No, we want you on the black team because it is more prestigious."  

“Then what happened?"

"Well, I talked to my parents but did not get a response, they changed the subject."

Later in session with the parents and this client we asked each to give his or her perspective. The parents talked about how prestigious the black team was and it sounded like a great organization. Then the client told of all the great things the purple team had. In the middle of the description the client turned to one of the parents and pleaded, "I respect you and the way you think but I am so happy on the purple team and I am not happy or comfortable on the black team."

The parent turned away from the client and really calmly said, "We will move forward with the black team, in order to not sever the relationship.” The client surrendered their preference. It left the client feeling like they had done something wrong and, because things stayed so calm, it was difficult for any of them to see any aggression in this interaction.

I am positive the parent meant well, after all the black team had many great qualities. But the point is not which one is better, the black or purple team (I'm sure they are both great); where it breaks down is in aggression or dominance. Simply listening to the client and understanding the needs and validating their feelings would have served all of them better.  


We all dominate at different times. Each design, in fact, has a way they initiate interactions in a healthy way but they can also use that same trait to dominate or be aggressive. It’s like going in to the “can be’s” that we talked about a couple of weeks ago.

Make sure in your interactions you are staying on the healthy side. Do a quick inventory of how you are interacting in hard to navigate situations or conversations. Simply put, how do you act when you want something?

Here are some examples for each design. Find where you are and strive to stay on the positive side so you are initiating in a healthy way and not dominating.

Initiate: Good at finding what's important to move forward, and the quality in an interaction or task.    

Dominate: When you don’t agree with their version of quality and you are discredited for it and often times pushed to the side or marginalized.

Initiate: They can enroll people into a task or interaction in such a healthy and nonthreatening way. They use spontaneity to move quickly and keep it light and fun.
Dominate: Dominance with the Whitened design looks random and can be quite chaotic. They dominate you with their busyness by over-enrolling and overusing resources in a random pattern, leaving you feeling trapped with little resources left to get your bearings. They might dominate time, finances, or possessions with their spontaneity. It can leave you feeling hopeless and confused because it's all done in a pretty innocent way.

Initiate: They are good at thinking through connections and possible connections with people or tasks or processes. They meticulously cover all the "could be’s" the "might be's" and the "should be’s" in any given situation. They can see ahead to any possible problems and are good at preventing those possible problems. They move through the details thoroughly and are cautious.

Dominate: They tend to dominate through avoidance. They might overthink right past a commitment and never lock in on anything. Because they tend to overthink their aggression can look like they are avoiding and get their way by sidestepping issues or avoiding them all together. It can leave you with very little information or very few options. 

Initiate: They are so good at initiating through tasks. They just get things done and fix it. They take it as it comes and tend to not worry too much; just fix and sort things as they are confronted with the situation.

Dominate: They dominate through tasks as well. They make you feel inadequate if you don't value the tasks and are not on board or up to doing all the projects. They can make you feel weak if you don't keep up. They can belittle you for it and make you feel inadequate. 

It is so important to remember we are super effective when we stay in the positive side of our design. We get so much done. However when we dominate it can be very destructive to relationships. We might get things accomplished, but at the expense of closeness in our relationships.
So at the end of the day my client and their parents from the beginning didn't necessarily do anything wrong;  there just needed to be more understanding, collaborating, and positive initiative and less dominance.

Take an inventory of your relationships. You have so much power, legitimate power when you stay on the positive side of your greatness and leave any dominance and aggression behind.  Move forward, change relationships for the better, be who you were intended to be, and interact in a way you do best.  

And remember, everyone is a masterpiece.

No comments:

Post a Comment