As I’ve been interviewing and preparing for interviews, I’ve been reading a bunch of articles about interviews. If I made a list of everyone’s “three keys to a successful interview” or “seven thing you do to sabotage yourself”, I think I would have a couple dozen dos and a couple dozen don’ts for every interview. While I’m sure they are valid tips from credible experts, I would get more anxious about remembering the lists than I would about the interview.
What I have found most successful is reminding myself that it is within my scope to maintain a balance of power in the conversation. I neither have to surrender power to the interviewer or claim it for myself. As I thought through this, I realized that I don’t really have the same approach to other relationships in my life.
There are many reasons we would either needlessly surrender or over zealously claim the upper-hand in a relationship: social status, economic status, age, education, gender, race, fashion/appearance, profession, physical health, mental health, creed and career advancement are examples that come to mind. These are things that, in our culture, one might use to presume the balance of power will tilt one way or another between people.
There are several reasons to recognize and be aware of this social pattern. Victims of abuse are usually abused by people who are perceived to have stronger leverage in a relationship – and abusuers are usually very artful in manipulating the relationship to maintain that perception. Companies are often managed by the people who can claim a power shift based on one of those categories rather than on merit or sound judgement. Social events and trends are usually dominated by those thought to be in a stronger position.
But as I think about my own relationships – work, social, family or any other – I’ve noticed that no matter what the circumstance, my tendency is to assume that the balance is stacked against me. For whatever reason, I allow the notion that the other person’s throughts, ideas, opinions, desires ect. carry more weight than mine.
As I wrestled with that realization over the past several weeks, I’ve come up with some reasons that I allow this line if thinking. I’m pretty sure all the psychology types in my life would classify these as “cognitive distortions”:
- Taking care of myself was never a priority. Caring for others has always been the most valued principal in my life. Somewhere along the way I translated that into believing they matter more than I do.
- I had secrets. My gender identity, past traumas and overall doubt in my spiritual environments paved the way to habits based on a fear that someone would find out something I didn’t want them to know. Keeping them happy by surrendering power to them was a way to keep them off the trail of my personal truths.
- My focus has been more on depravity than on redemption. While I could preach and teach the Cross of Christ, the forgiveness He brings us and the relationship with God He restored for us, in my heart I always believed that it was more true for everyone else and that I somehow was still expected to measure up. And yet I knew I never could (theologically speaking).
- I assume everyone knows as much about my failures as I do. I remember how things have gone wrong, how plans have fallen through, how dreams have crumbled. I’m not in the habbit of looking at other people through the lens of their failures, but always assume they are looking at me through the lens of mine.
- Respect was something I could only earn, and I didn’t deserve it. The idea of unconditional acceptance was a myth to me. Perhaps because I put so many conditions on others, perhaps because I was so unwilling to accept myself, and perhaps because of the rejections that have occurred in my life (as in most everyone’s). Regardless, I never believed that I could either earn or maintain another person’s respect.
I would usually follow this type of list with another list that would counter these distortions, but in reality the solution is pretty straight forward: Stop It!!!
The more I aim to live in the light of truth, accept myself including all the scars, bruises and shortcomings, and find the balance of serving others and caring for myself, the more I find I am able to appreciate the value of healthy relationships – and to appreciate the value I bring to them.
The concept of a balance of power in relationships isn’t going to go away; but that doesn’t mean I need to internalize it or resign myself to it. I can respect the people around me and respect myself at the same time.
It’s time to shift gears, keep the throttle down and move forward.