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You can classify a power differential by its “intent”

1.032 words

Power needs consent. Fueled by intent.

“What’s the point speaking my truth to power,” you may wonder, “if they have the power to shut me down.” Of course, if you don’t raise your concerns, they’ve already shut you down.


Instead of waiting for them to be open to you, consider first being open to them. Take charge. Demonstrate the rapport you need reciprocated to you. The longer they ignore you without good cause, the more you expose their “intent” for all to see.

In their book Do I Have Give Up Me to be Loved by You, couples counseling authors Margaret and Jordan Paul characterizes couples caught in mutual conflict as having one of two “intents.” Either they remain open and learn, or they stay guarded and blaming.

Why not apply this to impersonal power differentials? When in conflict with others with some power over you, you also tend to fall into this predictable binary.

On the one side is their intent to remain open to you, to learn, to seek a mutually satisfying solution. On the other is an intent to remain guarded, to blame you or others, and deny any reason to change.

Applied to the Impact Parity Model

This psychosociotherapeutic three-step process seeks to improve the conflict-affected rapport with each other. It’s non-adversarial. Nonconfrontational. Indeed, quite inviting.

LEARN - assess

You first contact them to identify your needs. You assess how well they respond to your identified needs. Are they open to learning from your experience? Or closed?

CONFLICT - audit

Then you express your impacted needs. You audit whatever impact you find them having on your needs. They may be shocked at your conflict with them. Do they lean in? Or resist any responsibility?

ENGAGE - avow

Finally, you address your impacted needs, with or without them. You avow to resolve needs instead of putting up with the pain. Do they engage your proactive intent? Or refuse?


This three-step process either leads to mutual problem solving. Or lays bare the problems that persist. Which can strongly indicate it’s vital for you leave this relationship.

By then, your break can be well supported by the social supports you build up during this process. Otherwise, the process repeats as you help each other learn about other affected needs to be resolved.

A continuum of responses

Rarely do they answer “yes” or “no.” You can expect a range of responses from a clear “yes” to a definite “no.”

Firm Yes = They reply with enthusiasm. They may be eager and ready to move forward. But usually will need more information before making any lasting decisions.

Soft Yes = They respond cautiously. They remain hesitant for any number of reasons. Legal questions. Best practices. Your credibility. And more.

Equivocal = They may say they need more information. They don’t want to lose you, or risk their public reputation. Negotiating may continue in earnest. What specifically do they need?

Soft No = They don’t tell you “no” outright, but say “not at this time.” Usually this points to some need of theirs you dig out of them. Addressing that need opens them up more.

Firm No = They tell you “absolutely not” and may ask you to remove them from any further correspondence. This can be better than other responses, as it lets you move firmly to the next step.

For simplicity, let’s look at potential replies in three modes:

  • a positive response

  • an equivocal response

  • a negative response

If a positive response

You attract a positive response. All goes relatively smooth.

LEARN – after assess

You report your needs. They’re receptive and open to learning more. They want to respect your needs.

CONFLICT – after audit

You demonstrate how they impact your affected needs. They’re open and responsive to supporting your expressed needs.

ENGAGE – after avow

You coordinate efforts with them in addressing your affected needs, along with respecting theirs. They appreciate your commitment to resolve needs.


You cultivate the synergy to mutually resolve needs. You jointly solve problems.

If an equivocal response

Of course, it doesn’t always go that well. For a number of reasons, their response could get muddled.

LEARN – after assess

You identify your needs. They don’t seem interested in learning about your affected needs. They reply in their own good time. Perhaps only after sending them a reminder.

CONFLICT – after audit

You express your needs. They forward you to an impersonal grievance process, or worse. They appear evasive to your impacted needs.

ENGAGE – after avow

You tell them you must address your affected needs. With or without their cooperation. They get defensive. You get their cold shoulder.


Problems persist. They arguably become complicit, when stalling on the conciliatory approach you offered.

If a negative response

Unfortunately, you might get more of a negative reaction. Those persistently hostile may those you need to remove from your life, with proactive support.

LEARN – after assess

You identify your needs to them. They’re dismissive, closed to learning. They may not even reply, even after repeated reminders. You move onto auditing their behavior.

CONFLICT – after audit

You express your needs in spite of their less than inviting response. They react combatively. Your social supports could be crucial now.

ENGAGE – after avow

You avow to address your affected needs with or without their cooperation. They attack your resolve. They lawyer up. You move on.


The conciliatory approach you offered gets swapped for a more familiar adversarial one. Problems get worse. You may need to cut ties and take your losses. Thankfully, you will be supported through this by your growing team.

Well, which is it going to be?

Psychosociotherapy provides you a bridge to optimize your attempts to speak your truth to this power. Finding the right message sent to the right decisionmaker at the right time can be the difference in these outcomes. We will learn together.

The key to making a difference is being the difference. You remain open amidst conflict, even if they do not. You show them the love and respect you need from them. Or be ready to move on, to preserve you optimal wellbeing. Love demands no less of you. Or of them.

Steph Turner is the founder of anakelogy, the study of need. Also the founder of Value Relating to apply anakelogy to your painful needs with psychosociotherapy, offering a viable alternative to stigmatizing psychotherapy, by inviting you to speak your truth to power.

Steph is a self-described transspirit, which is a kind of sacred misfit. By transcending conventional limits—gender norms, religious identities, political polarities, and more—Steph experiences a unique connection in life. And suspects others do as well. This blog shares that spirituality, and affirms others of a similar state of being.

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