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Situational Changes

Many people already have power over the other person just due to situational cues. A manager with their team, a professor in a classroom, and so on.

There are two things to take into account:

  • Neutralizing someone’s advantage when they have one;
  • Gaining your own advantage when you can;

Underlying Psychology/Biases

Situational power occurs when a person has power just due to a context or situation. This power is usually not explicit, and just implied. For example:

  • A teacher in a classroom has more power than the students just due to their role as a teacher and having (ostensibly) more knowledge;
  • A manager with their team has persuasive power as they have (ostensibly) more experience and skill than the team members they are leading;
  • And so on;

Although some people are immune to this, most people just give their power away as they believe they are in the presence of someone superior.

In specific, the technique of neutralizing someone’s advantage works due to intent labeling. The more that the person verbalizes that they are treating you like an equal, the more they will subconsciously act in that way.

Sub-Techniques

There are four main techniques you can leverage:

Mentioned in UPP:

  • Neutralizing someone’s advantage
    • Usually done by literally asking their permission to neutralize it;
    • “Boss, may we step out of the employee-frame for a second and speak man-to-man/woman-to-woman?”;
    • The more the person verbalizes agreement, the more powerful it is;
  • Pairing an existing advantage with your ask
    • Making your ask when someone needs something from you;
    • For example, bosses asking for extra favors right before bonus season;

Other methods:

  • Having a situational advantage yourself
    • For example, having your own office or calendar and others coming to you (doctor’s appointments) – the home advantage effect;
  • Increasing your presence
    • Usually, the person with the most power has the most presence. The CEO of a company is the most intense. The teacher is more intense than one of their students. But this can be broken;
    • There are, for example, cases where an employee is more present and intense than the CEO. For example, a 30-year career industry expert working for a junior startup CEO;
      • In these cases, they can get the CEO to submit and agree to their terms, because they simply are not intimidated, and are more present and confident themselves;

Examples

  • When a report is needed
    • When a manager needs a report – or something else – from an employee, that’s the time they pick to press them with more asks;
  • Speaking (wo)man-to-(wo)man
    • When you tell someone, “May we just speak man-to-man/woman-to-woman for a minute?”, you’re taking away the context and speaking on a human level, as equals;
  • Bonus periods
    • When an employee is about to receive their bonus, the manager may see this as a time when they have added power, and they may use it to request additional favors they may need;
  • Removing titles
    • And finally, when someone has a title, asking to call them by their name without the title also removes an advantage;
    • “Dr. John, may I call you John and treat you as an equal for a minute?”;

Commercial/Known Uses

Key Takeaways

  • You can neutralize someone’s contextual advantage by simply asking them to do it. To treat you as equals;
  • You can pair advantages to make your ask more powerful. The more the person already needs you, the more warmed up they will be;
  • As with other techniques, this works due to intent labeling. The more the person actively states that they are treating you as an equal, or that you have an advantage, the more power you have;

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